The challenge in high school doesn't come from stringent classes or avoiding that fatal dodgeball throw, but rather from extracurricular activities and learning to balance two of the most important elements in most teenagers' lives; activities and school.
However, in a Dec. 15 Des Moines Register article, an Iowa graduate is quoted as saying that high school is just 'busywork and facts." If that's what you think high school is, you're doing something wrong.
Granted, it's possible to take enough Advanced Placement or Central Academy courses to keep yourself occupied studying every night. Not only will keeping your nose in a book every night lead tears of boredom, it won't be "preparing you for the real world." And preparing you for the real world is (in theory) what high school is all about.
Approximately 1400 educators met in Des Moines on Dec. 14 discussing the very question of whether or not high school is adequately preparing us (the students) for the next step into college or the workforce. The Register reported that education officials hoped to use the summit to create more "individualized, relevant and rigorous" schools. Individuality isn't a bad thing. Learning about a relevant subject seems pretty logical too. But making coursework more rigorous does nothing for post-secondary-education life and preparing yourself for it.
A vastly important aspect of making my way into the real world will be time-management, something coursework in conjunction with extracurricular is giving me a steep-learning-curve lesson in.
However, lots of people choose not to be involved. As some of our op-ed pieces have indicated in the past (Nov. 2004), perhaps the solution to student non-involvement is the creation of more clubs. I don't think that is the case though. There are plenty of ways to get involved in the school; the problem is student laziness, lack of motivation, resistance to involvement or perhaps some combination thereof.
Despite seeing the same students at virtually every activity, it's clear that these students understand the value of extracurricular. Like a credit card commercial may tell you, ten binders, a stylebook and new soccer cleats may cost you a fortune, but the experience of participating in the activities is "priceless."
The fact that ten percent of collegiate freshman do not return the following year due to grade difficulty says more about the individual student that it does about the high school he or she graduated from. Choosing to coast through high school by taking the minimal classes required for graduation is a choice that will make your future difficult.
If you go into college unable to write a research paper, chances are that you'll start to realize that maybe joining the (heaven forbid) high school newspaper staff wasn't such a bad idea. Perhaps the next time you're trying to convince a group of people to move towards a common goal, you'll think back to how helpful experience in organizing a Madrigal dinner would have been.
Or maybe, just maybe, you'll find yourself six years into medical school, pondering why you weren't smart enough to join the mock trial team and find your love for courtroom persuasion and legal banter. Being lazy is your loss.
Some would argue that democracy is dead. And most of the time, they would be right. The Johnson Community School District's voters, however, have managed to "stick it to the man," and let their voices be heard. The man in question is Robert Cramer.
As many member of the community will recall, last year, board member Cramer (at the time not up for re-election) distributed a letter to the community, urging them to vote for candidates Julie Summa, Stacey Tucker and Alan Sprinkle, instead of candidate Brian Burkhardt. As a result, former board president Dean Gillaspey (the holder of the third seat) lost re-election.
This letter, described in polite company as "controversial" and in reality approaching perhaps a libelous standing, hardly contained a single sentence that had not been spun so far off the track of reality that it belonged on the Times editorial page or on Fox News. Cramer did everything from "mistakenly explaining" that a unanimous board decision had been a 4-3 split to implying that Burkhardt wanted to fling condoms to sex-crazed teens in the school's hallways.
What was even more entertaining than the blatant lies in that letter, however, was the accusation that Johnston has endorsed a "liberal agenda." John Kerry carried just over a third of the vote in Johnston's three precincts in 2004.
Liberal agenda? I wish.
After the letter's distribution to around 1,600 homes, this column, in addition to what is now clearly seen as hundreds of community members, suggested that Cramer should step down after such an unethical act. Like many a crooked politician, however, Cramer, convinced in Nixon-esque fashion of his innocence, ran for re-election. Fortunately, the community stepped up to the plate.
On Sept 13, Cramer was horribly defeated in one of the highest-turnout school board elections in local history. Morrill received 936 votes and Cramer received 501. The surprising number, however, is the number of votes Gillaspey received as a write-in candidate: 776.
Often enough, I edit copy of English papers from students that cannot differentiate between the varying homonyms of there/their/they're, let alone spell the word 'candidate' without consulting a dictionary or google. The unofficial results indicate, however, that 776 people supported Gillaspey's cause and were able to spell his name correctly (thereby having their votes count). No small feat to be sure.
My own mother called me from our polling place to confirm spelling. And it's probably a good thing; 775:501 sounds like a much smaller (butt)-kicking.
It is always surprising to see when parents are able to actually accomplish something positive. (We all know how easy it is for complaining parents to get things done in the school environment). It's even more surprising, however, when you look at the timeframe for the events that ultimately culminated in Cramer's defeat on Sept 13.
As reported by this publication and the Des Moines Register, Gillaspey did not "officially" begin his write-in campaign until Aug 22. That's three weeks before the election. In that time, community leaders and parents were able to mobilize enough support to successfully elect Gillaspey by a margin of more than 275 votes.
Congratulations on the election, Jill and Dean. You earned it.
"I've seen a person die in a bathtub. Everyone just left him in there, they put him in the bathtub and closed the shower curtain and pretended that nothing happened. Nobody wants someone to come to the house and see someone dead, especially when everyone there is doing something they shouldn't be doing." -- David Husid, Case Manager, drug alcohol counselor, Oak House Treatment Center in Citrus Heights.
In 1.6 million people reported abusing medicine at some point in their lives, according to the national Household Survey on Drug Abuse. Just two years later, the number of people who reported having tried prescriptions drugs for nonmedical purposes quadrupled to about 6.2 million people.
Now, pain relieving prescription medications are the most popularly used drugs today, second only to marijuana.
According to Michael Noia, a pharmacist at the Wal-Mart pharmacy in Roseville, the problem of drug abuse is a result of the over-prescription and wide availability of prescription drugs.
"Really strong painkillers such as morphine and its derivatives such as OxyContin seem to be the drugs of choice," Noia said.
David Husid, case manager and drug alcohol counselor at Oak House treatment center in Citrus Heights, said the abuse of OxyContin is becoming an epidemic in Granite Bay because it is chic and popular, often considered today's "rich man's drug."
"The last five of our Oxy patients have been Granite Bay High graduates," said a Roseville nurse and Oak House employee who asked to remain anonymous. "The drug problem started in Roseville because they've got rich people and poor people there: the poor people to sell the prescriptions and the rich ones to buy them. Then it spread to Rocklin, and now it's becoming big in Granite Bay."
Husid described the wide availability of prescriptions in these supposedly safe areas is a large part of their appeal.
"You don't need to go very far or into unsafe neighborhoods to get this stuff," Husid said. "One of the appeals of prescription drugs is that kids don't need to go to downtown Sac to get a bag o' coke in Oak Park. You can get them just about anywhere safely, without getting caught."
The 12- to 17-year-old age group to which most high school students belong is now the most common for first-time users, and abuse of prescription drugs within this group has increased from 1.2 percent in 1989 to 14 percent today, according to the United States Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
While painkillers and stimulants have been the drugs of choice for 12- to 14-year-old abused, abuse of painkillers by college students is also on the rise. In a recent study, the Drug Abuse Warning Network (a division of SAMHSA) reporting that 1 in 10 high school seniors have bought powerful prescription painkillers.
"People don't understand that we are actually dealing with poisons," Noia said. "These poisons, under certain conditions, can be very beneficial to people's healing or therapeutics. It's by moving out of the normal usages of these particular products that you get the abuse and the poisonous effects."
Especially when mixed with other drugs or alcohol, these pills can be deadly.
"On alcohol, you can pass out, but you're probably not going to die," Husid said. "On (a sedative prescription), you'll have seizures, but that won't kill you either. If you combine the two, then it's a deadly combination."
The anonymous Roseville nurse, who has worked in emergency wards for most of his six years in the medical profession, has seen people die from abusing many types of drugs, legal or illegal, prescription or over-the-counter.
However, overdosing is not the most common way for drugs to kill people, he said. Because most don't know exactly what they're allergic to, they can take one pill and have an allergic reaction.
"Teenagers don't realize that if they happen to be allergic to OxyContin and take it, and go into anaphylactic shock, there's no way for us to figure out what they've done unless we get blood work," he said. "By the time we get a full tox-read, it may be too late and they may have brain damage. They may die."
How it works.
Like most illegal drugs, prescription medicine affects how users feel, offering a comparable high to that of other illicit substances.
"Prescriptions just give you a sense of euphoria -- you're just happy, floating and tingling," Husid said. "It's like ecstasy, it's a combination of an opium and it makes everything feel good. The touch of your skin, it's something that you can't get any other way."
School and work pressures also contribute to Adderall and Ritalin abuse. A former GBHS student who graduated in 2004 says she used Adderall because she felt she "needed it to be up and keep working through school to do well."
However, extended use of the drug made her feel physically tired, yet unable to sleep.
"I under up most of the time in a dreamy haze, and I'd feel like a zombie the next day," she said.
She said she also abused depressants in high school to "escape the drudgery of my mundane life."
"That's why I tried Soma, and that's why I think all these Granite Bay kids are on it or something like it," she said. "They're bored and have cash to blow. It's a double whammy."
Because prescription drugs are legal, she said she is helping herself by choosing to take them instead of illicit drugs. A 2003 graduate, who has tried both cocaine and Adderall, disagrees.
"The two drugs are exactly the same," he said. "Adderall is just way easier to find."
Once, he said he was given a full bottle of Adderall by one of his friend's mothers. He said she thought she was doing the right thing because her daughter (who has ADD) had been taking the drug for years.
Other young abusers can get drugs in their very own homes. A current GBHS senior who abuses OxyContin said he mother has "so many pills, she never notices if a few are missing," making it "ridiculously easy to get my hands on some."
Husid says stealing is a common habit among younger abusers, who learn to steal pills from "their grandma's medicine cabinet,'' or steal money from their parents.
"If you're only 16 or 17 and you don't sell them, what are you doing to do to support your habits?" Husid said. "You're stealing, you're ripping off your parents. Usually by the time your parents notice it, it's five or six thousand dollars later."
Still, the most common way people find drugs is through friends or dealers.
"All you have to do is ask friends who know people that have some," the current GBHS student says. "It's like a pyramid, and you have to find a dealer who's higher up on the scale."
Having a dealer, however, is not always necessary. Users can often receive pain pills, for example, from just about anyone who has an injury and wants to sell their extra pills.
"Normally people just hand them to me so that I don't have to pay, but sometimes they can cost up to $20 a pill," said another GBHS student. "Usually it's not hard to get Vicodin or Valium from a doctor if you pretend to have back pain, which they can't test you for."
Doctors, however, are fully aware that many patients are not using their prescriptions for appropriate reasons.
"I've suspected that patients were abusing their pills, so I discuss it with them and tell them that I think that particular medicine isn't working out for them, or that they're using it in higher doses than they should be," said Tom Vigran, chief of psychiatry at Kaiser hospital in Sacramento.
Developing a dependency
While most high school students who choose to abuse prescriptions do so recreationally, all of these medications are addictive, and often lead to dependency.
"Euphoria comes when too much medicine is taken for pain, or not taken for pain at all," Noia said. "It's the craving for the euphoria that creates an addiction, a physical tolerance and a need for more medicine."
The need can be more mental than physical.
"Psychologically they become dependent on the drug, and it can change how they think about things or look at the world, make them more irritable or change their personalities, or take away their good judgment," Vigran said.
Husid said he has witnessed lives that have been tremendously damaged by prescription drugs.
"I've seen people on prescription drugs get in horrific car wrecks. I've seen people beat up their girl friends, get into fights. I've seen a lot of stuff in prison because drugs get into prison," Husid said. "Drugs make people do funny things."
Experts say prescription drugs change a person's sense of reality, often giving him or her a different view of the world or a sense of false happiness or comfort.
"If you ask a clean friend what he did on his Saturday night and he says, 'We went to dinner then we went out dancing,' you don't see how that could be fun," Husid said. "Fun for me was getting shot at by cops, jumping over a fence and barely escaping with my life. That was fun. But it's not reality."
Husid, who "did it for fun at first," became addicted to Vicodin and was eventually sent to jail for writing his own prescriptions, quickly resumed his drug habits when he was released.
"I would take my daughter to school, fly to San Diego, walk across the border, buy 3,000 pills, come home, and pick my daughter up," Husid said. "She'd say to me, 'What'd you do today?' and I'd say, 'Flew to another country, bought drugs and came home,' and she'd think I was joking."
Because it is the euphoria that comes from a drug (and not the drug itself) that leads to addiction, many abusers who try to stop tend to move on to other drugs.
"Once you're addicted to one substance, you're addicted to them all. Even if you don't go back to the drug you started on, you will go back to drugs," Husid said. "You take a drug. The drug takes a drug. And the drug takes you."
He describes the point of reaching dependency as when a user loses his grip on reality and just wants his normal life back.
"Dependency is when you're not right without them and end up needing more, so then you need to start selling them to support your addiction," said Husid, who has been jailed or imprisoned seven times on drug-related charges or on charges stemming from his use of drugs. "You can get a pill for $3 from a prescription or free from your grandma's cabinet, and you can sell it for $80. Sell 10 in a day and that's $800."
Husid, who sold drugs to support his Vicodin addiction, claims he became addicted to selling itself.
"I had easy money," he said. "If you go to jail knowing you had made more in a week than most people make in a year, then come out and still have the knowledge to do it all again, it's real hard to get a job making minimum wage when you could sit down in front of your computer and start making millions again."
Drugs in Granite Bay
Aware of these dangers, and of the popularity of prescription medications among teens, there are adults on the GBHS staff who are doing the best they can to keep the campus drug free.
