why, what are you using your conscience for?

Just like this. I tell you, they were real.

It’s a 12 hour flight from Hong Kong to San Francisco, my entry point to the U.S. this time around, and it’s time for the Ambien question. Specifically, if I want to risk it again after last year’s minor episode.

“Is this going to end badly, IB?”

Nope, silence. He has no opinion preemptively. Could go either way.

I have a voice in my head. Some might say it’s my Conscience, or Common Sense, but I call him Internal Bartender, because his main job, at least for a certain portion of my adult life, has been to intervene when I’m drinking. He always knows when it’s time to cut me off, and warns me when I’m approaching the next level. “You ought to be considering some water at this point,” he might remark, conversationally, “before embarking on your third mojito, if you still plan on walking home.” He’s a good sort, Internal Bartender; doesn’t judge or nag much, so I pay attention when he gets all snotty, like, “Bitch, what did I just say? UnHAND that jello shot.”

(Hmm. I never thought about this before, but IB sounds just like Samuel L. Jackson.)

I’d always been a little worried about taking something on flights because I wasn’t sure if I would react well with it. But I don’t sleep well on planes, if at all, and it always makes the first few days of vacation a grim experience as I try to recover from the combination of lack of sleep + jet lag. The last straw was a flight to Norway, when I was somehow moved to a middle seat in the last row of the plane (these seats do not recline, it turns out) and stayed up all night talking and playing trivia with my two other seatmates (admittedly very cool people, with an admirable range of knowledge about geography and European pop culture) and then spent the next 10 days struggling to catch up on my REM by falling asleep on every flat surface I could find. I didn’t actually get back on a normal pattern until 2 weeks after I’d returned to the U.S. After that, I took the prescription from the travel doctor the next time she suggested it, and now I adore the fact that I can count on a solid 6-8 hours of sleep on long flights.

I’d never had any trouble! Until the last time – also a double-digit-hour long trip home from Asia. I pulled out the bottle and asked the flight attendant for water, then stood confusedly in the aisle. I realized I’d failed to pay adequate attention to my travel doctor’s instructions, and now couldn’t remember if I was to take one or two at a time. IB had no recollection either (as I said, he’s not good with preemptive advice), so I decided to start with one and add another if it didn’t seem to be working.

Well, this turned out to be a wise decision overall, because the other item suffering from my inattention was the fact that I had accidentally brought the old bottle of expired meds from a previous trip instead of the recently filled prescription. 15 minutes after swallowing it down I began admiring the very nice pink and yellow plaid taffeta curtains American Airlines had recently installed along the walls of the cabin – as recently as the last 15 minutes, perhaps, since I did not remember it before. So pretty! What a good choice! Coincidentally, I happened to look down and see fluffy white bunnies hopping along the floorboards, heading up toward the cockpit. “Fluffy bunnies!” I squealed in my head, reaching down to pet them.

Internal Bartender screeched like I’ve never heard him. “JESUS CHRIST, Angela, you are on a plane! THERE ARE NO &;@*!# BUNNIES HERE.”

I scowled. There are clearly bunnies here. So cute, fluffy bunny rabbits. Look! I turned to my left to alert my seatmate.

“NO!! Shut the HELL up, do NOT SPEAK TO ANYONE. Do NOT pet the bunnies, do NOT speak to anyone. You GO TO SLEEP now.”

I was dimly aware he might be on to something…though I was dead certain about the bunnies.

On the other hand, IB has never been wrong about the jello shots.

I said nothing to my seatmate and tried to get comfortable, making the mistake of attempting to slightly adjust the pretty, pretty curtains first so I didn’t crush them with my neck pillow. “WHAT the &*@% DID I JUST SAY?! You BEST be asleep, forthwith.”

I did go to sleep, forthwith, and when I woke up several hours later I felt both amazing and grateful that IB had prevented me from telling anyone about the bunnies at the time (though, naturally, I felt compelled to tell everyone I knew about them later).

Now it’s six months later, on another flight from Asia, and I have the bottle in my hand. Risk it? I check the date. No, I got the right bottle this time. Surely it was an expiration issue. I take…one.

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