“Make sure you don’t fall asleep on the train. Maybe set an alarm on your phone or something.” I was about to leave work for a Wilco concert at the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn. It would be a late night, I’d probably have a beer or three (it turns out it was was three—Goose Island IPA is good stuff), and my wife wanted to make sure I didn’t miss my stop coming home. “I’ll be okay,” I said.
I don’t think there’s a commuter out there it hasn’t happened to, and it’s a real disincentive to going out in the city. Concerts, sports events, Broadway shows, even drinks after work, all become less fun as the night ticks on and you start calculating what time you’re going to get home if you catch this train versus that train. And the later the train, no matter which of these things you’ve been doing, there’s a chance you’ll fall asleep. If you’re with friends, there’s less risk in sleeping through your stop. At least one of you is bound to be awake or somehow suddenly snap to attention at exactly the right time. But if you’re alone, you may be screwed.
This happened to me once, several years ago, after meeting up with some old high school friends. We stayed out too long, laughing, drinking, and catching up, and I wound up getting on the train after midnight. The train was empty and quiet that night. I nodded off almost immediately after opening the magazine I’d bought at the newsstand. I knew I’d missed my stop the moment I woke up. None of the trees or buildings lining the tracks looked familiar. The station where I got off was three stops past home. I stood on the platform waiting for a New York-bound train for about two minutes and then noticed a schedule posted near the station house. The trains into the city had stopped for the night. I looked to my cell phone—one of those little flip-up jobs people laugh at now but were about all people had then—but it was out of charge. There was no pay phone on the platform.
After 10 minutes of wandering the platforms on both sides of the tracks, searching for a phone, I spotted one in a restaurant parking lot on the south side of the tracks. I called information, which put me through to a local cab company. They didn’t have many drivers on duty at 2 a.m., but the nearest one was 15 minutes away picking up another customer. Was it okay if I had to share a ride? Sure. Twenty minutes later the cab shows up. There’s a guy in the passenger seat, saying something that’s making the driver laugh. They look like they probably have b.o. Immediately on opening the door, I discover that not only am I right, but added to their musky pungency is the sickly sweet fragrance of marijuana. I consider for a second whether this will be safe, but just go with it because I’m tired.
“You mind if I drop off my friend in Bridgeport first?” asks the driver, choking back the laugh he’d started before I climbed in. “Sure, no problem.” There was a possibility they’d kill me, but the driver’s laugh made me think not. Oh, and did I mention I had no cash on me? After we dropped off the friend without me being bludgeoned, I had the driver bring me to an ATM so I could pay him. I got home around 3.
None of this happened after Wilco. It was a great night, but as I said before, the preoccupation with getting home at a reasonable hour—especially when you have to be at work in the morning—gets in the way. A guy named Lee Fields opened. Great voice, boisterous horn section, and a performance that channeled the older James Brown. One of the songs sounded just like It’s a Man’s World. Wilco was on fire (set list here) and looked like they were having a great time. Jeff Tweedy was looking pretty cool.
He told the crowd that we smelled the most like bacon of any audience he’d performed for. I guess he didn’t know he was performing right next to the food counter where we got our sausage sandwiches. About 10 minutes into their set, it started to rain. Then it started to pour. Lightning danced sideways across the sky, as though it were a planned element of the light show, which was pretty dramatic in itself. Every time the lightning flashed, the crowd cheered.
I left before the encores to make sure I made my train. It was my first time going out in Brooklyn and didn’t know how long it would take to get back to Connecticut. Turned out I misread the schedule and could have made the train I wound up catching even if I had stayed. On the train, I listened to my Wilco playlist on Spotify—repeating I’m the Man Who Loves You (good video of this one below, from Lollapalooza 2006) a few times because it was a standout song for me this time around—to make sure I didn’t fall asleep. Got home around 12:45, ready to head out again at 6.
Anybody out there have a good sleeping-through-your-stop story?