Late, late night in the Village of Chester

Everyone has problems in Casablanca, and in Chester. My big one is insomnia, something that hit suddenly in June 1965. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since, although I’ve been treated at the University of Virginia Hospital, the Medical College of Virginia Sleep Clinic, the Veterans Hospital, by an acupuncturist and by every doctor I’ve known or consulted.

The Sleep Clinic program required trying to sleep with electrodes attached from head to foot and connected to a computer that was scanning movements and brain waves all night. It was an ordeal and only ruled out sleep apnea. I’ve had a brain scan, too; it showed nothing.

Warm milk, honey, Melatonin and assorted over-the-counter medications have proven useless. I’ve tried every prescription offered, some of which are no longer available, such as Dalmane, Halcion, Quaalude. And Ambien, prescribed twice, caused hallucinations. A Google search indicated all the symptoms of fatal insomnia, a genetic condition that is said to be fatal in about 3 months. I went to work many days without any sleep at all. But, enough about my problem.

I took Tennis I at John Tyler Community College in 1982 thinking the exercise would be helpful. It wasn’t. While I get tired as normal people do, I don’t get drowsy, which would likely lead to sleep.

The really bad thing about this ailment is what to do with the extra time while honest people are sleeping. Medical College doctors said: “Don’t lie there and fret about not sleeping; get up and do something.” So I do. There’s only so much reading a person can do. If you think daytime TV is bad, just tune in at 2, 3, or 4 o’clock in the morning. The Internet has been of considerable help, but playing chess, checkers and bridge eventually becomes tiresome.

So, I have explored the world of metropolitan Chester late – really late. The Village looks completely different with little or no traffic on Route 10, although the street lights have made an improvement.

Early one morning a few years ago, I was driving east on Route 10 near the Curtis/Osborne intersection. A car passed going east, which was not unusual, but it was in the westbound lane. I stayed warily behind, honking occasionally. He never got into the correct lane and eventually turned in at the 7-11 near the Post Office. Fortunately and thankfully, there was no other traffic.

I’ve looked into all the late, late night establishments in Chester, including Walmart, which closes at 11 p.m. Eating is not the best form of entertainment for insomniacs, but I’ve visited most restaurants over the years.

Wild Rose Cafe closes at 11 p.m., except Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, when it‘s open for karaoke until 2 a.m. The Cracker Barrel closes at 11 p.m.; Sonic, O’Charley’s and IHOP are closed by midnight. Gulliver’s Crossflite is open until 2 a.m. for those who like pool and darts, and they have a nonsmoking area near the back door, but it’s not known to have ever been used. UNO’s recently began staying open until 2 a.m. and has enjoyed brisk business. Chili’s, next door, is closed by the wee hours.

Hardee’s stayed open all night when it first opened in the late 70s and was then the only all-night place available to travelers on Interstate 95, who are too often an unruly group. I saw fights there, as well as customers throwing food at each other. In the fall, hunters came in at about 4 a.m. to eat breakfast and to fill their coffee jugs. They wondered why a non-hunter was there. Once I asked for a milkshake at about 3 a.m. and the lady said, “We’re only serving breakfast.” Telling her that was my breakfast didn’t help.

There’s nothing open on Route 1 south of Chester. If you go very far north on Jefferson Davis, you may find young ladies on each street corner, apparently waiting for a ride to or from the Spruance Plant. After many years, I’ve yet to see a Spruance.

Applebee’s is open until midnight or later; the Waffle House is open most of the night. The brightest spot in Chester, however, is Denny’s, if you can navigate through the Exxon station. Denny’s is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s usually packed on weekends from midnight until dawn. The customers often appear tired, but they eat a lot and are stout and jolly.

I always sit at the newly renovated counter. If the usual waitress is there, she brings me one pancake, butter and plenty of syrup. This seems to help me sleep. I’ve been going there so long that I can remember when the check was only 83 cents. A dollar included a 20 percent tip. It’s twice that now, and it makes a big night out in Chester for a big spender.

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