I recently traveled from my Dakratland home to visit family in Utah. Instead of spending a night or two in hotels along the way, my wife and I decided to drive straight through, stopping only occasionally for restroom breaks and to switch drivers. As a veteran stay-awaker, I feel it my duty to share some lessons learned with those who plan to embark on similar trips in the future. Hence, this post.
The following are some techniques for staying awake while at the wheel: (no, not you – the guy in the car next to you who is laughing his head off while you struggle futilely with your leaded eyelids and perma-yawn.)
The Smackdown – While keeping one hand firmly on the wheel in the 11 or 1 o’clock position (depending on which hand is on the wheel), raise your free hand in the air and rapidly swing it back and forth in a fishtail motion ensuring that each pass slaps smartly against alternating cheeks producing an audible smacking sound. If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.
The Bladder Bust – Drink any combination of non-alcoholic beverages in large quantities until you begin to feel a faint strain within your bladder region. Now tighten your lap belt until it is completely impossible to ignore the urge to relieve yourself. Hold this position until your eyeballs are floating and you begin to sweat urine. Once the inevitable cramping becomes unbearable, find a restroom, tree, bush, or empty soda bottle (this option not recommended for drivers of the female persuasion) and appropriately drain and dispose of your excess liquid storage. Now find a new drink (no, not the once empty soda bottle!) and begin again at the first step.
The Eye Popper – Open your eyes as wide as possible while stretching your face in an elongated fashion to pull the skin downward more effectively. Once you have reached maximum openness, place a hand over your mouth to stifle the inevitable yawn. Note: once the yawn is complete, your hand will be in perfect position for transition to The Smackdown.
The Sing-Song Shout – Disclaimer: this method is best used when traveling alone as prolonged or sudden use may trigger other vehicle occupants to complain, scream in terror or agony, lose their lunch, or throw feces. This technique is most effective when the “singer” selects a song to which he or she knows only a few of the lyrics and cannot sing on key. The art is simple enough in that one must draw an unnecessarily large amount of air into the lungs and expel it in a forceful fashion while intoning something faintly resembling the last song they heard on the radio… only louder. Much louder.
The Passenger Assault – This method may be employed in various manners. I will list two of the most common. First, upon realizing that you are nodding off, very slightly swerve back and forth once within your lane of traffic. This is the secret code for the passenger riding shotgun to flutter their eyes open and ask, “Are you all right? Do you need me to drive?” In the thirty seconds or so that it takes to assure them that you feel fine you will wake up enough to continue driving safely for at least another sixty or seventy seconds. Repeat process as often as necessary.
The second version is to be used only under more dire circumstances and only if the driver is CPR certified. (This requirement may be waved if your vehicle is equipped with an AED device. Check with your vehicle manufacturer and health professional for details.) As with the first technique, you begin with the swerve, only this time pass one set of wheels over the uneven road surface just outside your lane of traffic. This will produce a vibration which can be felt by all occupants as well as a satisfying bvvrrroooom sound. Anyone of driving age in the vehicle will simultaneously scream and flail about for something to grasp in a white knuckled grip; and if the passenger riding shotgun is female and the driver male, she will initiate a version of the Smackdown technique on him which will trigger a small dose of awakening adrenalin in his system. If the driver survives the ensuing onslaught, and successfully retains his or her position, it is not recommended that they attempt this a second time within a three hour period of time. Multiple doses within too short a time span may result in shortness of breath, profuse sweating, heart arrhythmia, grey hair, emotional or physical scarring, death threats, and/or divorce.
Stay tuned for posts on how to deal with three small children strapped in the back of your van for twenty-six hours (without duct tape or bloodshed), and how to tell the difference between the pretzel you just dropped in the dark and the unidentified and frankly unsanitary object you retrieved to pop in your mouth.