The 通頂 [All-nighter] Diaries

April 30, 2015 / by / 0 Comment

It’s 5.53 in the morning and I can see the dark night sky turning a faded blue as a new day begins. The birds outside are chirping happily and people are starting to wake up for school, work, going to the market, etc. But university students are almost never awake at this hour. If they are, it probably means they never went to sleep in the first place. So yes, I haven’t had my beauty sleep yet. This phenomenon is known as 通頂 (tong deng) in Cantonese, meaning you pulled an all-nighter.

There are many reasons for why one tong dengs in uni. The most common reasons are hall/club activities, midnight suppers with friends that somehow dragged on till dawn, or when one is absolutely swamped with deadlines (usually during the most trying times of each semester – November & April). For the third one, there’s a good chance it’s your fault you’re fighting a deadline at this hour but then again, it always feels better to blame someone else during these torturous times. So yea, thanks Profs. Because of your endless lab reports and quizzes that somehow all ended to be due in the same week (you will never convince us that it’s not a conspiracy), I have been deprived of one of the most basic needs of humankind – sleep.

At this time of the semester, tong deng is a common occurrence and if you have yet to find a need to experience it yourself, hkudos to you. A typical tong deng experience usually begins sometime around 10pm when you do a brief scan on the stuff you have yet to complete and it hits you that you really have no choice but to pull an all-nighter.

10pm: I estimate the time required to do each section/assignment hoping that if I’m really efficient, I could probably  still get a couple of hours of sleep before class.

2am: As the night wears on, my efficiency rate gradually drops despite many futile attempts involving all sorts of caffeine boosts, snacks, carbonated drinks, and pinching myself awake.

3am: I’m so miserable and hungry I want to reward myself for working so hard for so long by procrastinating with a couple of dumb video clips or midnight supper.

4am: It’s all I can do to keep my head and eyes from drooping. My head is swimming with regretful thoughts of, “If only I’d started on this report a little sooner”, “if only I’d watched 2 less episodes of Running Man”, “if only..” My sleep deprived brain has started registering words like calculator into facilitator, disposal into suitable, coliform into transform, and my notes/lecture slides just don’t make sense anymore.

4.30am: My eyelids are heavier than ever, my head crying for a headrest and before I know it, I’ve succumbed to a 20 min nap.

5am: I jerk awake after a particularly loud snore from the guy drooling on the keyboard two computers away from me. I’m completely worn out too, but… I’m almost done! A couple more graphs and a conclusion should do the trick. Then come the references. Oh god, the references. Probably the most time consuming part of any assignment.

But like all uni-worthy students, with my last ounce of mental strength, I complete what I’ve stayed up all night long to do.

5.53am: I glance out of the window to see the sun dawning across the horizon as the birds outside chirp loudly. The printer’s noise wakes up my sleep deprived self as my masterpiece of a lab report gently slides out of the side tray. A beautiful sight.

6.17am: I’m basically in a trance, only half-consciously packing my things before walking back to my hall which takes forever.

6.41am: I fumble about with my bag, hoping my room keys will give me a break and jump out instead. But no, it seems like they’ve shrunk overnight.

6.49am: Finally, I pop in for a shower in hopes of washing away last night’s exhaustion and torture. As hot water pours over an exhausted soul, I somehow end up dozing off standing in the shower and nearly flood the cubicle.

8am: I head out for my 8.30am lecture, where the bright sun greets my horrifying dark circles.

The rest of the day: People around me are so happy and energetic they’re annoying. I feel out of place, but am too tired to care. Everything around me is too loud, moving too fast, the cafeteria staff snap at me for being slow in ordering my food, but all I can do is drag one feet in front of the other to my next class and next quiz.

That’s been me for the past week. And for those like me whose brains are on strike from tong deng-ing recently, hang in there. See if you can catch a few winks between breaks and if you can’t, hey, at least you made that submission in time (hopefully).


Feature image credits to meme