When I was a student in the leafy splendour of Hopwood Hall, at the campus of De La Salle College , Middleton, Manchester, one of the many nicknames that I picked up was the above. Apparently, I was uber fond of sleeping anytime, anyplace, and this was duly noted by my mates. Indeed one year I got a birthday card from the lads that was actually addressed to Austin “Get my head down” Birks.
So, I am deeply indebted to my dear chums at the excellent knowledge and learning centre at Corby from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport who sent a most intriguing email asking me if I knew anything about something called “fly kipping”. This is a term that applies to passengers that fall asleep on public transport resulting in them sometimes missing their stops. This of course immediately reminded me of my formative days both at school and indeed Uni, where I seemed to excel in getting my head down.
There are it is said, two types of people in this world, those who can never sleep on public transport, and those who cannot help but sleep on public transport. It would not take Sherlock Holmes, or indeed Sherlock Gnomes (whose cartoon figures much to my amusement were splashed all over the walls of Baker Street tube station I noticed on Tuesday where I attended a conference in London ) to realise that I fell very much into the nodding off category, usually as soon as my backside hit the seat, and occasionally even before. indeed in my younger years I could easily overshoot destinations with some devastating results. Best yet being when I had been having a cheeky festive drink at Xmas and then caught the train to go back to my parents with a view to meeting my dad in Worcester. I actually woke up in Tewkesbury a good hour away, and of course back then no mobile phone. Suffice to say did not end well.
So, going back to the issue of sleeping beauties nodding off and missing their stops, back when I was a bus Manager this issue created a few problems. Drivers arriving at the terminus to find passengers fast asleep either as a result of drink being taken, or just tired, or indeed on medication and now and again drugged up to the eyeballs. Always a delicate issue with some drivers waking them up, asking them to leave, others would charge them which was a brave decision. Others just left them alone, what was a challenge was when you got people who pretended to sleep so they could over ride, this of course was theft and was not unheard off. I recall one guy who was a persistent offender, he had fallen out with several drivers and some just refused to let him on, the inspectors knew who he was and were always on the look out for him.
Truth is he regarded the whole thing as a game, as some people do. However todays tech filled world has all sorts of solutions for such issues. Indeed if you wish you can download apps that will actually help you fall asleep on the bus. These rang from listening to over 100 relaxing noises, like the ocean, rain, whales, all good but not helpful if you have a weak bladder (could be a tenner moment if you get my drift). Others rely on subtle and not so subtle hypnosis, although my personal favourite was a bloke who was just incredibly boring, who drones on about nothing in particular. I loved the idea of this and could instantly think of a number of candidates who had clearly missed their vocation. On a more serious note some 30% of the adult population do not get enough sleep, so if that daily commute could be used to rectify sleep loss, that must be a good thing, surely.
So, with that in mind a number of sleep alarm apps are available, Google offer an app that just needs you to put in where you got on and where you need to get off, and lo and behold, will gently wake you up as you approach your stop. Other Apps also offer similar products one in New York was built after the chap who built it got fed up with his girlfriend constantly nodding off and missing the stop, so he had to go tracking her down. So, this age old problem will never go away but technology can eliminate it by means of a simple download and click. Mind you there can be unexpected consequences, a mate of mine who was a fireman in London after a few cheeky pints would often nod off on the train on his way back to Croydon, regularly waking up in Brighton. Indeed it became such a regular event that he would be treated to a full English by the train crews before heading back on the first train at 0500.
Anyway there you have it, we have all seen it, done it, and witnessed it, nothing finer than watching a complete stranger slowly nodding off and leaning into another complete stranger. Always a tricky conundrum for English people as we never quite know what to do for the best, do we just sit there and accept it hoping that no dribbling breaks out that could cause adverse clothes staining. Or, do you adopt a more European direct no nonsense approach, and just push them away and wake them up usually followed by a commanding shout of Non or Nein, depending on how European you are. Either way I leave you with a classic quote from the mighty Wham, if I do nod off, please wake me up before you Go Go. I thank you .