"We know that there are kids out there drinking cough syrup and going into their parents' medicine cabinets and grabbing anything from Prozac to Albuterol," assistant principal Rob Hasty said. "We try and make sure that there's student awareness by going over their dangers in classes."
Health and GSR classes each spend a unit teaching their students about drugs and their affects. Physical education classes also review the dangers of drug abuse.
In addition, the school shows its staff and PAWS parent volunteers presentations on current popular drugs, informing them of current trends and what to watch out for.
"If I get words from a teacher that it looks like a student might be under the influence, I'll pull that kid out of class and the campus resource officer, the school nurse and I will all look for signs and symptoms," Hasty said. "There are really tell-tale signs, no matter what a kid has been using."
Linda Warfield, the school nurse, is given information every your on how to identify pills. Because all forms of medicine are prohibited from the GBHS campus _ even common over-the-counter pain relievers like Tylenol _ every drug that a student is found possessing is taken to the office.
"There's no reason any student on this campus should have any pills on them whatsoever," Hasty said. "There should be no aspirin, no Tylenol, no anything. All that stuff has to go through the nurse. If we catch you with any pills, we'll call home."
Treatment and response
Pharmacists, doctors and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration are all aware that teens are tapping into the over-prescription of drugs and are increasingly abusing prescription medications, but they are having trouble finding a way to curb this growing problem.
In 2001, then-DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson said the DEA was working to find a balanced approach that addresses abuse without depriving patients of needed pills.
Husid understands this problem, but he also said there is no clear solution.
"It's a Catch-22, because if the doctors did stop prescribing, the people who need them will stop getting them, and the people who don't need them will get them elsewhere," Husid said.
Doctors and nurses, aware of the problem, reason that because under-prescription is a bigger problem than over-prescription, they should always make attending to a patient's pain their first priority.
"If you under treat them, you could lose the, if you over treat them, they become addicted to a pill, start taking them illegally and go to jail or end up in rehab," the Roseville nurse said. "But you did what you could, and at least they didn't die."
In an attempt to limit sales of abusive drugs, the FDA sometimes pulls drugs off the market if their medical benefit does not outweigh their negative effects when taken irresponsibly.
Phenyl Propanolamine, for example, is a drug that is very effective for helping digestion or controlling weight. When consumed in large quantities, however, the drug causes strokes.
"It was in high demand and very beneficial, but because some had not disciplined themselves and taken them appropriately, it has done harm to people and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) removed it from the market," Noia said.
According to the Roseville nurse, taking drugs off the market only makes a drug less reliable and more dangerous, hurting those who need the drug more than those who abuse it.
"It is the easiest way to cut the abuse of it down, but it's not going to help because someone is always going to figure out how to make the drug on their own," he said. "Then, instead of having a clean pharmaceutical pill, you've got something like meth or Ecstasy."
Ecstasy, originally created to be a prescription drug, was quickly outlawed when the medical community realized it provided no real benefit to people. According to the Roseville nurse, most illegal pills started out as prescriptions.
"They were testing it out for a prescription until somewhere along the line it deviated and they figured out, 'No, this isn't going to issue it on the market,'" he said. "But then, someone figured out how to make it in their garage."
The value of OxyContin, a similar opiate, is currently under review.
"It's more addictive than heroin _ it's almost pure opium," the nurse said. "It's a miracle drug, but right now as far as the medical field is concerned, it might not be worth its problems."
In another recent attempt to limit illegal pharmaceutical distribution, the DEA has launched a toll-free international hotline to report the illegal sale and abuse of prescriptions. Now people can anonymously call 1-877-RxAbuse or go to the DEA Web page (www.dea.gov) to make confidential reports.
DEA Administrator Karen P. Tandy says the DEA is also working to publicize the danger of prescription abuse.
Last year, the Bush administration tried to address the problem by creating a comprehensive plan to limit the online sale of prescription drugs and monitor suspicious prescriptions and patients.
A 2004 study by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University found 495 Web sites that sold prescription drugs. Only 6 percent of those sites required a prescription to complete the transaction, and none of the sites restricted the sale of drugs to children.
By implementing "prescription monitoring programs," the government is catching and prosecuting the businesses behind these sites.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse offers treatment to drug abusers by providing communities with rehabilitation centers. In centers such as Oak House in Citrus Heights, treatment includes both behavioral techniques and medicines.
Behavioral treatment teaches people how to remove drugs from their lives. It comes in the form of counseling, including cognitive-behavioral therapies.
Nonetheless, a solution to the problem seems far away.
"If we continue down the road of drug addiction, it's jail, institutions, or death," Husid said. "People just need to figure out their problems before it's too late."
-Sabrina Vogeley contributed to this story.
Hospital workers _ unexpected abusers
Hospital patients are not the only ones abusing medication. According to a nurse at a local hospital who is also an employee at Oak House, abusing prescription drugs is also popular among those in the medical field.
"Everybody _ doctors, nurses, janitors _ is a pillper (someone who abuses prescription medicine)," he said. "They don't discuss it openly at work, but outside of work a lot of us would hang out together and we'd all drink and pop pills."
Besides availability, prescriptions appeal to hospital employees because they do not show up on drug tests, which hospitals administer almost every week.
Now recovered, the nurse spent several years taking drugs from the hospital, often consuming them on his lunch break at work.
"Patients would always come in and say, 'I don't take these anymore what should I do with them?' and I would say 'Oh, I'll dispose of them,'" he said. "Then I'd dispose of them into my pocket to take home and have with a beer later."
Because of his connections to doctors at the hospital, he was also often able to ask a doctor for pain medicine after faking an injury.
"They'd give me whatever I said I needed," he said. "Also, drug reps are always bringing in free samples, and since we aren't allowed to give them to patients...we take them home."
He had been abusing prescription drugs for almost three years before he was caught. After consuming 12 Vicodin and a six-pack of beer, he was rushed to an emergency room in the hospital where he worked.
"I knew every single emergency room nurse there, and one of the nurses was a really good friend of mine. She pretty much gave me an ultimatum," he said.
His friend, who had suspected that he had a problem for a long time, agreed to record that he had accidentally overdosed, instead of describing his addiction and probably getting him fired. In return for her discretion, the nurse promised to seek help and get clean.
Three years later, after detox, he still has many friends who could supply him with any drugs he needs.
"I could walk to one of my friend's houses right now and ask for some Valium, Darvocet, Xanax and get it right there," he said. "She carries it all around with her. She's a walking pharmacy."
Sleep has always defined our lifestyle. Initially, all work, school and extracurricular activities were scheduled around the inherent need to rest and refresh our bodies.
Yet now, we find ourselves in an age where sleep is secondary to everything else. As adults push working hours further and further, and students pack schedules with countless appointments, priorities have shifted.
Rest is no longer important, as "recharging batteries" sits as a forgotten term. But what are we really losing? Why do we keep losing sleep?
