Sleep deprivation as bad as alcohol impairment, study suggests

Thursday night I had exactly none of the things I needed for Noah’s birthday sleepover the next day (currently happening upstairs in this house as I type), and so after all the kids were in bed and I was at the apex of my weekly tired bell curve, I grabbed some reusable bags and my keys and went out to run some errands.

How depressing is the grocery store after 10 p.m.? A lot, you guys. First of all, the employees want to be ANYWHERE else than under those fluorescent lights, dragging your Cheez-its across a scanner in their blue polos and khaki pants. Also, if the grocery store is even remotely close to a college, this is when the whole of campus will ascend upon the aisles. You will inevitably have to wait in line behind three flip-flopped dudes (doesn’t matter what time of year) with 12-packs of Miller Light under each arm and in directly in front of a gaggle of girls who are ohmygodding over whichever Kardashian is on the cover of OK and talking about which party they’re hitting up after they watch their Red Box movie. Also, you guys, we should totally go to Krispy Kreme after this, am I right? Meanwhile, you’re standing there with a 32-count pack of chlorine free diapers and yogurt tubes and you’ve just noticed your shoulder has a 3-inch smear of snot right down the side.

But depressive qualities aside, the grocery store had what I needed, so I went there and shopped and then got back in my car to drive the half-mile (if that) home. And see, here’s the thing. It’s only a half-mile. And we are pretty in-town where we live, meaning there are businesses and such all along the way, almost the entire length of my drive home except for one little small patch just before I turn into the residential area. I’m cruising down the hill, almost to my turn, with a half-gallon of oj wedged in the center console, and just as I realize, on that one dark-ish stretch, that I do not, in fact, have my lights on—the orange juice falls over with a WHAM. In the span of about 1.5 seconds, I do three things: 1. flip on my lights 2. right the oj 3. hit my blinker to turn. Then just as I am circling the steering wheel to my left and coasting onto the street next to my house, BOOM: blue flashing lights.

Now, I have been pulled over probably four other times in my life. The first time was when I was still in college and on my way back from visiting a friend at her school in Virginia, and I hit a stretch of road that was apparently known for its speed trapping. But not only did I not know that fact, I also had no idea what the speed limit was for a good portion of that road, so I guessed. Unfortunately, my guess was high. A police car going the opposite direction whipped around and then sped up behind me, gravel flying and siren wailing, and I cried literally the entire time he was at my open window. (I did not get a ticket.) The second time was when I was pulled over with an expired tag—a five month expired one—and had to appear in traffic court. I brought Noah, who was just shy of 2 years old at the time. He was absolutely silent the whole time we waited for my turn, rolling cars quietly on the floor beside my chair, and when I went before the judge he first told me that I had a very well-behaved child and then he asked me why my tag had not been renewed. I apologized, and explained that I was in my first year of medical school with a 2-year old. He said, “Ma’am, it’s a wonder you remember your own name. Don’t let it happen again. I wish you the best.” And then I was excused. It was removed from my record. The third time was while I was five months pregnant with Rosie and on a road trip with Noah. I was going 85 mph in a 70 mph zone. I also had a numb tailbone and was going on hour 8 with a 3-year old solo in the car. I didn’t waste my tears that time. I took the ticket with a nod, as if to say, “You know that I know what I did was worth a ticket, but what you may not know is that I would do it again and am in fact trying to calculate just how long I have to wait after pulling away from here before resuming my previous speed.” The fourth time was when a new-to-the force cop pulled me over for not stopping completely at a stop sign … three intersections back. She told me she’d let me off “this time,” but had her Very Sternest Face on so I would know she meant all kinds of business.

Back to Thursday night. I thought, as I sat there with the lights that make your eyes ache in my rear view mirror, about how very calm I was about the whole being pulled over thing. Wait, does that mean I’m a grown up now? I keep trying to figure out what makes that official, the whole adult thing. Maybe calm demeanor while being pulled over is it. Someone once told me it was owning a hose. (Not a typo. A hOse. For your grown-ass yard.) But I digress. I’m not sure I knew exactly what I was being pulled over for. In some irrational part of my mind I thought the police had decided I had taken the turn too fast (though I was definitely going the speed limit) and so I was going to get lectured on the importance of stopping … at no stoplight or stop sign. But with the flashlighty part of the squad car pointed at my sideview mirror, the officer sidled up to the window and said, “Hey there. I pulled you over because you were driving with no headlights on.” And although I was not nervous or jittery in any way, for some reason that was all it took and then I was off’n running with my mouth. “Haha, yeah, I noticed that just before you pulled me over! It’s just so bright on these roads between the grocery store and home, I can’t tell the difference! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve done that before! [Inside my head it sounds like this: STOPTALKINGSTOPTALKINGSTOPTALKING] And then my orange juice fell over and I was picking it up and was swerving [the officer shines her flashlight inside my car at this point to confirm that there is, in fact, a half-gallon carafe of orange juice sitting out right next to the driver’s seat] and then I turned them on and turned in here and welp, here we are!” She paused for a minute and then said, “Well, yeah. Just as long as you haven’t been drinking or anything.” And then I thought “Oh shit. She’s going to make me get out of the car right here IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD and take a sobriety test. QUICK: WHAT’S THE BACKWARDS ALPHABET?” But no, that was it. She asked for my license, went back to do whatever it is policepeople do in their cars when they pull people over and then gave me a written warning. Then I did the whole awkward wait until it seems appropriate to pull away from the cop that just pulled you over bit before driving the block and a half to my house.

The cop happened to drive behind me all the way to my house (you best BELIEVE I full-stopped at those two stop signs) and as I was getting out of the car by the curb, I felt myself hurrying a little, just so I could show her how I was carrying my very responsible cloth bags of groceries to my front door, soberly. She was long gone by the time I wrangled it all out of the passenger seat, of course. Which is just as well, because I definitely tripped as I walked up the walk to the front door and into the house.

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