A brief history of the humiliating places I fell asleep
Sleep week: Duncan Greive tries to count the paths and places where he has fallen asleep inappropriately.
The Spinoff threw and spun through a range of perspectives on sleep – read more content from Sleep Week here.
My parents told me that I was so poor and light sleeper that it was a miracle that my younger sister made it to this earth. Too much energy, screaming all night, a totally hateful baby and toddler. In addition it changes.
What followed was a decade or so where I was basically “normal”. I slept at night. It wasn’t difficult. I did typical teenage diapers, nothing extravagant. Certainly my 20 year old daughter, who could easily work 12 hour shifts, made me feel ashamed. But something happened in my late teens that drastically changed my relationship with sleep, and it never recovered.
Simply put, I started to find it extremely difficult to sleep at night. I was resting very lightly, waking up at the slightest disturbance with a great convulsion and a sense of dread. Sometimes rooted in real-life stresses, just as often non-specific. As far as I know, this is not common, but not unheard of – a significant number of my friends report a fundamentally horrific relationship with sleep, often coinciding with the arrival of children. Others, like my colleague Mad Chapman, can do it anywhere as long as they want, and waking up is the problem. I find it hard to sympathize.
What seems less common than bad sleep is the corollary I developed: absolutely overwhelming and irresistible falling asleep in completely inappropriate scenarios. This is something that has constantly tormented me from my late teens until today. What follows is a brief (and necessarily incomplete) overview of the places I have fallen asleep over the past 20 years or so.
This is where it all started, in some ways. In my early twenties I was a young dad, working as a postman (5 a.m., very physical work, six days a week) and also desperate to be a music writer (nightly concert reviews for Real Groove, RIP ). Very good conditions for falling asleep at the wrong time in the wrong place.
More often than not, it was loud guitar groups that got the green light. Mogwai and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, both at the power station, both very loud, both made me fall apart at the end. Probably the most notable was The Dead C, loud monsters from Port Chalmers playing a highly anticipated Kings Arms set from the early 2000s. I must have been woken up after falling asleep – to a loudspeaker. Looking back, some shows I have reviewed with incomplete information. I still stand by my verdicts.
It’s hard to know where the line is between “a perfectly acceptable place to sleep” and “you are an absolute freak” in higher education. All these young people still growing up, learning to feed and drink, burning candles at both ends, often away from home for the first time – it’s no surprise that sleep creeps into places strange. Sure I slept during class. Who does not have ? But the tutorials tend to be a different animal.
In my freshman year, in a long-forgotten sociology article, I was in a tutorial with about 10 people. We were discussing a theory and taking turns giving our interpretation of it and I was in a brutal race against time. I had nothing important to say, of course, and I could feel the hands of sleep on my shoulders, pulling me back. Just before it was time for me to speak, I succumbed. I woke up in a room of faces on a spectrum between confused and dismayed.
I mumbled, grabbed my bags and left, never to come back. I did not succeed.
Comedy & theater
I’ve been a critic for longer than any other type of writer, and while pop music is easily the form I’ve written the most about, I’ve also been committed and a fan of comedy. live and even independent theater. for periods. There’s a natural shift from the madness of live music in tough places in the teens and twenties, to seated and staged productions in your thirties. To admit that would have put my young self off guard, but it turns out to be also true.
It is also true that the locations for these performances tend to be all of the following: dark, hot, poor ventilation, the audience can sit and watch and not move or talk for long periods of time – all strong predictors of my falling asleep at any time of the day or night. Tthere’s probably nowhere I have a higher success rate to sleep than The Basement, Auckland’s underground delight. I used to try to cram three shows into one night during the comedy festival, and I almost always fell asleep during the third (often the 10pm kickoff), and sometimes the second. if it was boring. The only third show I’m sure I was awake to was Chris Parker and Tom Sainsbury’s glowing campsite, which is why I still think maybe the best thing I’ve seen in this perfect location (perfect for everything except my mind-body).
