I have oft-declared that there are two kinds of driver in this World. Those who cut a graceful swathe through the traffic – and those who ARE the traffic. I am one of the former.
But there was one occasion when my driving skills entered the realm of the PARANORMAL.
Back in the Seventies, I lived in N.E. London. And for several months, I worked nights at a West End all-night multi-storey car park. I could tell you a number of bizarre stories about THAT – but this one concerns an experience I had while commuting TO it.
Every evening, around nine, I would ride my BSA motorbike along the same route, to Leicester Square. I had done it hundreds of times – so I could do it in my sleep. I just never thought I actually WOULD.
On this occasion, I had been busy, so had been up all day. But since there were a number of guys on duty until midnight, I figured I could get forty winks after I arrived – and forty more, during the night, after the clubs had chucked out.
But as I passed Mount Pleasant sorting office, it suddenly HIT me. I realised I had hit a wall – metaphorically speaking. I knew if I did not find somewhere to sleep for a few minutes – and quickly – I would FALL asleep where I was.
My mind raced through alternatives – there were hotels where I could walk in, sit in a chair in reception and gather the required few minutes sleep (I was dressed reasonably – so figured I would not be abused as a derelict).
But the hotels were nearly as far away as my destination – I would never make it. There was only one solution. The pavements were dry and at that time, quiet.
Extraordinary though it was, I would park up my bike and lay down for a few minutes and………………..
…the next thing I knew, I was approaching the Shaftesbury Theatre. And the last four minutes were MISSING. I had SLEEP-RIDDEN!!!
Since I was still moving – and after my impromptu nap, slightly refreshed – I continued on my way to work. But after our “rush” period was over and I was alone, I had time to consider what had just happened.
I had heard of sentries falling asleep standing up – and sleepwalkers performing simple, familiar tasks, like making a cuppa. But I had also heard of MOTORISTS who had nodded off at the wheel and woken up in HOSPITAL – or in The Next World – however, they did not have to retain their BALANCE.
And with what I knew about sleep, this all made sense. When asleep, the upper areas of our conciousness rest – but the lower areas continue. If they did not, we would stop BREATHING. Thus, being able to ride a motorbike along a frequently-traveled route while in the Land Of Nod ought to be JUST possible.
It HAD to be – I had DONE it.
But while keeping my balance and following a familiar route might be possible – sleepwalkers seemed to manage that okay – could I detect a red traffic-light, slow down, change gears, de-clutch, stop, put a foot down, note the green, balance the clutch against the accelerator and move off, changing up again?
NO WAY! Which meant I had just gone through SIX traffic lights – ASLEEP!!!
Over the next few weeks, I carried out a little survey, to determine what the odds were that all of the lights had been GREEN. And at the end, I worked out they had only been ONE IN SIX!
To be fair, two of the lights were pedestrian-only – but that only lowered the odds to one in four. Which means there is still a SEVENTY-FIVE PERCENT likelihood that I went zooming across a red light – like in a Keystone Kops movie – narrowly missing DEATH.
But I will NEVER KNOW…