Idiot Driving 101
The following entries are snippets of stories that took place in my 20s, around the time of the first Aggie Con/Dead Iguana story. During this time, I considered the road MINE. Others were allowed to drive on it, but I owned it. Speed limits were meaningless, as were most traffic laws. During this time of my life, I really didn't care if I lived or died, and acted accordingly.
During this time, I worked full time at the Safeway grocery store, in Pauls Valley, Oklahoma. I was on the night crew, working from 11pm until 7 or 8 am. On weekends, once I got off work, I would grab a quick bite to eat, shower, and head for Oklahoma City. My friends David, Wayne, and Burt, all lived in the northwest part of the city. Typical driving time was a little over an hour. Being anything BUT typical, I had made the trip in as little as 30 minutes.
On this particular day I was planning on meeting my three friends at David's house. We generally engaged in a LOT of roleplaying. Dungeons & Dragons, Runequest, Gamma World, and Villains & Vigilantes were all favorites. Harsov was conceived originally as a D&D character. Jarasel Bladesong, or jbladesong which I typically use as a pseudonym, was a Runequest character.
So, back to driving....Arriving at David's house, I would typically game all day, interspersed at times with runs to the local arcade for video games or bowling, then returning to game some more. I would usually leave their house around 10pm, drive straight to work, work all night, then drive back for another day of gaming. I quite often went 2 or sometimes 3 days with little to no sleep.
This led to unsafe driving conditions, as you might well imagine. For example...one time I was feeling very sleepy. The smart thing would have been to pull over and catch some sleep, right? Well, common sense was never a virtue I held dear. So instead I rolled the windows down, cranked up the tunes, and continued. Growing even sleepier, I resorted to punching my leg, or slapping myself in the face. This provided only a brief moment of lucidity, however.
Now, anyone with even an ounce of self preservation would have pulled over. Me? I really didn't care if I lived or died. However, I did not want to kill anyone else. So, in my infinite wisdom, I pulled into the far right hand lane, and set the cruise control. I was on a nearly abandoned stretch of highway, no buildings anywhere in sight. My thinking was, I might well fall asleep at the wheel and run off the road. But at least if I was in the right hand lane, I would just run off the shoulder, crash, and likely kill myself. No big loss.
As I half expected, I did indeed fall asleep. I woke up to a horrible screeching noise. My wheels were grating against a guard rail, which was the only thing preventing me from taking a 20-30 ft drop into a small canyon. Again, most people would have been shaken and horrified at their narrow escape. Me? I shrugged my shoulders, assured now that my plan was vindicated. If I fell asleep, I would run off the road on the right, and, hopefully, kill myself. There are worse ways to die.
Continuing on, I fell asleep once more. This time I woke to my car being buffeted repeatedly by something, while receiving a very bumpy ride. Stomping on the brake, I brought my car to a halt. For some reason, my visibility was very limited. Stepping out of the car, I looked around me.
I was in the middle of a corn field. Looking behind me, I could see a path of devastation where my car had plowed through the corn. The stalks buffeting the car, at 70mph, is what had awakened me. Behind THAT was the highway....which I had crossed completely! Rather than going off on the right hand side of the road, as I had expected, my car had crossed the 2 lanes of traffic to the left, then the median, then the 3 lanes of traffic going the opposite direction!
How I managed to do that without being hit, I have no clue. It was a nearly deserted area, true, but it was also an interstate highway, which meant there was always SOME traffic. So what did I do? Backed my car up, crossed back over the highway, and continued on my way, of course!
Rather than heeding this warning, given twice over, by thoughts were something akin to, "Huh, must not be my day to die. OK, well if I'm not going to die I do have work to do. Best to get moving."
Now, you would think even an idiot like myself would learn from this episode, right? WRONG! My next episode was something of a record for me...3 days straight with zero sleep. At work, I even began falling asleep on my feet, catching myself as I fell. Pushing past that little obstacle, I received a new sense of clarity. I no longer felt sleepy, or tired at all. "Wow, this is great!" I thought to myself....little did I know.
So, getting behind a semi that was moving at a high rate of speed (Well over 90mph), I followed it all the way from Pauls Valley to OKC. Yep, from my store to David's door in 30 minutes flat! A new record for me. Once more, I spent the day gaming with my friends, arm wrestling, and other such fun times. I stayed a bit later than usual, because I was off that night.
Leaving around midnight, I headed for home, still feeling sharp and alert. Suddenly, a bright light caught my attention. Glancing to the side, where the light originated, I saw what appeared to be a glowing ball of light, as if drawn by a spirograph, then illuminated. This glowing ball was rolling along the interstate next to me, at about 70mph! Abruptly it shot into the air, and zoomed away! Wow, I thought to myself. Did I just see a UFO!?!?
Pondering these and similar thoughts, I saw in the distance ahead of me, a semi truck. It was having a hard time controlling its trailer, which was swaying back and forth. Suddenly the rig jackknifed off the road! Hastily pulling my car over, I jumped out to see if I could help. Waving my flashlight around, I felt an eerie sensation. There was no semi or trailer there! The entire thing had been a hallucination!
I considered this for a moment. Apparently, the mind needs to dream. Since I had denied it this release, by staying awake for 3 days straight, my mind had obviously decided it was going to go ahead and dream, whether I was awake OR asleep. Interesting.
That meant I could not trust the evidence of my eyes. Car in front of me? Maybe. Or maybe not. Did the road swerve here? Perhaps, or perhaps it continued straight. Anyone with even a trace amount of common sense would have immediately tried to pull their car off somewhere safe and get some sleep. After all, there was no place I needed to go, being off work that night.
Me? I took it as the ultimate challenge. How would I react when I couldn't trust the evidence of my own eyes? My personal reaction time was normally razor sharp, nearly instantaneous. But now, after three days with zero sleep?
Hopping back in my car, I grinned in anticipation. I still had about a half hour left to drive. This should be interesting.
One thing I decided. This should be the supreme challenge. No way could I afford to waste this time by falling asleep. Taking the bottle of water beside me, I poured some into my hands then slapped myself in the face. Cranking up the tunes on my 8 track car stereo, I rolled down the window. Just as I turned back to focus on the road, I saw a car and trailer turned sideways, totally blocking the interstate!
Stomping on the brake, I jerked my wheel to the left. My car went skidding sideways. I could see there was no way I would stop in time. This was it. The moment of my death.
Suddenly the car and trailer vanished, as I went skidding through the area they had been. Another hallucination!
Huh, well what do you know? Righting my car, I continued on. Glancing in my rear view mirror, I saw the cars behind me were giving me a wide berth. Not that I blamed them. I could just imagine their thoughts. "Stay away from that crazy driver up there! Did you see the way he just stomped on his brakes and went skidding down the highway? Now he's proceeding on like nothing happened! No telling what he might do next!"
And in my current condition, they were quite right. With my hallucinating, seeing things which were not there, and not sure if what I did see was real or illusion, I was totally unpredictable. I took to letting my tire run the edge of the pavement, so I could tell by feel whether the road was going straight or turning. This meant I had to slow down considerably, but the cars behind me stayed there. WAY behind me!
Somehow I made it home safe and sound. Going straight to bed, I slept for 24 hours nonstop, making up for the sleep I had deprived myself of. Waking up, I decided I had been both an utter fool, and unbelievably lucky. That marked the last time I intentionally drove in a reckless manner. Are there other such stories? Oh yes, plenty! But they happened even earlier, in my teens. Stories for another time, perhaps.