Getting Blinky


To the fellow driving a white Explorer on I-59 North just outside of Meridian, I give my deepest apologies. Your quick thinking, lightening fast reflexes and middle finger saved us both from a horrible accident. I should have pulled over about fifty miles back when I became sleepy, but nooo, I had to be all manly and kept driving. Thank goodness you were paying attention when I drifted over to the passing lane. Does a horn that loud come standard in the Ford Explorer? I’m grateful for it. I’m glad you know how to use sign language, too, otherwise I wouldn’t have known you suddenly had the desire to copulate with me. Bless your brake foot.

I’ve been on plenty of long trips, driven across the country from sea to shining sea, from snow to sun and back again. When I was younger it was nothing to hop in my car and log sixteen to twenty hours of driving without the first hint of fatigue. Now I’m lucky if I can make it to the grocery store without taking a nap. The older I become the harder it is for me to travel long distances without getting blinky. Fortunately, I’ve come up with several ways to stay awake on the road. Unfortunately, they don’t always work. Fortunately, I’m still alive. Unfortunately, I don’t know why.

Admit it. You’ve been sleepy while driving. We all have. It seems we all try the same things to stay awake, too. Tune the radio to thrash metal and crank it to ear-bleed level. Roll down the window and pretend you’re a dog. Slap yourself. Sing old TV theme songs (my favorite is a tossup between The Beverly Hillbillies and Gilligan’s Island). Get out and run around the car a few times (technically that’s still pretending to be a dog). Splash cold water on your face. Inject copious amounts of caffeine and/or sugar into your body by any means available (although a coffee enema is out of the question for me). Usually any combination of these things gets the cobwebs out of your noggin and you can continue to move on toward your destination.

That stuff doesn’t work for me. Listen, I’ve tried all that and it just doesn’t wake me up. My brain hears loud music and automatically thinks it’s death metal and tries to comply. I change my position in the chair by scooting my butt halfway up the back of the car seat. That just makes it easier for me to lay my head on the dashboard. I’ve rolled down all my windows and stuck every part of my body out except my accelerator foot and my driving hand to no avail. It looks like I’m trying to escape a killer fart. I’ve slapped myself so hard the picture on my driver’s license cried. Not only have I bellowed the lyrics to every TV show from Howdy Doody to The Walking Dead, I’ve cranked out entire rock operas (Jesus Christ Superstar and The Wall are my favorites) but they all sound like lullabies. I’ve pulled over and chased my invisible friend around the car for half an hour only to find myself napping under the trunk. I’ve dunked my head in ice water and almost drowned had it not been for the sound snoring makes when it bubbles around ice cubes. I’ve ingested so much caffeine people think I’m Juan Valdez. It’s so embarrassing to doze off with a bladder full of Mountain Dew.

No, I have to elevate it a step further to stay awake. I’ve been known to take myself hostage. The threat of being shot keeps me alert. Sometimes when I know I’ll be going on a long trip I’ll deliberately bring along a dozen or so rabid bats. That’s an eye-opener. I tried propping my eyelids open with toothpicks once but accidently gave myself a lobotomy. Another thing that works for me is to not have a bowel movement for the three days prior to my trip, and then the day I leave go through Taco Bell and consume half a dozen chimichangas. That certainly keeps my mind active. One time when I got sleepy I pulled over, put the car in neutral and pushed it the rest of the way. I arrived tired but awake.

Perhaps I should just leave long drives to the younger folks. That’s too bad. I feel like I’m in training to be the first to successfully drive from New York to LA while asleep behind the wheel. I’ll make sure to give everyone plenty of notice, though, in case you want to come along and honk at me from time to time. Egads, all this talk of sleep makes me want to get behind the wheel and head to Florida.

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