Between the ages of 22 and 26, I used to take Ambien every night before bed. It was prescribed to me for anxiety-induced insomnia, but mostly I took it because I was at that point in my life where I was convinced that completely unnecessary drugs were in fact necessary. This is because I had zero coping skills and a general belief that mental health problems could be solved with short-acting band-aid solutions, an attitude that helped me avoid the hard work of consistent therapy and would eventually lead to a complete nervous breakdown at age 26.
But in those days, I loved my Ambien! I loved that it put me into a deep, uninterrupted sleep. I loved that it made me less anxious. But mostly I loved that for the hour between taking it and falling asleep, it made me feel drunk, loopy, and giddy. It’s like I got to have my own private happy hour every night before bed.
Which, in retrospect, sounds really fucking sad.
But anyway. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the effects of Ambien, which is likely most of you, as you are normal humans who only do unnecessary drugs at parties or times of celebration, like when your kid finally goes to sleep (that’s how parenthood works, no?): if you take Ambien and don’t go RIGHT to bed, you’ll experience this bizarre, hazy period where you feel kind of drunk, kind of stoned, very loopy, and then essentially remember NOTHING of it the next day.
So needless to say, weird things can go down during this stretch of time, as evidenced when my friend Suzie was looking for my tv remote one day and I told her to check my bed, where she proceeded to find a half-eaten grilled cheese between the top sheet and comforter. I had no memory of it, but apparently the night before I had cooked that bad boy on the George Foreman and had myself a nice little snack snuggled beneath the covers, before passing out mid-chew in an Ambiened stupor. The crumbs on my thighs the next morning should have been a hint that something strange had gone down, but I had just shrugged it off and hopped in the shower because whatever– mysterious bed crumbs happen, guys.
Sleep eating isn’t unusual on Ambien. Other Ambien users have been known to sleepwalk, sleep dance, and even sleep DRIVE while under the influence, which needless to say is a terrifying and dangerous prospect. Luckily, the only person I’ve ever hurt during MY escapades is myself.
And that’s the last ounce of credit I’ll award myself, because this story is about to go downhill fast.
So one night, at age 23, I was alone in my apartment and decided to take an Ambien. Standard practice. I was living with my sister at the time, but she was on a trip to South America for the week, so it was just me.
I took the pill and everything was normal. I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and did whatever else I needed to do before bed with zero incident. Then, after about 15 minutes of laying there reading US Weekly and seriously considering my chances of becoming the next contestant on The Bachelor, I decided (like any normal jew) that I must immediately imbibe a frothy glass of milk at 1:00 in the morning.
I don’t drink milk. Ever. I don’t even know why we had milk in the fridge, but we did. So I leaped out of bed with the grace of a 3-legged cat and stumbled over to the kitchen.
Side note, which will become a key factor in this story: I was wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. No shirt, no shorts, no bra– literally just a pair of full coverage cotton underwear, the kind you might find in your grandmother’s drawer at the nursing home. Clearly I had missed laundry day (common practice back then) and it was slim pickins.
But I digress.
So, clothed in essentially nothing, I poured myself a cold, tall glass of 2% milk. But, seeing as though Ambien affects coordination, and seeing as though I have the natural dexterity of a hippopotamus, I managed to drop the glass mid-pour, and watch as it shattered into hundreds of pieces across the kitchen floor.
Well, when something like this happens and you are naked in a drug-induced state, there’s only one responsible choice to make– wipe up the shattered glass with a few flimsy, CVS brand paper towels.
So there I am, on my hands and knees, cleaning up spilled milk in what can only be described as a scene out of the world’s most twisted nursery rhyme. I don’t know, something about Humpty Dumpty shattering, and then not crying over spilled milk? I swear, minus the nudity and drugs, there’s a shade of a children’s tale in here somewhere.
Once all the glass was safely wiped up and placed into a garbage bag, I decided, as I stared at the various bleeding cuts in my shins, knees and fingers, that the safest thing to do would be to get the entire bag of glass out of the apartment and chuck it down the hallway garbage chute, which was conveniently located about three feet outside my apartment door.
I opened the door and then, by the grace of god, suddenly remembered I was naked. So I quickly shut the door, still safely inside my apartment.
