“Sleep Driving” By Chad Robert Parker

I could not conceive how real the danger of sleeping at the wheel was until I nearly drove off of the road. My dad was in the passenger side. We were making the 24 hour trek from Indiana to Utah. I think we were somewhere in Nebraska.

My dad can shell a mouthful of sunflower seeds with his tongue to keep his mind awake, a trick he learned from trucking. We don’t drink coffee considering how caffeine leaves you lower than before the brief high. I’m personally not as fond of sunflower seeds and they say turning up the radio among other things is not very effective for most. I watched entranced as the middle lines went by on an endless stretch of well-paved road ahead. The sun blurred waves sat on the horizon. The rumble strip got my attention. “Are you all right?” My dad asked. I looked at him groggily and nodded. It was embarrassing. There wasn’t any reason for me to be tired already. I had been napping a few times in route before getting in the driver’s seat. I had only been driving an hour. The rumble strip sounded again. “Are you sure you are all right?”

“Yeah, I just got out of my lane a little.” I felt a little more self aware now. I was tired but I wouldn’t fall asleep would I? I went a good distance farther. The next time I went over the rumble strip I had half of the car over the outside line. My dad placed his hand on the wheel. He instructed me to pull over. It scared me to think how easily I could have veered off into a ditch. I apologized and he assured me that it was okay to let someone else drive even though I hadn’t given anyone much relief time. I was asleep in the passenger side within a few minutes of that conversation.