The implications of sleep deprivation include more than just fatigue and inattentiveness. Sleep defines our behavior, productivity and lifestyle.
Factors that interfere with sleep.
On average, Americans sleep 6.9 hours a night on weekdays and 7.5 hours a night on weekends. Although each adult needs a different amount of sleep, anywhere from 5 to 10 hours a night, the National Sleep Foundation reports that 8.4 hours is considered ideal for proper function.
According to Dr. Shawn Aghili, who specializes in sleep disorders medicine at Sutter Roseville, more than half of his patients have the basic complaint that they do not get sleep enough each night.
"Whether they are working too many hours or have family situations, or are shift workers, we find out that they are sleep deprived just because they are not sleeping enough," he said.
For example, 1/5 of American jobs require shift work. Because the body is innately diurnal, we naturally like to sleep at night and be active during the day. Night shift workers, who are required to work during the night and sleep during the daytime, never completely adapt to the change of an average of less than 5 hours of sleep a day.
"Doctors recognize that it is very difficult for shift workers who have families to change their sleep patterns, but we encourage that they keep their schedules as regular as they can," Aghili said.
According to a 2000 study published in the Journal of National Cancer Institutes, light exposure during the night causes the body to create less of the hormone melatonin. An insufficiency causes a rise in estrogen production, possibly making female shift workers more likely to develop breast cancer.
Similarly, traveling through multiple time zones may also disrupt a person's ability to sleep because it disrupts their tendency to sleep at certain times of the day. It can take several days for a person to recover from jetlag.
Caffeine and nicotine can both keep people awake for excessive amounts of time even when taken six hours before bedtime. Such substances can start a vicious cycle of continual use to help fend off tiredness. When one who has used such substances is able to fall asleep, they sleep lightly and have shorter periods of REM sleep, the short period between sleep cycles when dreaming takes place and the body is essentially paralyzed.
Alcohol, on the other hand, serves as a sedative, which helps people sleep for the first hour or so. Once it wears off, however, a person's night consists of light sleep marked by frequent awakenings.
"When you drink a lot it can make you sleep or pass out, but you lag for about two days when you get really drunk," said a local high school student who wishes to remain anonymous. "Also, you often wake up dehydrated, which makes you more tired."
Her social habits have had an inadvertent effect on her sleep cycle. Because she always stays up late to drink at parties, this student reported, she would have felt tired the next day even if she had stayed sober the entire night.
Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can also impair a person's sleep patterns by causing insomnia (difficulty falling asleep). Antidepressants, many of which increase energy levels and awareness, can cause sleeplessness. Decongestants, blood pressure medications, diuretics and antihistamines can also alter rest patterns.
"Whenever I have trouble falling asleep, Nyquil normally does the trick," said the anonymous student. "I just don't like feeling tired and cranky the next day."
Sleep-inducing medicines are often helpful in treating insomnia, but with long-term use they have become ineffective. At this point, many people who take sleep pills increase their dosages and become addicted. Those who stop using such medication suffer from rebound insomnia, which is often worse than the original condition.
Emotions such as stress and depression can also keep people awake at night. Once the emotion ends, however, sleep patterns return to normal.
According to several studies, people who are deprived of sleep are often less healthy than those who sleep the recommended 8.4 hours a night. This is because during sleep the body repairs itself, replacing damaged cells with new ones, and repairs and re-energizes muscles, and boosts the immune system.
"There are studies done where people are kept awake for 3 or 4 days, and when they are really sleep deprived, the subjects start to feel very bad," Aghili said. "They don't function well, they may become incoherent, and they don't eat very well. As humans, of course, we don't die, but in several studies, sleep deprivation has actually killed rats."
According to a study done by the University of Chicago Medical Center in 1999, sleep deprivation slows the body's metabolism, and can lead to the early stages of Type 2 diabetes, where the body becomes less responsive to insulin. In the study, researchers took 27 healthy, non-obese adults, 14 of whom were "normal" sleepers who received 8 hours of sleep a night, and the other 13 were chronically short of sleep. The subjects were monitored for eight days, and on the last night they each gave a saliva sample. They skipped breakfast, and for their next meal, were each given an extraneous amount of glucose to see how each group process the sugar.
The group that slept less, averaging 28 years old, had the insulin profiles of 60 year olds; they produced 50 percent more insulin but were 40 percent less sensitive to the insulin they produced.
"When heavier people come in complaining about sleep problems, we quickly look into the medical problem of obesity and relate that to their lack of sleep," Aghili said.
The federal government's National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reported that people who average six hours are 23 percent more likely to be obese than those who slept 7 to 9 hours a night, while those who sleep less than four hours a night are 73 percent more likely to be obese.
Several factors account for the obesity in the sleep-deprived. In a study at Stanford University, people who consistently slept less than 5 hours a night average 15.5 percent less of the blood protein called leptin and 14.9 percent more of the hormone called grehlin, causing them to be more hungry and have slower metabolisms.
In response to the idea that sleep deprivation causes weight gain, a recent study conducted by the Eastern Virginia Medical School showed that an extra twenty minutes a night can be associated with a lower body mass index, or ratio between fat and muscle in one's body.
The study also showed that the heavier subjects generally slept about 1.8 hours less each week than those with normal weights.
Sleep deprivation also affects one's immune system. Test subjects who were sleep deprived when they were immunized for the flu only produced 50 percent of the antibody levels of those who received enough sleep.
While difficult to prove, sleep deprivation may also impair growth in young children.
A different report showed that children who received less than 10 hours of sleep a night have a 25 percent higher chance of misbehaving.
"My two kids each get about 10 hours of sleep a night," said Rhonda Kenny, a Granite Bay resident. "When they don't get that much they are crankier and much more tired."
According to a more recent study that tracked over 70,000 women, sleeping less than 6 or 7 hours a night increases one's chance for heart attacks.
"We followed them for about 10 years, and found that people that slept approximately five hours a night had about a 40 percent higher rate of having a heart attack than did people that slept 8 hours," said researcher David P. White, Medical Doctor and Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, in a quote to the New York Daily News.
In the same documentary, Sanjay Patel, Medical Doctor and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School agreed.
"Blood pressure tends to be lower when we sleep, so if we're sleeping less, then our blood pressure over the course of a day tends to be higher," Patel said.
Researches still are unsure if the problems directly cause heart problems or an early sign of the disease.
But lacking sleep doesn't just affect major body organs; your body can affect sleep patterns as well.
Sleep apnea is a sleeping disorder that causes people to temporarily stop breathing in the middle of the night, and often occurs in heavier people. They resume breathing as they awaken suddenly and sometimes violently. This strains the body and the heart, and causes sufferers to sleep even less, therefore gaining more weight.
"I normally wake up 6 or 7 times each night, but it is less when my weight is down," said Terrence Litton, a Natomas resident who suffers from sleep apnea. "My weight fluctuates. I'm big right now but I'm losing weight, and as I lose weight my breathing gets better. It is easier to sleep, and I don't need to sleep with the breathing machine that I have to use now."
