All I remember was the floor speeding toward my face, then seeing several city council members staring down at me with startled amazement.
I told my editor at the Troy Daily News, where I’d been freelancing while working on my journalism degree at Troy University, not to send me to a city council meeting. I just didn’t have the attention span for that kind of assignment; that bad things would happen.
Falling asleep is about as bad as it can get. The meeting was running late, well past 6 p.m., and it had something to do with water regulations or zoning laws. I didn’t understand a word. To make matters more coma-inducing, I was the only reporter there and was sitting in this large, high-backed leather chair with a window on the other side of the room that sent the sun right into my eyes.
I was just blinking back the glare …until my blinking became sleeping. That’s when I spilled out of the chair and onto the floor. I apologized to the councilmen profusely, even throwing out “narcolepsy” without actually saying I had it.
To paraphrase Barbara Mandrell, I was ADD before ADD was cool. And it’s not always about boredom. I can’t even do things I enjoy for more than 20 minutes straight without having to get up and do something else.
When I worked at the Star, I’d go the bathroom a dozen times before lunch, not ‘cause I had the bladder of dwarf hamster, but just to move aimlessly around.
Since working from home, it’s gotten worse. Even on deadline, I’ll stop to do some laundry, eat a banana, rearrange my CDs, dust, Google my own name, read a random Bukowski poem or play with my Slinky while pacing the hall.
I simply cannot sit still. The harder I try, the sleepier I get. Not even those kids on Elm Street go to the lengths I have to, to stay awake. Only I wasn’t fearing Freddy Krueger nightmares – just drooling in public.
In college, I used to eat a couple of tablespoons of dry coffee and wash it down with a Dr. Pepper right before especially long seminars. Half the reason I got into journalism was to be out of the office rather than stuck behind a desk.
That didn’t work. After long interviews, I’d fall asleep at my desk transcribing the tapes, which always happened right when someone was leading a tour of home-school kids through the newsroom.
This brings us to my new career. I’m not worried so much about staying awake on the job. Given all I’ve got to learn over the coming lifetime, panic should keep me awake. I just want to survive orientation.
Seriously, I’m not kidding. I’m really worried about this … so is My Lovely Wife.
How is a guy who gets groggy in the time it takes to heat a Hot Pocket supposed to stay awake during a nine-hour health benefits/401K seminar? And that’s just one of four day’s worth of orientation.
I’ll have to pull a “Tom & Jerry” – sticking toothpicks under my eyelids to keep ‘em open. I know this stuff is important – like rest-of-my-life important (i.e. if I get fired before my official first day, My Lovely Wife is apt to wring my scrawny little neck).
But I’m a grown-up now. I can do this. I’ll just eat some coffee, chug a Dr. Pepper and stick toothpicks in my eyes … might not stay awake, but at least I’ll make an impression.
Brett Buckner is an award-winning freelance newspaper/magazine writer who was raised in Albany.