Typically, Richard does not sleep on airplanes so when we have long flights he takes an Ambien sleeping pill. Coming back from Vietnam & Cambodia we had an overnight in Hong Kong before flying to San Fransisco then Denver. He has oh-so-cleverly figured out the timing with the medication: as soon as he hears the attendants starting to serve meals, he pops a pill so by the time he’s done eating he’s ready to fall asleep.
We are in the middle row of seats, Richard has the aisle seat to my right, fortunately, the seat to my left is empty. Our meals arrive and I start to eat. Richard leans over to me, “Waz dat?” I reply hesitantly as my husband is usually very precise, “It’s my roll. Do you want it?” He mumbles unintelligibly pointing to another item on my tray, he slurs, “Waz dat?” “It’s my ice cream, do you want it??” More mumbling.
“Richard, are you OK? You’re not making any sense.” He gives me a blank stare and doesn’t answer at first then mumbles more. “I’m worried. Stop it. Are you OK?” More staring and mumbling. I keep trying to get him to say something intelligible. Oh my gosh! He’s having another stroke! I conclude in a controlled panic.
“I’m ringing for the flight attendant.” I declare at the same time I contort my body around the tray table and use my feet to get my purse so I can get the powdered aspirin that I always carry, just incase my husband is having a stroke. When I resurface, I pinch his chin opening his mouth enough to pour in the aspirin. He sputters and says something that sounds oddly like “two Ambien…” and I realize that he’s not having a stroke, he’s had a lapse of sanity regarding the proper use of medication and this is what my husband is like as a druggie.
The flight attendant arrives and I explain the whole stroke, Ambien situation, he leans over and politely tells me, “I’m sorry ‘mam, he’s your problem. He’ll be fine, he just needs to go to sleep. No more caffeine and if he gets up you need to go with him. People who do this tend to fall over. I’ll bring some water for him.” And with that he left.
I look at Richard who puts his arms up as if flexing his muscles and says in his best Super Hero impersonation, “Super Spy.” Then he hiccups, loudly…very loudly, like an Indiana pond bullfrog announcing his manly intentions for all the she-pond froggies to hear. “Shhh!” I place my hand over his mouth. “Shhh!” It continues while he starts mumbling about “por-poi-ses,” “lit’l childr’n ’n eggs,” and “I feel saw-ry for wee people” as he runs his spoon around and around the now soupy ice cream cup.
The flight attendant returns with a bottle of water. I open it and hand it to Richard, he takes it like a starving man, full mouth around the opening, crinkling the bottle with each sucking gulp. Oh my God, who is this man? Then he slams it down on the tray table and shouts, “Kerosene! You’re giving me kerosene!” “No! It’s water, trust me, it’s water!” I try to reason with him. “Kerosene…” then he reaches for it again and chugs half of the bottle.
It is like sitting with an all-consuming overactive petulant toddler, I try to get him to settle down and go to sleep, but he’s actually hyper, definitely not sleepy. At one point he demands, “Gimme the iPad, write email,” “No.” I reply. “Gimme iPad!” he gets a little louder. I figure, what could it hurt and it might occupy him for a little while so I pull out the iPad and hand it to him, he stares at it for a minute or two then asks, “turn on…” I take my time then hand it back to him and out of the corner of my eye I see him take the pen from his pocket and start to put it to the iPad screen. “No!” I take the pen and the iPad away from him. He pouts, he actually pouts.
“Sweetheart, please you need to go to sleep,” I plead. He leans over to me and in a tone of conspiracy whispers, “I’m the Ruler of a New World Order, and you,” he sloppily taps the side of his nose twice, “you can be the First Prime Minister.” And then he put his hand down my top and cups my left breast as if this was some sort of acceptable New World Order handshake. I look down, remove his hand, gently slap his face and say, “You, your Majesty, need to go to sleep. Now.”
It takes him nearly two hours, but finally, he goes to sleep and naps fitfully for about two hours. When he wakes up, he stretches, yawns and looks at me, “Well, I feel better.” Completely normal. I give him a shocked look. “What?” he says. “You have no idea what you’ve just put me through.” “What?!” I tell him of this flight from Ambien hell, which he has absolutely no recollection and proceeds to make a vigorous protest that he would never – ever – act that way.
“Oh trust me sweetheart, I could never make up this one. But, someday, I am going to write about it.”
Flight from Hong Kong to Denver
September 16, 2014
Lisa A. Hendry