Don’t worry– any inkling of wise decision-making ends there.
I was too drugged to be bothered to fully clothe myself, but somewhere in my brain I knew that entering the hallway completely nude from the waist up would be a bad life choice. So what did I do? I grabbed the knit blanket sitting right there on the couch, wrapped myself in it, and re-opened the door.
Something to note: this was no full-coverage blanket. It was a small, crochet throw, the kind that fully has holes and gaps throughout, and is definitely not intended to keep you even remotely warm, much less be used as a nudity shield. Basically, this:
So I’m wrapped in what is essentially a thin layer of gauze, and I open up my apartment door and risk the 3-second sprint into the hallway and back. After all, at this point, it’s about 2am on a week day– what are the odds that someone will be out there?
And I was right. The hallway was empty. I was able to dart to the chute, toss the bag, and make it back to my apartment door without a single person spotting me. Which would have been AWESOME, and would have been where this story ends…
…had the door not slammed behind me and auto-locked me out of my apartment.
Without keys. Drugged. Naked. Bleeding. Wrapped in a doily.
I panicked for a good 2 minutes and then sat down in the hallway to consider my options. Then I remembered that our next door neighbor, a dear friend of my sister’s, had our spare key!
Then I ALSO remembered that that neighbor was in South America. With my sister.
The only two people in the world who had a key to my apartment were away, together, on an entirely different continent.
I was left with no choice. That door wasn’t going to open itself, and sitting in the hallway naked until sunrise seemed like a bad idea. I picked myself up, got in the elevator, and went to the lobby, where I subtly (as subtle as one can be when naked in public) approached Steve, the young doorman. Since I was naked, bleeding, and slurring my speech, I didn’t see the point in even trying to make up a story. At this juncture, the situation was what it was (re: ABSURD). So I looked him straight in the eye and said, “So…I took Ambien. It’s a sleep drug. I’m really out of it. I broke some glass. I went to throw it out and then I locked myself out of my apartment. Without my key. I am naked under this blanket. Those are the facts. Can you please help me?”
He stared at me wide-eyed for a solid 30 seconds and then, like music to my glass-punctured, milk-stained ears, said “Yeah. I can, actually.”
He disappeared into a back room and returned with a huge sheet of hard plastic. “Lucky for you,” he announced triumphantly, “I know how to jimmy open any apartment door with this thing.” In hindsight, I should have been very concerned about the door-jimmying hobby of this man who had full access to my building 24 hours a day. But in that moment, I felt nothing but sheer relief that this guy had the skills of a rapist and may or may not be stealing from me when I’m out of town.
We got in the elevator together. And let me tell you something right now– don’t you EVER complain about awkwardness in elevators until you’ve taken a naked 3-flights-up trip with your doorman, clutching your crab-net blanket in all the important places as he wields a huge plastic sheet and chuckles “This is certainly a first” the entire way. I’m not sure how it’s even possible that I am able to ride in elevators to this day.
So we got to my apartment door without encountering any other tenants, which is a shame because what this story really needs is a second witness.
“Give me two minutes,” he said, and then he used the sheet of plastic like a saw, slamming it into the side of the door, pulling it in and out aggressively. I then sat down in the hallway, where I proceeded to watch the progress of my knight in shining doorman attire, pray for god’s forgiveness, and then promptly pass the fuck out.
I was on Ambien, guys. It had been a long night.
Steve woke me from my hallway nap about 15 minutes later (I think– for all I knew, it could have been a week later) to tell me the job was complete. My lock was broken and I’d have to fix it in the morning. But for now, he advised, “Go to bed. Do not leave your room again tonight. Put your clothes on.”
Things you might say to a toddler.
I woke up the next morning, at first with a vague sense that something bizarre had happened, and then, slowly, the full blown realization that yes, I had locked myself out naked, and yes, despite straight A’s throughout my entire educational career and the possession of an Ivy League degree, this was really my life.
I slipped Steve an envelope of cash with a note stating: “Thank you, and let us never speak of this again.”
I was his favorite tenant after that.
So tip your doorman, guys.
I’ve searched high and low, and that’s definitely the lesson here.