According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep apnea affects 18 million people. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and narcolepsy (spontaneously falling asleep at odd times during the day) affect about 40 million Americans. However, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research, the overwhelming majority of sleep disorders remain undiagnosed and untreated.
"I don't remember falling asleep. I was driving along in stop and go traffic, feeling a bit sleepy. I turn up the music in (an) attempt to stay stimulated, but next thing I know the car comes to an abrupt stop, accompanied by a loud crashing sound." _Zach Frese
Perhaps the most dangerous aspect of sleep deprivation is the implications this behavior holds on the rest of one's life.
Without the appropriate hours of sleep a night, concentration and reflexes suffer.
When linked to the daily task of driving, lacking proper sleep can result in fatal accidents.
"The major problem with sleep deprivation is car accidents," Aghili said. "Number two is function. People lose their jobs, they fall asleep in class and get poor grades. People who work late shifts are tired and can't spend enough time with their families."
Aghili's comments are echoed in international research studies.
In 2000, Australian and New Zealand researchers found that sleep deprivation significantly impacted driving abilities. They study showed that drivers who were awake between 17 and 19 hours performed worse than those driving with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.
The legal blood alcohol level in California is .08 percent.
The study went on to estimate that between 16 to 60 percent of traffic accidents are caused by a lack of sleep.
The Roseville Police Department reports eight accidents due to sleep deprivation from 2002 to 2004.
These statistics are difficult to evaluate, however, because only accidents in which a driver falls asleep at the wheel can be wholeheartedly attributed to sleep deprivation or fatigue. In accidents where other factors are involved, the fatigue is often only named as a secondary cause.
But the relationship between sleep and commuting is a two-way street.
While a lack of sleep can be detrimental to traveling abilities, long commutes have been shown to attribute to sleep problems and other medical conditions as well.
The New York University Sleep Disorder Center has studied the effects of a commute of 75 minutes or more, sowing that this travel time in regional transit provides commuters ample time to rest, but this rest may not be what they need. Those who slept in a busy or loud atmosphere (the Long Island Railroad in this study) were more likely to suffer from obesity and hypertension not caused by their weight.
In order to develop positive sleep habits, sleep is encouraged in quiet locations where an uninterrupted eight hours are possible to achieve. This, in turn, rests the body and refreshes reflexes and body impulses.
The effects of sleep deprivation can be seen clearly when a driver falls asleep at the wheel, similar to Zach Frese's accident.
Prior to the accident, Frese did not pay particular attention to his level of fatigue.
"It doesn't seem like a big deal. It certainly didn't to me," Frese said. "I thought I'd be fine, and next thing I knew I was halfway into the back of a BMW."
Accidents like this are actually quite common. The National Sleep Foundation estimates that 23 percent of drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, although not all of these incidents caused accidents. Unfortunately, attention is often only brought on by a personal encounter with an accident or someone who's suffered one.
Since his accident, Frese has made a conscious effort to improve his driving alertness.
"I'm a little more aware of it, and try to be more careful, and if I'm actually really tired I'll pull over or get a coffee or do something to get off the road, especially if I have a long ways to go."
But driving isn't the only behavior that is affected by sleep deprivation.
Research done by the American Medical Association (AMA) states that those who get only 6 hours of sleep a night or less tend to be less productive.
Matt Peterson, a Roseville resident who works at Nextel, can attest to this research.
"When I don't get enough sleep, I don't have enough energy the next day, and at work I don't get as good of business and am a little off when it comes to talking to people," said Peterson, who sleeps 4 to 5 hours a night.
The AMA also found that a lack of sleep can attribute to an increase in anxiety. This anxiety can lead to a plethora of mother health problems, which, in turn, may take years to treat.
So how can you stop an unhealthy cycle that increasingly shortens sleep?
The solution to that, says, Dr. Aghili, is relatively simple.
"Sleep more, or eliminate activities that restrict (the) amount of sleep."
Three colleges. Three wrestlers. Three deaths.
The year was 1997; the time span, one month. Three college wrestlers from the Universities of North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin had pushed themselves to the max, their flare for competition soaring above all else.
Their fate was sealed. Their drive to succeed outweighed their bodily needs.
They demanded more of themselves. They demanded to be fitter, to be leaner, to be stronger.
Their bodies could not meet their demands. It was reported that all three wrestlers were vapor-impermeable body suits while in hot rooms to increase weight loss by sweating. Yet, while working out, they refused to drink fluids and became dehydrated.
All three had gradually lost weight in the weeks prior to competition. All three were trying to shed significant amounts of weight in a short amount of time immediately before competition to qualify for lower weight classes. All three succumbed to cardiorespiratory arrest.
But that was then. A time when health did not take precedence over success. A time when athletes sacrificed everything to be the best.
Following the deaths of the three collegiate wrestlers, the National Wrestling Coaches Assocation put three assessments into place to protect college wrestlers: body fat, hydration, and wright. After being put into an Optimal Performance Calculator, those raw scores would be measure the lowest possible weight and the safest weight-loss plan for each wrestler.
However, Mike Moyer, the executive director of the NWCA, says that parents' number one objections to wrestling is still weight loss.
"The unique thing in wrestling is that there are weight classes. In football, you could probably turn a wide receiver into a quarterback. In wrestling, it's going to be really hard to put a 90-lb wrestler into a 150-lb wrestler's spot." Moyer says. "That's the biggest challenge for coaches, to move wrestlers around and fill the best possible lineup."
East wrestling coach Bob Latessa knows that unhealthy practices are still around, but though strict regulation, he has kept his team healthy for the 11 years he has coached in Lakota.
"When you lose weight, you're trying to be stronger at a lighter weight, and you're trying to cut down body fat. It is a proven fact that if you lose more than 2-3 pounds a week, you are losing muscle fiber," Latessa says. "The more you try to lose, the worse it is."
He added that the best way to lose weight was to start eating a healthy diet.
"I tell my wrestlers 'Do not skip meals.' In fact, they are encouraged to have 4-5 meals a day because they are usually working out so heavily. I tell them not to drink anything but water and to cut out desserts of any kind because they are wasted calories. They just need to develop healthy eating habits," he says. "My goal is to get them in shape. If they lose some tubbiness, they'll get in shape."
Kyle Gregory, a senior and wrestler at East, agrees that it can sometimes be hard to eat a healthy diet.
"The hardest part about trying to cut weight is cutting it right," Gregory says. "You have to have a lot of self control around Christmas and Thanksgiving. It's in the middle of wrestling season, and you have to cut out all that sugar and that big turkey."
To combat unhealthy practices in weight loss, the East wrestling team mandated that all wrestlers weigh-in every Monday throughout the season to monitor their weight loss. Wrestlers are measured by a skin-fold test as well to determine their percentage of body fat. According to national standards set by the NWCA, high school wrestlers are required to have a minimum of 7 percent body fat. If a wrestler misses his weigh-in, he becomes ineligible for the week.
