I was dreaming, in that peaceful twilight place between sleep and wakefulness, that I was gently leaning to my right to get more comfortable. Suddenly, my bliss was mildly, if annoyingly, interrupted by a thump I believed to be my latest book falling off the edge of the bed.
Why, I wondered, did the bed shake so from a book hitting the floor?
Suddenly, my eyes opened to the terrifying sight of a red brick wall maybe three yards in front of me. My heart raced like a fist pounding on my chest, my nostrils flared, taking in more air, and a strange taste took over the inside of my mouth as the wall came closer.
The thump I dreamed as a falling book was actually a shallow curb. I had fallen asleep making a left turn at a busy intersection. Not a moment too soon was I able to cut the wheel sharply to the left avoiding contact.
It was an unconscious act, courtesy of my reflexes. The boxy PT Cruiser leaned hard to the right nearly rolling into the wall before I regained control.
Like most people in denial, I did not stop to take stock of what had happened or why. I Just kept driving knowing I had beaten the odds one more time.
This incident occurred five days ago, but it got me to thinking.
This was not the first time I had fallen asleep at the wheel. During my four years doing the morning show on WVOX, I have nodded at the wheel at least 30 times, probably more.
On two occasions I hallucinated that the cars were other things and that the clouds, suffice it to say, were not clouds. On still another, I did not know how I got where I arrived at when I actually became aware of where I was.
Feel free to read that sentence again. It scares me too.
Doing a morning drive radio show or, better yet, loving a morning radio show is like being married to a faithful, but insufferably demanding and unforgiving woman.
She wants what she wants every day. She wants you home on time, prepared to know all there is to know about the world around her, and she expects you to write her love letters—I call them the news—each and every day with flawless detail and journalistic integrity and to be done with it before you wake her up by pressing the red button at 6:05.
She cares not what you did last night or whether you feel well. After you wake her, she demands that you entertain her guests and her other visitors listening at home.
She wants total focus on her for three hours, and when it’s done she expects many more hours of foreplay, including inviting more company for future get-togethers, most especially tomorrow’s, and gathering the latest gossip from around the county.
“Work those phones,” she says, ”stop by city hall, I want to know everything that is going on.”
The problem is that this love goes only one way. She knows I am hopelessly smitten and obsessed. She knows that it—she—has replaced most other things in my life. What she doesn’t know is she may be killing me.
That wall came hurtling toward me as the result of getting up at 3:30 a.m. every day and living the job. I have only recently broken a 15-can-a-week Red Bull habit, to go along with about 14 cups of coffee.
My digestive system is a disaster from eating then going to sleep. You go ahead and try to keep a relationship or a marriage going when you get home and just want to read and sleep.
Actually, I do try, and what it does is bring the wall still closer and the stomach miseries to a full boil. I no longer get enough exercise and have friends and family I have not seen in years.
And so, now, I do worry. I am afraid.
There are days that I think of the Roy Scheider character in All That Jazz who burns out and dies of a bad heart at the end from the lifestyle he lives, and Tim Russert, of Meet The Press, who simply dropped dead a couple of years ago in his newsroom.
Michael Jackson, I am sure, thought that one more day bucking the odds with the anesthetic he called “The Milk” would work out fine.
Hey, I know what you are thinking: These are famous people and I am not.
Who the heck is Bob Marrone, and what makes him think one night soon he won’t hit that wall, or fall over dead from a stroke? Bob Marrone is a man in love—indeed, a fool in love—with what he does.
That wall is getting closer and I am not getting any smarter. As for the odds, everyday I beat them increases my chances for a very bad outcome.
Somehow, some way, I have to find a way to continue doing what I love and stay alive while doing it.
It is time to make some changes.