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Behind THE Barriers Director’s Cut: Nosedive

Sam Smith:

There is a scene at the very beginning of episode 2 of “Behind THE Barriers” in which Jeremy is describing a bad dream he had the night before. He then goes on to talk about how he sleeps on a plane. That scene originally was much longer, but the additional footage didn’t make the cut. It turned into a conversation between him and me about our air travel trials and tribulations.

At one point he turns the camera on me, and I describe the awkward situation of nose-diving into the person’s lap next to you while you are asleep. He replies by saying, “I actually don’t know what that’s like because I never do that. But I know YOU know what that’s like, because you ALWAYS do that!”

Turns out I have a talent that is both a blessing and a curse. My ability to fall asleep in adverse conditions is abnormally strong. I’m almost un-phased by jet lag. No matter how messed up my sleep schedule gets, I can still conk out right when my new time zone dictates. Or, if I have a couple beers before a red-eye flight, I’ll be out before the plane even takes off, and won’t come-to until I hear “please turn all electronic devices off, as we start our decent.”

If it’s after 7 p.m., and I end up in a semi-reclined position, the chances that I will fall asleep instantly are 100 percent. Staying fully passed out on the couch while a late night, impromptu party rages around me is no problem. I do it all the time.

These are all very convenient aspects to what I sometimes jokingly call “selective narcolepsy,” but the drawbacks are many. I no longer allow myself to sit at the airport terminal while I wait for my flight. More than one flight has been missed because I’ve decided to take a seat and rest, promptly falling asleep and missing my boarding time. Many nights of fun or productivity have been wasted because I decided to relax at home between the hours of 7 and 9 p.m. Fast-forward to me coming out of a haze to realize it’s 2 a.m. and the night is squandered.

Then, there’s the instance that I was talking about earlier. On my flight to the USGP in Madison, featured in episodes one and two, I fell asleep. As the plane was taxiing after we landed, I woke up. Before my eyes opened, I felt that my body was drastically bending to the right. Being in the center seat, I then remembered the petite woman sitting in the window seat. I opened my eyes and my left eye was seeing denim, and my right eye was firmly pressed into a green Old Navy fleece. Then I realized what was going on. I’d been using this poor middle-aged woman as a pillow. Was she too timid or embarrassed to push me away? Or had she violently tried to wake me, but I’d shown no sign of life the whole time? With my track record, it could have been either.

Then the flight started to de-board. I pushed myself upright, turned, and muttered a groggy, “sorry…” With a turned up nose and furrowed brow, she didn’t even take her eyes off the back of the seat in front of her.

I stepped into the aisle and started to walk out. I was feeling bad. But by the time I was on the jet way the bad feeling had passed, and I was thinking on the bright side. At least I got some sleep.

This week’s episode comes to you from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Me being from Boston, no innocent air travelers were harmed during the making of this program.


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