I’ve also fallen asleep in a lot of big budget productions, which is basically good. The funniest and most embarrassing part for my wife, who has often had the misfortune to accompany me to these things, is that the big old theaters were made for humans smaller than me, and the stall seats have tend to have no headrest. So she had to sit quietly while my head slowly tilted back over The Book of Mormon (people say it’s okay, I couldn’t comment) and John Cleese (falling asleep is my review and I maintain it).
Standards change rapidly in 2021 and fall asleep as wfh is fundamentally mandatory. But some situations are still inviolable. A friend shared The Spinoff’s downtown offices with his now very successful parking startup, when both of our organizations were just little babies. He had an extremely important argument for potential investors in our “boardroom” (more accurately described as a single room).
The desks were already on the wrong side of the grungy / ramshackle division and he was, understandably, nervous as hell about the issues involved. My contribution has been to fall asleep during financial projections (which, to be fair to me, is an exercise in pure fantasy at this point in a business lifecycle). He wasn’t thrilled with me afterwards, but they closed the round, so it’s okay.
I’ve since nodded in important arguments with our own clients (again, rooms with no air and no words), especially when they have the nerve to book them after lunch. Sleep is inextricably linked to my metabolism, and if I’ve eaten carbs, it’s over. It also explains (without excusing) a constant habit of falling asleep during conferences. A few years ago in Sydney my coworkers had to constantly wake me up at 10 a.m. (the jet lag really hurt me), to the point where I stopped eating breakfast and had started pouring more black coffee down my throat than usual. .
No dice – an entire room filled with about 50 people in the media I was desperate to impress saw me nod my head in a plastic chair as a world expert lectured us on something I was doing. really, really needed to know.
Outside of the above contexts is everything else. Falling asleep on a sofa at home is a father’s business, they will never take it away from us. I’ve done this so often that my wife started cataloging instances on Instagram, both still and moving, the latter often resulting in one of my daughters waking me up and swearing at me. Eventually my sister-in-law – who cruelly but accurately made the connection between me and Mr. Bean – compiled them into a little book, pictured above.
Other places I slept were less routine. We had an appointment with an obstetrician in the middle of the afternoon for my second daughter. The wait had been relatively long and the waiting room pleasantly warm. I could feel I was in trouble – I always know when it happens, but I feel powerless to resist, especially in spaces where a particular standard of behavior is expected. We were finally called, and the doctor’s things happened. About 10 minutes later, I started to nod my head over and over again, much to the disgust of the healthcare professional involved. I remain deeply mortified about that one.
For all the hundreds of mundane and embarrassing sleep incidents that have plagued my life and the lives of my friends and family, the one I think about the most is the one that almost ended it. It combines several of the above elements, and yet it is quite different. It was in the early 2000s and I was still in my postie prime. It had been a long shift, stretching into the late afternoon. As was my habit after a long day of cycling the long, steep hills of Remuera, I stopped by Foodtown Greenlane for my daily treat: a pesto and cheese pullapart, $ 2.99. I ate it all.
Then I took the southern highway, towards Manurewa, where my then partner and my daughter were visiting whÄnau. The nod came very quickly, but I was stuck on the freeway and almost at my destination. I gave in. All of a sudden there was a huge screech of metal on concrete as I hit the middle barrier and bounced back into traffic mid-afternoon. By sheer inexplicable luck, I skated three lanes and ended up on the Hill Road turnoff. I stopped, shaking and sweaty but luckily unharmed. After a few minutes I tried restarting the car and found out that it was all over with.
I wandered down the road and borrowed a phone, and finally got picked up. Losing the car was the biggest problem back then, but with more distance I now dwell on how unlikely I was to stray from this incident. Now when I feel the first breath of sleep on me while driving, I stop and swap driving, star hopping, or just take a good old-fashioned nap. A hot car on an afternoon with nowhere to sleep is just about the best place to sleep I could hope for. Certainly much better than in bed at night, which continues to be the place where he escapes me the most furiously.
Subscribe to Rec Room, a weekly newsletter bringing the latest videos, podcasts, and other recommendations from The Spinoff straight to your inbox.