East junior Nate Hall has wrestled for ten years, the past three for East, and realizes that on occasion, he has put his body in danger. He recalls a time in eighth grade when he tried to cut down his weight to 86 pounds, but did not follow through. When he reached 88 pounds, he had gotten to the point where he was passing out and no energy. Because of the health concerns that arose, he decided to move up a weight class.
Nonetheless, he is still trying to combat the bad habits of skipping meals that he started in eighth grade, and he has been told to stop since his high school career began.
"It's just so hard to control yourself especially during holidays. I skip meals. I shouldn't but I do," he says. "I try to eat healthy but at the same time, I still always end up cutting back on meals because I'm cutting weight."
Alan Utter, a Health, Leisure and Exercise Science professor at Appalachian State University, says that a wrestler who skips meals and does not eat correctly makes himself or herself more susceptible to a number of health problems. According to Utter, when a wrestler has a low caloric intake and high rate of caloric expenditure through working out, there is a significant loss of lean body mass, otherwise known as muscle fiber. Therefore, one gets weaker as a result of the weight loss.
By depriving the body of food, the resting metabolic rate decreases and one is more likely to develop an immune system deficiency, make the body more prone to disease. Psychological problems, such as a decrease in academic performance and in the ability to concentrate, are multiplied.
According to Latessa, the problems began in the mid-80s and the 90s at the college level. Wrestlers dehydrated themselves until their weigh-in, which would occur five hours before their scheduled start. Then, they spent the next five hours rehydrating themselves before they competed.
"Problems arose when those college wrestlers graduated and tried to implement their system to the high school level. It didn't work," Latessa says. "In high school, you weigh-in only one hour before you wrestle. Kids were straving themselves like crazy."
Thus, the NWCA established the Optimal Performance Calcualator to keep wrestlers under wraps and teach them healthier practices in their sport following the 1997-1998 season.
To monitor the results, Utter and two colleagues from the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa conducted a study at the year-end NCAA wrestling championships. In their research, they monitored body composition and changes in acute weight gain (body weight gain following weigh-ins for competition) between the early 90s prior to weight gain programs and now, with the establishment of the Optimal Performance Calculator. Their results showed that in the early 90s, the average weight gain following a weigh-in was eight pounds, but after implementing the program, the average weight gain is now only two pounds.
"In the early 90s, a wrestler might be told to lose 30 pounds to wrestle in a specific weight class and he would do it," Utter says. "Kids just didn't know how to lose weight and customize their diets. When we measured body fat at the end of the year [NCAA championships], we found that a majority of the weight lost was fat mass, not muscle mass."
Now, wrestlers are trying to show that they can do things right. Dan Canfield, a junior at East, has wrestled under Latessa since his high school career began and can attest to the hardship.
"The biggest part about losing weight is the mental aspect. You have to learn how to not eat the cookies. You window shop. You can look but you can't touch."
The crowd sat there speechless. A packed house of 8,000 or more fans, had already gathered in the parking lot celebrating, the other half silent in defeat, the stragglers left behind to wonder what could have been. The home team, Lakota East, knelt on the field, the coach doing his best to console his team after undoubtedly the biggest loss of the season. They squandered a 21-point lead to the one obstacle in their road to the playoffs. Their goals were stifled for the third time in three years. And to add insult to injury, their loss had come at the hands of district rival, Lakota West.
East fans were silent. Those who had spoken so highly and so promisingly throughout the season now had to swallow their words. Following a rough and tumble season of ups and downs, with injury hindering what signs of magnificence had been shown, East's season was over. Done with. Finished. As far as East fans were concerned, there was nothing left to say.
But to the thousands of other high school football fans around the state, the conversation was just getting started.
Message boards had been cluttered all week with talk of twenty of more different scenarios for how the game would play out. Fans, so called "specialists," and team rivals discussed everything from an improbable upset by West to the seemingly decided Division I playoff situation. High school sports enthusiasts tried to find out as much as possible about the team without being inside the locker room. Yappi was their answer.
Yappi.com was founded by a couple of sports fans from northern Ohio in 2001. Following a basketball game between Tallmadge High School and Willard High School, this group of sports fanatics wanted to discuss the game, but their only options, Cleveland.com and Rivals.com, did not meet their standards. Cleveland.com was not very professional and Rivals.com was shutting down.
According to Tim, one of the original creators of Yappi.com who failed to provide his last name and only corresponded through email, "The main goal of the forum [Yappi] is to share information about the games and other events surrounding high school sports. It's much more interesting going to a game against a team and knowing what type of game they will play and who are their star players."
Yet with over 20,000 registered members, and 10,000 to 15,000 people coming to the site on a daily basis, especially during football season and towards the end of basketball season, Yappi has progressed in a dramatic fashion from its humble beginnings. In fact, in the past two months in October and November, 2,000 plus new members have joined Yappi. In a SPARK survey of 368 students, 10 percent said they visit Yappi on a regular basis.
Chad Cattani, a 2003 graduate of East and older brother to Lakota East sophomore quarterback Colton Cattani, says that he joined Yappi because of an interest in high school football. A former member when he was in high school, Chad rejoined Yappi two weeks following the start of this past football season to gain more information about the season.
"Colt play QB for a number of games this season so I had a personal tie to the site," he says. "I like to hear about what's going on around the state also. I don't hear too much about schools outside of C Cincinnati, and it's nice to hear about them."
However, though Yappi has proven very popular with high school sports enthusiasts, it has not fared well with high school coaches around the area.
Greg Bailie, East varsity football coach, has refused to give Yappi any credence in his scheme of coaching.
"I compare it [Yappi] to talk radio. I discourage my players from using it because it is purely for entertainment. People are allowed to give their opinions, but they can be very slanderous," Bailie says. "Unless Joe Paterno, Jim Tressel, or Lloyd Carr get is on there, I am not going to pay much attention to it."
Yet, some other high school coaches have taken a harsher stand towards the site. Moeller High School Athletic Director Barry Borman strongly opposes the discussion occurring on Yappi. He says that Moeller recommends that their athletes do not use the forum and coaches have taken actions to prevent their athletes from participating. "I don't think that Yappi is a very healthy forum because you can remain anonymous. When people don't have to give their name, they are not accountable for whatever they say. They can say whatever they want," Borman says. "Alumni tend to be more vicious and cutting than students. There are monitors to make sure that statements don't become malicious, but sometimes they get too personal."
The anonymity seems to be one of the biggest problems with the site. As anybody with an email address can get a username for Yappi, users have no limits on their speech.
Tim knows that since Yappi users remain anonymous, people would say things they would never say in public. Though some users may use that to "carry a crusade against a player, coach, parent, fan, or administrator," others knowledgeable posters may bring some worthy information that would greatly benefit the site.
Cattani, however, realizes the immense problem with anonymous posts.
