It was 1987 and I had returned from my two-year mission and I was living at home briefly. I'd gone up to Salt Lake City for the weekend to see a bunch of friends. By the time I boarded my flight back to PHX that Monday night, I'd been up for just about 72 hours. I was ready to sleep, even if it was only going to be for the brief flight. Collapsing into my window seat on an airline that no longer exists (although it did morph into what is today essentially the world's worst airline - if you've read the blog, you know who I'm talking about, but feel free to comment with your guesses), I was elated to see I would have three seats to myself. Score! I'd be sleeping. As soon as we took off, I slumped across those three seats and was out. I was, as far as I was concerned, dead to the world.
What happened next, I still can't explain completely, but here's what I recall: I felt someone shaking me and I could hear a voice saying, "Sir,sir" but it was so faint and was being drowned out by the drone of the engines on the plane. The shaking got a little more urgent and I realized I couldn't move. Well, my legs could move but my head seemed to be stuck in place. Something was not right - I suddenly got the sensation that I was trapped. It dawned on me, for absolutely no reason whatsoever, that we had crashed.
Having decided we'd crashed, I took it upon myself to get off the plane. I yanked my head from my self-imposed seat vice and I bolted from my seat and ran for the forward exit, passing the flight attendant who was near my row. I did not understand why people were still sitting in their seats but I was getting out. Another flight attendant stopped me and explained that I needed to go back to my seat, that all was well, that we hadn't crashed. I turned and faced a cabin full of people staring at the crazy man who had just bolted for the exits. I sheepishly returned to my seat and tried to put the puzzling sequence of events together.
The stuck head issue: When I fell asleep, I had gotten my head stuck between the armrest of the window seat and the skeevy seat cushion.
The shaking and distant voice: It was the flight attendant trying to wake me to see if I had my seat belt on since we would be landing shortly. (I'd like to point out that even in those days I was an obedient traveler and my seat belt was fastened and all the world could see that - apparently Helen Keller was working my flight that night...)
The sense we'd crashed: I can only chock that up to being so completely exhausted and when I woke up I was in that deep, deep REM sleep that I had no idea what was up (no pun intended).
As I finished the walk of shame back to my seat, I determined there and then to never sleep on a plane again. I was not going to cede that sense of control ever again. I'm really glad this happened when it did and by that I mean, 1987. Had this happened post-9/11, I'd have been knocked to the ground, tased, put into plastic handcuffs and banned from ever flying the airline again.
So it was a good lesson and I've pretty much stuck to the "no sleeping on the plane rule" until the advent of the blessed lie-flat seat. A pretty awesome development that was, can i just tell you?