Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Public Service Announcement

As the holidays approach and many of you prepare to load up the family car and make the migration back to…well, wherever it is you don’t currently live, I would like to take this opportunity to present a Public Service Announcement, brought to you by the makers of Craig Children, and other fine products.

Throughout the course of my life, ladies and gentlemen, I have made more road trips than the Rolling Stones (but without the liquor and with only a fraction of the heroine). And inevitably, during every trip, I have reached that late-night breaking point where my eyes are just not going to stay open any longer. And I know I am not alone in this.

To combat this phenomenon, I have tried the following measures, to no avail:

1. Loud music. I have found this method ineffective, no matter how loud the music. Somehow, even the raucous melodies of Def Leppard become a soft lullaby. Mr. Sandman may start out pouring sugar on me, but soon enough, he is simply pouring sleepy dust in my eyes.

2. Food. Many are the late-night journeys where I have combined my fuel stops with a quick dash into the convenience store to grab an armful of sugary, life-saving goodness. Sodas, M&Ms, Hostess, what have you. I gobble it in record time and enjoy about 10 minutes of alertness. About enough time to get back on the highway. Then I’m not only fighting off sleepiness, but a sugar coma.

3. Face out the window. This is where you roll down the window and stick your face out into the frozen night air – while simultaneously waking up everyone in the car with an oppressive blast of arctic wind. This wakes you up all right, and then the window closes, you shutter once or twice, the heater picks back up, and 1.5 seconds later, you’re right back where you started.

It was during one of my many road trips during college that I discovered what worked for me, personally. I remember getting drowsy and thinking to myself, “What might keep me awake and alert?” And it dawned on me that being focused on something would help. And while I was too tired to focus on anything profound or life-altering, I knew if I could find something simple that required my attention…some small task…it would keep me alert. So I undressed.

In a slow and calculated manner, I removed article by article until I was completely naked. There I was driving 80 mph down the freeway completely in the buff. And then I got dressed again – slowly and calculated, item by item. Small, simple tasks.

Genius? Oh, I don’t know. Sometimes these things just come to me. But maybe it is. Maybe it’s inspiration. And I’ll tell you this – nude driving will keep you awake, if for no other reason, because you now have incorporated the fear of being pulled over by a highway patrol officer or worse yet, crashing and being found naked and unconscious – and cold! – for all the world to see.

I remember the first road trip Katie and I took after we were married. We were driving from Utah to Los Angeles, to interview for an internship with NBC. We got a bit of a late start, and somewhere between Cedar City and St. George it was 1 a.m., and I was getting awfully sleepy. Katie was in the passenger seat, well into a nap, so I had nobody to talk to. Well, no worries. I was well versed in Plan N.A.K.E.D at this point (Nude Alert Ken Effectively Driving), so I began the undressing process. I thought nothing of it until my newlywed wife woke up to find a fully nude husband driving 80 mph down I-15, humming Pour Some Sugar On Me. It occurred to me at this point that prior to our getting married, I had never had the Plan N.A.K.E.D. talk with Katie.

It was a bit of an awkward moment, and I was really starting to wish I hadn’t picked up that hitchhiker in Paragonah. (HA! Thank you I’ll be here all week!) Katie had an inquisitive look on her face that I had never seen before, nor since. But she just sat up and said, “Is it hot in here or is it just me?”

Nowadays, with five kids traveling with us, I’ll admit that my once flawless plan seems unsuitable, and perhaps a bit too Malcolm In The Middle. I am now urgently seeking a different method of staying awake. I haven’t come up with anything yet, so we will be staying in Las Vegas for the holidays this year, listening to A Very Merry Def Leppard Christmas right here in the comfort of our home.