I Was Asleep at the Wheel (A Ragtime Oddity)


A solitary trooper
Was cruising one fine day
And saw a driver pitch
Headlong into a ditch;
The cop investigated
And to his great surprise
The driver smiled—
He wasn’t riled—
He said, and blinked his eyes:

“I’m not drunk—
I was asleep at the wheel;
Like any other chap
I enjoy a gentle nap;
Please let me rest a moment—
I just ate a heavy meal;
But I’m okay to drive—
Look—see—I’m still alive;
I was just asleep at the wheel.”

The trooper took the driver
Before the magistrate,
And each explained the case
Right to the judge’s face;
The judge was very quiet
But soon said, “Case dismissed!”
The cop, in pain,
Said, “Please explain—”
The judge said, “Here’s the gist:

“I’m not drunk—
I was asleep at the wheel—
But everybody knows
There is nothing like a doze;
Please give me five more minutes
And then file for an appeal;
Yet if the truth be known
This man is not alone—
I was just asleep at the wheel.”

The nation was in shambles
The cities were in flames—
The races were at odds
As were various jihads;
The presidential temper
Was eerily serene—
The nation’s head
Got out of bed
At last, to intervene:


“I’m not drunk—
I was asleep at the wheel;
I hope you will excuse
My tendency to snooze;
I just need a little longer
To be on an even keel—
Another month or two
And I will see you through—
I was just asleep at the wheel.”

The situation worsened:
The whole world was at war—
From cities and from farms
All hands were called to arms;
At last they sent a spaceship
To Heaven, to see God—
A space crusade
To seek His aid—
But His response was odd:

“I’m not drunk—
I was asleep at the wheel;
A race so uninspired—
You can even make Me tired;
Give Me a millennium
Maybe then we’ll make a deal;
Until then do your best—
Please let Me get some rest—
I was just asleep at the wheel.”
—Andy Senior (Jan. 18, 1993)


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