18 May 2010

The Inability to Sleep When Vertical


I must confess, I belong to a tortured specie of people who do not have the capability to fall asleep when upright. Believe me, there are people who do not find themselves at all constrained by being vertical.

Take, for instance, one of my acquaintances. I do not recall exactly when. What I do recall is that he was in one of those late night bus trips from Manila to Batangas, but regrettably fell asleep during the trip.

I don’t know. Except for this one time, this acquaintance would get off the bus right in front of his house everytime he rode back home. Yes, even if he fell asleep in the middle of it.

Regular bus travelers seem to have this instinct for rousing just when the destination is near. I can personally vouch for this because, when I was in college, I used to ride buses with sukî passengers who commuted daily from Batangas to Manila and back at the end of the work day.

God forbid that I will ever have to do that – mamamatay ako! But there continues to be people – to this day – who do this as a daily routine…

The conductors and drivers, of course, know them already – almost on a personal basis. I used to have a neighbor who a bus would stop for right in front of his house. If, perhaps, the neighbor overslept, the driver even blew his horn to coax the neighbor out of the house.

Once on the bus, he and other similar daily commuters naturally went back to sleep while the bus traveled along its route. I am sure everyone has one experience or the other of sitting next to passengers like these. Once they pay the conductors, they have this ability to dose off right there on their seats.

There are those who put their bags on their laps and then bend their bodies forward so that their heads rest comfortably atop their bags. For those who prefer to stay vertical, there are two types of dozers that can be observed.

First, there are those whose heads fall either to the left or the right and keep falling until their neck muscles have been stretched too much or their heads touch the shoulders of the persons next to them. Then, as though there was a gyroscope somewhere, their heads snap back to the vertical.

Second, there are those whose heads nod forward and snap back up at some individually-dictated point. I don’t know; they all have their styles and limitations.

The really comfy ones – usually those who are short enough to lean their heads on the headrest – can even go into deep sleep and snore uncaringly beside you. Tulô laway pa ‘pag minsan

Now, most sukî conductors, if they notice that the passengers due to disembark at a particular stop have not gotten up, would walk down the aisle to rouse the sleepy heads. The really remarkable thing is that, more often than not, these daily commuters awaken close to where they are supposed to get off.

Of course, sometimes the travelers are really just crocked and go into deep sleep. Particularly if they are on the bus trip back home… Then it can get really hairy…

Back to the case of this acquaintance of mine… When he finally roused from sleep, he immediately realized that the strange sound he was hearing was that of waves breaking. Aba’y nakarating sa pier…


At the other end of the spectrum, of course, are people like me! I once traveled to Bicol on an eleven-hour trip and got not one moment of shuteye. My companion had no such vertical inhibitions at hilig ng hilig sa balikat ko, particularly as the bus drove along the dreaded Bitukang-Manok stretch of the highway.

Even on a comfortable chair such as those found in commercial jetliners, I can still find sleep elusive. When I flew out to San Francisco ten years ago, my eyes were wide open throughout the twelve-hour trans-Pacific flight!

Kayâ naman, when I arrived at my host’s home, he immediately saw that I was a walking zombie and handed me this vicious combination of warm water and rum.

It was like being hit by a Manny Pacquiao left… Goodnight world!!!
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