As I lay naked and weightless in a float chamber, my most fervent anticipation concerned how high concentrations of magnesium would affect my serotonin. According to blurbs on the Internet, floating induces a sense of euphoria and bliss.
I floated and waited, but nothing comparable to a perfect martini or a superb cigar surfaced. My condition might be labeled as premature exaltation as I waited for an epiphany.
A recent New Year’s resolution accounted for my presence here. Following the example of our recently deceased, much beloved greyhound, I had vowed to be more open to new experiences and to “wag more, bark less.”
Now, following those guidelines, I had stepped into a sensory deprivation chamber for a “float.” My decision to float was akin to Donald Trump spending several days reading Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” and bemoaning the immorality of income inequality. But there I was, determined to experience something new and not complain about it.
I had just showered, shampooed and prepared myself for 60 minutes or so of total darkness and silence. I plopped into a large tub filled with Epsom-salts-infused water at body temperature.
The tub was slippery, almost slimy as I sank down, taking a moment or two to decide that I wasn’t going to drown or slip and concuss myself. I’d closed the door behind me, pressed the button controlling the lights, and been quickly surrounded by – nothing.
I fought panic, not sure that I could breathe the humid warm air. I heard only my own panting as I struggled to rise above my fear and discomfort. About 850 pounds of dissolved Epsom salts and a rubber ring beneath my head supported me. I lay defenseless, unable to see if and when “Psycho’s” Norman Bates would join me.
Total blackness. Warm air, unscented. My mouth stayed above the water, tightly closed. I breathed through somewhat swollen nasal membranes, not a hint of taste or smell connected me to the world.
But I was not without some sensory stimulation. Even with earplugs, I heard a motorcycle revving nearby and a loud eructation from someone in another tub. There was touch as well, the Epsom salts hitting various skin abrasions and small nicks causing me to itch and burn. Every time I sought to escape my senses, tinglings brought me back to consciousness.
After I ceased to expect Nirvana, my major challenge emerged: How would I spend the next 54 1/2 minutes of tank time? What would I think about? Would I give myself over to the experience, relax, perhaps fall asleep?
The tank put me in contact with my most imposing antagonist – my brain. Could I tame it long enough to create some brilliant analysis of a world problem? How would I balance vague itches in my nether regions with an attempt to end world hunger or determine how to reform the campaign finance system?
I found a plethora of topics to address. What is the best way to combat Islamic State, al-Qaida, the Taliban and robo calls offering to settle my credit card debt? Can anyone understand the words in rap music? Why does Donald Trump use Yiddish profanity while campaigning in Iowa? Is he confusing Des Moines with Miami as a place where New Yorkers spend the winter?
As my brain scrolled through limitless possibilities, I inexorably lapsed into semi-consciousness, awakening when lights and new-age music came on. After a few false starts, I pulled myself to my feet and plunged my mineral-laden body under the shower.
While the pleasantly chlorinated water loudly cascaded over my body, the inspiration hit me. I would write a short piece about my experience in a float tank.
Stuart Grover, one of six reader columnists who write for this space, is a retired fundraising consultant who now writes novels, nonfiction and inconsequential occasional pieces. He lives in Tacoma with his significant other, works out incessantly and travels as much as he can. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.