Thursday, February 19, 2009

Yesterday's commute home

I am happy to be alive this morning.


On the night of the 17th going into the 18th I didn't sleep. I was at school until about 8 pm and after class I called some of my classmates about going to dinner. We went to a sit down restaurant that took a bit of time. It was my plan to stay on campus and do some work that I needed to get caught up on. That is why I didn't come home to eat dinner. Anyway, the work took a lot longer than I planned (that and the internet interruptions - in the middle of the night I got a call on Skype from an old friend of mine). The reason that I was going to stay there and work was because I was already planning on everything taking several hours. I didn't start until around 10:30 or 11:00 pm and I got it all done around 4 am. I was going to just try to get a nap in in the office and then go teach later. I teach in the morning and on Wednesday that is really the only thing that I do, so I figured that I could get in some sleep somewhere yesterday.
Well, at 4 am the heating system was still working fine in the building I work in but overnight the outside temperature had actually risen from the high thirties or the low forties to the low sixties. There was a rainstorm in the night that brought in a REALLY warm front. Anyway, with the decent temp outside and the heat running inside it was becoming unbearable in the office. I couldn't rest in there at all. I played around with my grade book on Excel making graphs out of the students' most recent grades. I just wasted time.
About 5 am I started to feel hungry but more than that I started to feel really oily. Have you ever noticed that? When you don't sleep at night you feel dirtier than if you do sleep? I don't mean people who are always up at night, I mean if you miss a night's sleep. I needed a shower.
Anyway, I got in my car and drove home. It was weird driving on the streets at about 5:30 am. That is late enough where I expected a lot of traffic, or at least some because at 7 - 8 am when I am normally on my way to work the rush hour is terrible. But at 5:30 am I was almost totally alone out there. I got home, showered, ate, said hi to my wife, and got in the car and made the same drive back to work - this time in a lot of traffic.
I am usually in my office at 8 am. I do a lot of prep work in the mornings. I have to teach from about 9 am to about 11:30 am and then I have office hours for the students until 1 pm. I went to the gym yesterday in spite of my need to get some sleep and I was done at the gym by 4 pm but the two people who I work out with wanted to go grocery shopping and I figured that I would go with them to get some peanut butter and honey (two things that don't need refrigeration) so that I could start making some of my lunches at school. I spend way too much eating out because I work so far from home and there is no fridge in my office. Anyway, it was about 5:30 pm when I left my friend's apartment to come home. Immediately, I was stopped by a train for about ten minutes. That is a normal delay when the train is going by campus because it literally crawls past. Normally this won't affect me because I always park north of the tracks but my friend's apartment complex is just to the south of all that.
While I was sitting there in my vehicle with the lulling hum of the engine and the rumbling bass of the train and the gorgeous weather outside I eventually fell asleep. No big deal, no cars were moving and I woke up when the train finally went by without getting honked at or anything. But that was only the beginning.
I was fighting a losing battle with sleep all the way home. I have about a 45 min commute. I was trying really hard to stay awake but crossing the mile long bridge over the Mississippi river I dozed. My brain just shut off. Luckily, I drifted towards the dividing wall in the middle of the bridge and not toward the cars on the other side of me. When I hit the gravelly garbage next to the wall I was jerked back to consciousness. A quick, hot feeling of sweat caused by panic and adrenaline rushed over me as I grabbed tight on the wheel and got back into the center of my lane. Thank God I didn't hit the wall; it was really close. Wrecking anywhere is bad but a wreck on the I-40 bridge at 70 mph would have ruined a lot of people's day.
Unfortunately, I was only half way home when I came off the bridge and I was still fighting a losing battle with sleep. There has to be something about being in a car, with the hum of the engine, that makes it easy to fall asleep. I don't know, but it seems to work for my toddler as well. I was really tired.
Fortunately, somehow I ended up in one of those situations where I was pretty much alone on my stretch of freeway even though there was a lot of traffic. You have probably been there before - traffic is terrible but suddenly no other cars are around you. You can see them all way ahead and way behind but you might as well be driving on the road at 5:30 am. Well, that was the situation that I was in when I fell asleep again. The freeway splits and one part goes West while the other part goes Northwest. I was surrounded by cars going into the bifurcation but I was the only vehicle in my group that took I-40, everybody else went to I-55. I was suddenly alone on the road.
I was alone on the road but I still had a huge sleep demon fighting me inside my vehicle. There is a big slow curve after the freeways split and then I get off at the next exit about 3/4 of a mile up on the right so I was driving in the right lane. There was no head bobbing, no quick jerk asleep and awake, nothing like that. I was just asleep and I didn't know I fell asleep. I don't remember driving through the curve. I was on the right but I woke up when I was drifting onto the left shoulder of the road just before my exit. My head hurt a lot. I had to be asleep for about 30 seconds (~1/2 a mile or more at 65 mph). I crossed two lanes on the freeway without even knowing it. I got off the freeway and and drove the remaining couple of miles to my house without incident.
My wife got mad at me for getting home later than I said I would because she needed to be somewhere so without much talk she left and I was with Gabe. I put a Dora the Explorer DVD on the computer in my room for him and I went to bed. He loves Dora and yells and dances a lot when it is on so I didn't get good sleep for about 90 min but finally I decided that it was late enough where he could be in bed and I turned the noise off and we both went to sleep.


  1. Ooooh! Don't be so crazy. I'm glad you made it home okay.

    ...and I have Skype now too. Do you want to video call me?

  2. Dang...that's scary! glad you made it home!
    I saw these in a SkyMall catalog a while ago & always think of them when someone has a story like this!