"I could create a new email account called StX05 and post as if I was knowledgeable about that school even though I might have no idea of what I'm talking about. I would look really bad on that school," says Cattani. "Depending on how you go in it [Yappi], it's different. Some go into the site just to debate; others go to increase their knowledge of the subject. That's no biggie. It's just those people that are belligerent, throw around accusations, and don't keep relevant to the topic. "Everyone can put their two-cents in. It's a free site. If you don't like what's being said, you can leave."
Yet, one of Yappi's biggest assets is its variety and the wide spectrum of discussion. Knowledgeable fans from all around the state are well represented, as each major Division I school has some following. With discussion about numerous sports including basketball, football, soccer, volleyball, among others, Yappi users cover such topics as private schools vs. public schools, open enrollment, state championship location, and whatever is prevalent in high school sports.
Senior Cedric Pashi, an East varsity basketball player, says he goes to Yappi to find out what other people say about East and to find out who they talk about. He just reads the message boards, but does not think it is positive for the team. In his opinion, people look too much into it because not everything is true.
"Against Roger Bacon, everybody said that East was going to beat Roger Bacon pretty easily. That started making us think differently, and we got a false confidence," says Pashi.
Going into the winter season, Yappi users continue to sift through message boards, finding out the inside scoop on teams in the area. They look for the key statistic, the key injury, the key advantage that their team might have. It is one place to find inside tips and go into the game feeling like part of the team. And as long as there is an interest in sports, Yappi will thrive.
Father Time prepares for Change: As time ticks away for the final game at Busch, fans experience traditions for the last time.
Danielle Karstens, senior, Francis Howell North High School, St. Charles, Mo..
Soon he will leave his home for North Hanley Station. Soon he will slip on his red foam finger. Soon he will glue his smile to his face.
But it's not quite time. The show has yet to start.
It's time to change.
He buttons down his white jersey, ties his red shoes, and grabs his poster board. He can't leave home without the poster board _ that's what makes his outfit complete.
The red, white, blue, and gold necklaces swish around his neck as he heads to the Hanley validating station with his MetroLink ticket, just as he has so many other times this year. In one hand he holds two flags _ one American, one Cardinals _ while the other is now covered with the foam finger dangling at his side.
The overhead cable starts to move signaling the approaching train. It pulls into the station and the doors whoosh open. He steps into the car., revealing his well-known name on the back of his Cardinals jersey, along with the infamous number 1.
Don't call this Cardinal fan "The Wizard." Don't even call him by his actual name, Paul Pagano. He prefers the name St. Louis has grown accustomed to saying: "Father Time."
"I'm more of a mascot to the Cardinals then Fred Bird!" he says with a chuckle.
He quickly finds a seat in the first car, exchanges a few words with the man sitting in front of him, then chomps away at his gum as he stares out the window.
In a few hours, the MetroLink will be a sea of red; for now, there's just a speckle. As people move on and off the train, Father Time sits by himself, on a ride of solitude until he reaches 8th and Pine.
He waves his number 1 foam finger to the train as it pulls away from the station; it's time for him to begin his performance.
"I'm always performing for people," he said. "I don't need a stage. All the highways and byways are my stage."
His finger moves back and forth, back and forth, as he follows the red, spray painted line down Seventh Street to the pre-game rally at Keiner Plaza. Most people have yet to arrive; nevertheless, Father Time stands, waving his finger and his flags, with his smile plastered to his face.
"I enjoy all these things," he says. "If I didn't look forward to them, I wouldn't be here today."
Since the early 80s, Father Time has been making appearances all over the St. Louis area. He describes himself as "a man of all creations who celebrates all occasions," and that most certainly is the case. His outfits aren't exclusively used to cheer on St. Louis sports teams, but he participates in other events such as holidays, parades and fund-raising walks. Always accompanying him is his porter board hanging around his neck, which has said everything from "Pres. Bush welcome to St. Louis" to "Happy 69th Birthday Elvis."
Today it says, "Cardinals it was an exciting year, thanks for the memories."
And he's not the only one in the Cardinal spirit. The crowd has grown stronger, just like the smell of barbecue which now fills the Plaza.
There's a man in red Spandex shorts and blue tights running around the Plaza with a sign reading "Go Cards." A little boy with red and white spray painted hair walks past another boy with a red and white balloon necklace. A woman, who on the "best hat" contest at the Game 1 rally, has a sombrero tied around her head. The sombrero has stuffed animal Cardinals perched on top along with a giant baseball reading "Go Cards."
"It's a pinata," she explains, "but there's no candy in it."
She also proudly displays her sings which read, "Houston, you have a problem," "Asteroids have Hemorrhoids," and "There's not place better to be than Busch."
Busch. The stadium that's been a St. Louis landmark since '66. The stadium that's seen McGwire smash a homer, Ozzie do a back flip, and the Clydesdales march around the track. That stadium that will soon come crashing down.
But she's not done yet.
Neither is Father Time. In fact, he's just getting started; his audience is waiting.
"I've got fans of all ages," he says. "Everybody knows Father Time."
He has high hopes that everyone will continue to recognize him, and he will continue his St. Louis spirit, for the next 20 years. He's confident that it will be at least that long, despite his age.
82. The number of years Father Time has been a St. Louis native.
82. The last time the Cardinals won the World Series.
82 The year 49-year-old fan "Crazy" Marie A Bentrup got engaged.
A Redbird fan all her life, Bentrup remembers taking a bus over to the games when she was a kid, and listening to the games on the radio.
"I used to love when Ozzie would flip," Bentrup, who sports a blue "Busch" jersey with a Cardinals patch and a red "Hottie" necklace, says. "Everyone went crazy...Right now I like Edmonds. He's so fabulous the ways he gets to all those balls _ he's like magic!"
Through thick and think Bentrup has struck beside the Cards, never becoming a fair-weathered fan.
"Our guys can do no wrong," Bentrup says. "Even if they don't win, we know they'll win next time."
Although the pinata hat woman has made an appearance at Game 6, there's no sign of "Crazy" Marie. It was at 4:33 Game 2 when she stopped to talk to Father Time -- his smile still shining, his finger still waving _ and shows him her "Seasons Greetings." towel with a cardinal on it that she had just found.
He reached into the red purse, which hangs at his side today, and gave her a picture of himself at Fair St. Louis.
His purse is a necessity: it holds his camera, his water, and his pictures and story. A woman compliments him on it. He replies, "My wife never did use it, so I'm using it.
Father Time continues circulating through the crowd, waving his foam finger, flashing his smile. Countless people stop and take pictures with him or just say hello.
"It goes on and on. People from all over the U.S., from all parts of the world are taking pictures of me," he says with grin.
It was this time, Game 2, when it happened. For a few moments, one man made everything halt. Father Times wonders if there will be an encore performance at Game 6. He remembers how the crowds' attention was drawn to an unusual sight in Keiner Plaza. He remembers the 8-foot, 11-inch giant dressed in red, white, and blue; remembers him dancing on the stilts; remembers how Steve Alsman of Alton towered over Father Time.
