When traveling, I might as well have “tourist” inked on my forehead. Having packed all the wrong things, I dress inappropriately. My purse bulges with pharmaceuticals, just in case. I worry about the availability of bathrooms and the intricacies of tipping. But my most irksome habit by far is sleeping on tour buses.
I’ve napped on crowded vans, sleek coaches blasting icy air at my frozen sinuses, and re-purposed school buses air-conditioned by broken windows. I’ve snoozed during the monologues of both dramatic and drunken tour guides. I’ve dozed next to a disgruntled fellow passenger complaining about the frequent stops to sightsee and a cautious couple carrying pepper spray and flares. I’ve slumbered through the ruggedness of Alaska and the towers of Manhattan.
I don’t know what causes my unstoppable siestas. I can be rested, interested, hungry, or cold. I can be irritated with the way my traveling companion blinks or uncomfortable because my stylish slacks are too tight. But eventually my head hangs, my body slumps, and I slide toward sleep.
I’m not alone. Occasionally, I’ve regained consciousness long enough to notice others bobbing, twitching and snoring as well. Sleeping seems to be as prevalent on tours as Pepto Bismol. So I’ve quit trying to maintain consciousness every minute; instead, I strive to make my snoozing socially acceptable—to drowse with dignity by employing the following strategies.
I push aside the well mannered, unsuspecting, and slow in order to claim a window seat, where I can brace my head between the window and the seatback. If startled awake, having my head supported lessens the likelihood I’ll experience whiplash.
I never lean my cheek or forehead against the seatback in front of me because doing so stamps my skin with red sleep lines that don’t fade until long after the museum visit is finished, which causes school children to think I’m an animated artifact.
I practice brief, encouraging phrases: ”My, that was a bargain,” or “I couldn’t agree more,” until I can repeat them in my sleep if I sense a pause in my seatmate’s monologue. That way my companion won’t nudge me for a response and awaken me prematurely, causing peevishness on my part and petty retribution.
I don’t fall asleep with candy in my mouth, because the result is never elegant.
On some trips, though, I don’t have the stamina to bulldoze sweet ladies or shoulder aside strong men, and I get stuck in an aisle seat, doomed to throw my head about willy-nilly, drop my jaw into a dental position, and perform aisle-blocking, body tilts whenever the bus corners.
They don’t pay tour guides enough.
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