Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Falling Asleep on Public Transit

Everyone's done it. Everyone's fallen asleep on the bus. Well, I like to tell myself this at least because I've had some pretty terrible repeat experiences falling asleep on buses. Some of which were recent.

Resting one's eyes while in a vehicle must be one of the most popular past times out there. Something about the gentle vibration which just lulls you into closing your eyes. This is especially true on weekdays after a night of no sleep or a busy tiring day. But I'm not talking about actually falling asleep. I learned in high school and college that there are various stages of sleep: the pleasant but nearly fully conscious eye closing, and the actual "sleep" sleep where waking up is violent.

"Eye Resting" in High School

Thanks to my great respect for getting <7 hours of sleep throughout high school, I spent a lot of my breaks closing my eyes. Not once do I recall ever losing consciousness during high school -- college was a different story. I just put my head down and kept my brain active thinking about anything and everything. And I eavesdropped on conversations around me. Those were good times.

"Eye Resting" on Buses and Subways

Most of the time on long bus and subway rides, I try to do the same thing: just close my eyes, but stay awake. There are obvious reasons why I wouldn't want to actually fall asleep. Getting robbed is one of them. Missing a stop is the other. However, there are hilarious and important third and fourth reasons to avoid entering a state of unconsciousness on public transit. Before I go into that, let's explore my wonderful childhood experience with vehicles and sleep.

Actual Sleeping - Pleasantly

The majority of my true vehicular sleeping has occurred in an old family car on the way to classes. Think I used to get a solid 20 minutes of sleep without fail each trip to and from that class. Waking up and knowing that I was almost there sucked, but there were no real consequences since someone would wake me up if I overslept.

The Consequences Have Never Been the Same

Goodbye, mommy and daddy. Hello, strangers.

Falling asleep on subways is usually okay. That is, unless you're unlucky enough to be on a train that's going out of service or near closing time. I haven't experienced either situation before. The worst I've done is miss my stop by a few stations. Oh well, I just walk to the other platform to backtrack.

Falling asleep on a bus was a new experience for me. The majority of my bus rides in the past were relatively short and never allowed me to actually lose consciousness. Then I had to move offices and my daily commute turned into a 1.5 to 2 hour marathon each way daily. Being during winter, the night sky just added to the problem.

My first experience falling asleep on the bus ended up with me waking up at the end of the line in a large bus station. Having sat right behind the driver, his booth hid me from his final mirror check, and, as expected, no "stranger" passengers bothered to give me a wake-up jab. Unfortunately, the bus was going out of service, so instead of stopping at the boarding area, he went to park the bus outside. Fortunately, it was still inside the station that I wanted to be at.

Having learned nothing, I did this again two months later. This one didn't end as badly. I sat in the back this time in full view of the driver's mirror, so I woke up to a bunch of long and drawn out yells of "HELLOOOOO".

That didn't stop me from sleeping on the bus though. I just kept going and got lucky by waking up just before making it to the final stop. Now that I've moved back closer to home, no more marathon bus rides. It's subway sleeping only for the foreseeable future...