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Waking The Sleeping Stranger

I was reading an opinion piece in a local weekend paper today and one of the columnists was talking about people falling asleep in public. He raised the interesting question of whether it is OK to wake them and I was wondering what other ehellions think.

We’ve all had someone fall asleep on our shoulder on a plane or bus – I usually don’t stress about it (unless they start dribbling!) until it’s my stop or I need to get out of my seat. I think if someone was asleep on the footpath or on a bench, I’d probably check to see if they were still breathing. Or if someone was obviously vulnerable – think woman, high heels, asleep on train, legs fall apart, bozo with a smartphone sitting opposite her, we’ve all seen the websites called variations of ‘Why it’s important never to fall asleep on public transport’ – or in danger then it would be OK?

We recently had a case in the far north of our state of a young man who fell asleep on a driveway to an office block. Apparently, people walked past him, thinking they’d just leave him be, he’d be fine. And he was fine, right up until someone arriving for work in the early hours of the morning drove into the driveway to access the underground carpark, after which was he not only not fine, but was extremely dead. When we were teenagers, one of my friends fell asleep on the last train home and woke at the end station, which is about 100 kms from home. Not a happy camper, but should someone have woken him?

Where does concern for your fellow human beings end and un-called-for meddling start? What if it’s not welcome? Is there a polite way to do it? Make a loud noise, cough, pretend to sneeze, give them a nudge? Or should we just leave them to it, they’ll be fine? 0402-16


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  • Jessica April 15, 2016, 11:49 am

    In Australia we actually had that exact scenario happen (the girl on the train falling asleep and the guy with the smartphone taking pics up her skirt) the guy they arrested was from my hometown. Its is disgusting.

  • LavenderMeg May 28, 2016, 7:37 am

    Personally I think everyone is responsible for their own schedule, if you are tired and taking public transport set an alarm. In the case of asleep in public places, checking to make sure someone is still alive is the decent thing to do, and if they are in a place that is hazardous I think its a good idea to give them a nudge to warn them, and if they don’t move (drunk, drugged, suicidal, etc.) call the authorities. They are not only putting themselves in danger but others as well. And I don’t care how polite I am normally, if I see someone taking pictures of someone else of an obviously intimate nature who is asleep, I’m confronting them about it. I also think it entirely fair to wake someone up that has fallen asleep on you, you don’t know what germs they have, and I view encroaching on someones personal space to that degree to be incredibly rude.