The cameras snapped.
The finger stopped.
Less than a minute passed before Father Time decided to have a picture taken of Father Time and stilts man _ together.
The foam finger resumed its motion.
He wonders if he'll have to shared the stage again tonight with the man had never before seen until Game 2. But it looks like the light is only on Father Time tonight.
At least that's what he hopes.
More red fills the Plaza, some giving the spirited Cards' "number 1" fan a run for his money.
Ladies walk around in red-feathered boas. A kid has half his face painted red, the other half white. A tiny baby wears a Cardinals jacket in his stroller.
Among those Redbird enthusiasts is Mario Hernandez, with a red spiky wig, a red goatee, red under eye paint and a red NLCS T-shirt. A fan since the 70s, he thinks the Cardinals fans are what make Busch stadium so different from other stadiums.
"They love the team and they know baseball," he says.
It's time to go.
Father Time is oblivious to the "The Boys Are Back in Town" which plays as he begins his trek from Keiner Plaza to Bush Stadium and joins the sea of red on the sidewalk.
The crowd's back is to Father Time as they face the stage where the Bob Kuban band is playing. Without a moment's delay, Father Time heads to the front of the crowd, cutting through the masses until he can stand between them and the band. He turns around and begins to dance and wave his foam finger underneath the banner hanging off the stadium that reads "8 Teams, 1 Championship. World Series."
It was during Game 2 when Rhonda Yorks danced near the same poster with her friends, each wearing red, blue and silver pompom-like hair. A fan since she was 8, she'll never forget her favorite memory.
"It was a Saturday afternoon, several years ago," she says. "It had been raining so the ground crew had to put the tarp out. It stopped, so they put it back, but later it started again and they had to bring out the tarp again. But it got stuck. So they decided to take a running start and at the same time all of them lost their footing and fell."
Yorks also says she knows what it takes to be a Redbird fan.
"Cardinal fans have class," she says. "They understand the game. They applaud other players for making good plays.
On the move again.
The stream of people is growing now. People are starting to line up to enter Busch for what could be the last game. There's plenty of Pujols, Eckstein, and Edmonds jerseys. Even a few Kile shirts are spotted.
The final destination.
It's here, at Gate 4that Father Time can meet the flock of MetroLink passengers.
"It's my favorite corner," he says, his "number 1" finger waving. "This is where the people are....I meet a lot of people from the Metro. It's unbelievable."
"Hey Father Time!" someone shouts. "I see you everyday!"
"Father Time, you rode with us on the float last year in Mardi Gras, make sure you come with us this year," someone else says.
"Looking great man, looking great," someone else exclaims. "You haven't aged in 120 years!"
A few Astros' fans dot the Cardinal red ascending up the steps.
"Thanks for coming tonight, thanks for spending money with us," Father Time says with a laugh. "Just keep enough to get back home,"
Home, it appears, is where Father Time will be headed in about an hour. Although he attends almost every game, he hardly ever has a ticket. Occasionally someone will give him one yet when he receives a ticket, he walks around the concession area, waving his foam finger, smiling, getting his picture taken.
"The ushers used to sneak me in," he says, "but then the Big Cheese came around and said no more of that."
Most people are in the stadium by now; a few a still trickling in. Some hopeful fans wait outside, fingers in the air, looking desperately for tickets.
Although he perhaps has the biggest finger of all, there will be no ticket for Father Time tonight.
And he turns away from his favorite corner and begins to walk across the bridge, the sounds of a trumpet playing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and a few roars from the stadium fill the air. Just as he's always done, he'll head to the parking garage elevator then down to the MetroLink station. He'll ride the train back to North Hanley, find his green station wagon with the giant Cardinals baseball helmet tied to the top, then drive home to watch the game on TV.
The stage lights begin to dim.
Even though no one is watching, he still waves his trusty foam finger as the curtain closes on Gate 4. This is the last time he will make this walk away from Busch. He'll be gone before the killer bees swarm the nest of the Redbirds; gone before Biggio singles in the game winning run; gone before Cardinal fans realize their beloved stadium won't be going out "in style" the way everyone had dreamed. It's time to pack the foam finger away for another year, not to be called upon again until next spring.
It's time for a new stadium in town, a new spot to scout out, a new thrill.
It's time for a change.
I finish putting on my gear and stare up at the 60-foot climbing wall looming above me. Like a chess game combined with weight trianing, the climbing wall dares me to test my mental and physical strength.
I study the wall and the color-coded route moldings, carefully planning out each move of my body, each change in position that will successfully scale me up the rock wall. My adrenaline starts pumping and I'm ready for the challenge.
Junior Chris Cahall was interested in rock climbing long before his dad first suggested he and his brother try it out. Seeing pictures of climbers dangling from cliffs and living on the edge sparked his curiosity in the extreme sport. Climbing itself wasn't anything new to him, he had climbed plenty of trees, but there is a big difference between climbing a tree and climbing a rock wall; a difference that has kept Chris rock climbing for the last six years.
"It's fun, it gives you an adrenaline rush," Chris said. "It builds strength and it's challenging, very challenging."
Sweat drips from my forehead and my muscles are flexed as I grab the next hand hold to maneuver my way up the rock. This certainly is an intense workout.
Although I've broken up my climb into small sections, each time only moving about three feet, I still have to be able to support my body weight. There's a belayer on the ground, yes, but he is only to make sure there's no slack in the rope in case I fall _ he doesn't lessen the weight at all.
Rock climbing may be a challenge, but Chris continues to push himself. Routes are ranked from one for beginners to 15 for the extremely experienced and Chris is able to climb routes ranked 9 and 10.
"I think he's pretty good," Chris's brother, sophomore Curtis Cahall said. "He's physically fit and skinny. And, he's flexible to reach the holds."
Curtis, Chris, and their dad have had the chance to climb outdoors several times at rock outcrops in St. Louis and Farmington. However, Chris heads up to Upper Limits in St. Louis for four or five hours at least once every other month for an indoor climb. His climbing buddy is sometimes his brother, but he also goes with friends that he has gotten involved with the sport.
"I've always wanted to rock climb and he (Chris) said he always tried to get friends to go and everyone was always busy and he invited me and I was like 'this is awesome,'" junior Justin Barnhart said. "It's a good workout, it's fun, it's better than sitting on the couch at home watching T.V."
I'm breathing heavy as I reach the top of the wall and my body is worn out, but my effort was worth it. A feeling of pride and accomplishment rushes through me. As I rappel back down, I'm again reminded of how much I truly enjoy climbing.
Climbing is a hobby that Chris plans on continuing as he gets older. One day, he would like to head out to Wyoming and climb Devil's Tower. But for now he just works to improve his skill level and encourage other people to try out one of his favorite past times.
"I think a lot of people have the misconception that they can't do it, that it's only for people who are buff," Chris said. "But anyone can be good at climbing, they don't have to be that athletic. It doesn't require as much strength as strategy."