Morpheus on… Sleep-Riding

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…


8 responses to this post.

  1. I would never have gotten away with nodding off in a hotel lobby chair, because I am never dressed reasonably. Congratulations on having such a loyal and efficient sub-conscious mind.

  2. Posted by Anonymous on March 26, 2012 at 2:19 am

    Not at all strange you say this as when I was in the army we used to do all-night marches and patrols and you really do sleep but your eyes are wide open and you are alert too …

  3. Posted by Vincent on March 26, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    Yes, I’ve heard about sentries asleep while standing up – and we all know about sleep-walkers. But while the brain can operate lower functions during sleep, I was flabbergasted that I had been able to drive a VEHICLE in the state – and alarmed at the “Keystone Kops” antics I may have gotten into while crossing the junctions, that I will never KNOW about!

  4. Posted by grahame berry on October 10, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    hey i know of this – many years ago (1974) i was travelling back from Munich to London on my trusty T500. it had been an exhausting 6 week fun filled holiday, riding most days to the next port of call – all those summer tourists, anyway i went to sleep on the autobahn at c.80mph. my buddy was tooting frantically, but did not want to get too close as he could see me slowly weaving across 3 lanes back and forth. i don’t know how long this went on but my boot eventually scraped the barrier on the centre division and shot enough adrenalin thru me to keep me awake for a week. don’t know how many corners i rounded etc. but it scared the bejesus out of me!!!!

  5. Truly amazing and thanks for sharing this in detail. Easy to read and yeah a good guy like you will ride safely, protected by angels. 😀 I do wonder about the wonder of our sub-consciousness…

  6. Posted by Vincent on October 12, 2012 at 7:45 am

    Oh, I can relate to your adrenalin rush! Late one night, in a CAR – an old Peugeot 404 – I was returning from Cambridge to London on the then-newly-opened M11 motorway (which had no services) and I realised I was getting dangerously dopey. So I had an idea: I turned off onto the old A11 (a country road) and used that.

    Being around 2 a.m. it was virtually deserted, so I slowly increased my SPEED until I was hitting NINETY on the straights and doing racing changes on the corners – with a column-shift! The adrenalin rush SO woke me up that when I reached London, I stayed up for several more hours!

  7. Posted by Vincent on October 12, 2012 at 7:48 am

    In my lifetime, I’ve done nearly a million miles (if there was a road to the Moon, I’d be most of the way back by now – for the SECOND TIME!) and so far…

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: