‘Scuse me. Ever been driving in the middle of the night—waaayyy past your bed time and attempted to utilize the radio as a most Sam Kinisonesque alarm to help keep you awake? Well, unfortunately for you, chances are Sam Kinison is not even on the air; irrespective of Satellite reach and/or regular analogue fare (particularly out in the desolate pass between L.A. and Vegas). So what’s a commuter to do?: Drink copious amounts of coffee delaying one’s journey by the half-life of bathroom visits (only to not be able to sleep once there!—oh the irony!), roll down the window only to get bedhead (minus any of the related benefits to which one ultimately aspires in so trying to avoid), focus on NOT counting sheep?!?– Or do what any and all other sheep do by engaging in the most commercial of pop music glory as one soars into the nighttime fancy: Tone Loc’s Funky Cold Medina, for example, wailing down the lone highway like all so much whipping wind off a British moor bound for South Central, Sir Mix-a-Lot’s Big Butt Song “liberating” women by bestowing upon them yet another symbolically dismembered body part, to mold, shape and fret over, or the Beatles Hippie Hippie Shake Shake as sung by Keith Richards confusing us all more readily as to what any of it means, (further inspiring us to wonder if we are in fact asleep by way of incoherent dream). But hopefully it is a code to unlocking the key to the foundation of the Universe, or at the very least an antidote to the sleep that both taunts us and eludes us for hampering our driving—sort a like a ‘forest for the trees’ kinda thing…
But what if I told you…What if I told you Gentle Driver (gentle only because you lack your customary cat-like reflexes via your current somnambulistic and lumpy-gelatinous countenance—up to and including both middle fingers) that there was a solution to said dilemma that was both simple and sound, freeing you from any and all obnoxious sounds of pop radio or yearnings for Sam Kinison alike, and that it was not only natural, but refreshing to boot (car or otherwise!) Well look no further not-so-eternally-gentle driver, for Anson Williams’ latest invention under the advisement of Dr. Henry Heimlich: Alert Drops!
When one registers the statistics, it is more than clear that a time for such a product has come and found a permanent parking spot in the rulebook of the road: Would it surprise you to know that 30% of people polled have admitted to nodding off behind the wheel? Moreover, 64,000 people a year die of drowsy driving, and two hours of missing sleep is equal to that of three beers. As a matter of fact, drowsy driving has eclipsed drunk driving as the # 1 pre-existing condition of all crashes and is the cause of 1 in 5 accidents, to speak nothing of deaths in the thousands, and billions in damages. Summer, strangely enough, is the most common time for such accidents.
Williams’ motto to come out of all this: “We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever; the goal is to create something that will.” And in joining forces with cousin Henry Heimlich (whom he called Uncle) Williams has done that, and then some!
Championing a cause that is little discussed, Williams is (un)dead-set on bringing awareness regarding this crisis to as many people as possible; so much so that he has been lauded an expert in the field by not only the LAPD, but the California Senate, and the U.S. Congress. Furthermore, Williams is simultaneously at work with various organizations in cities nationwide to promote Drowsy Driving Awareness. The fact that he is a father of five girls only heightens this rationale.
“This is the most important thing I’ve been part of. We’ve already saved so many lives with this simple little product,” declares Williams once arrived at the Malibu Fire Station. “The reason it works, is it came from Dr. Heimlich my uncle… I almost killed myself years ago. He told me to bite into lemons… He explained how citric acid lemon hits the lingual nerve on the top of the tongue, and your body’s instant reaction is reflex adrenaline. Boom. Nothing [else goes] into your system. It’s your body waking your body… So, when I found out how catastrophic the problem is, I said, ‘What if we put it in a spray and hit the nerve?’ He went, ‘Oh my God. Do it!’”
Williams’ story does not end there as he describes his own near catastrophic accident prior to divining the power of one little citrus fruit: “I had almost killed myself…after a hard day’s directing… I fell asleep at the wheel, about 18 years ago… I woke up in a cactus. I’m lucky I didn’t kill myself… I was very lucky. I didn’t hit anything. And as soon as I hit it I woke up… It scared the heck out of me! That’s when I called Dr. Heimlich… He’s brilliant at understanding how the body helps the body, he said uh ‘cut up lemons’… and the only two things that’ll do it are super sour citrus or hot pepper. But the hot pepper’s too much. So, I cut up lemons, never had a problem again… Then a few years ago, having gone into the product business, we researched it and just saw how catastrophic drowsy driving is. I mean, there’s 168 million plus a year. More people die in more tragedies than drunk and drug driving combined! …And I thought, ‘What if we could get the right amount of citric acid, sour lemon and just put it into a spray drop, and hit the nerve! …So that’s why we created Alert Drops. So, we’ve been on the market less than six weeks [and in that] six weeks we manufactured a five months’ supply and it was gone in four weeks!”
Another important fact of which to make note is that National Drowsy Driving Week falls in November; as an antecedent, this past August Williams and a host of sitcom, soap and singing stars, who share a concern for the cause, joined him at Malibu Fire Station 70 to celebrate this accomplishment culminating in the distribution of the product itself, along with literature, right along the Pacific Coast Highway!
In attendance on this fine hot but mellow Saturday, Williams’ partners from equally Happy times, Marion Ross: Mrs. Cunningham herself exhibiting all the maternal charm you ever remember and just enough real-world sass to render the day even more fun that you had ever imagined it could be, (considering the subject matter) along with the equally magical, albeit slightly more soft-spoken Don Most aka Ralph Malph! Other non-Happy Days’ related but just as jovial participants: Carolyn Hennessey of General Hospital, True Blood, and Cougar Town fame, Rosalyn Kind, singer and actress extraordinaire, everyone’s favorite bad girl from 70’s TV Little House on the Pairie’s Nellie Oleson herself Alison Arngrim, and The Young and the Restless’ Kate Linder.
All of them had their own stories to tell regarding personal drowsy driving experiences along with why said cause is so important:
“I think this is an amazing product ‘cause I think everyone has had an experience of falling asleep or they don’t even know they’re falling asleep,” says Young and Restless (and hopefully too while she is driving) star Kate Linder. “How many times have you driven down to an exit and you went, ‘Oh my God, I don’t even remember the past exits!’ …We’ve all done that… I think it’s a great product and I’m happy to help in any way I can!”
“I recently had an experience with drowsy driving,” admits singer/actress Rosalyn Kind. “Most of the time I don’t drive. I hate long distance driving… I have to have somebody do it because [of] my eyes… I can’t drive at night. I have very light eyes, and my retinas are light and I’m so light sensitive to oncoming glare. But in this particular case I did a gig at the Annenberg in Palm Springs and I drove to Palm Springs with my musical director in the car… He directed me… I had never driven there before myself and I asked a friend who has a place there, ‘Can you stay over there one more night and let me follow you home?’ …Unfortunately, he called me earlier than I expected, earlier than I was ready to be awake. ‘I want to get out of here. I want to get out of here,’ he said. I said, ‘I haven’t even had coffee,’ …and I didn’t have enough sleep. So, I hurried and I got ready and I got in my car… My navigation didn’t connect and he’s just speeding away from me and so by the time we got into…morning traffic, it was pretty heavy… I was yawning. My eyes were going and I started drifting into the next lane, I got alert enough [to get back] and then I almost rear ended his Tesla!”
“I don’t have one vivid incident [of a personal brush with drowsy driving] but I have memories where I was saying to myself, ‘I really am tired, and how’m I gonna make it to my destination,’ discloses a fun and forthcoming Donny Most. “There were times when I would literally be slapping my face…just to jolt myself which is kind of what the product does but it lasts longer than that slap in the face (and hurts less I am sure)…and then I remember one time I wasn’t driving, but I was in college and I was with 2 or 3 fraternity brothers on a trip from Pennsylvania where we went to college back to New York. They lived in Long Island… I was a passenger but…the guy who was driving fell asleep for…maybe it was 5 seconds…because all of a sudden he woke up and we all woke up! It was the weirdest thing and thank God he woke up, ‘cause I think we were veering…So that was a close, close call!”
“I’ve been very lucky,” confesses Alison Arngrim. “I haven’t had a drowsy driving [experience] but I’ve had the thing where I am just so overbooked it’s like ‘Well, I have a show, and I didn’t get offstage ‘til 11 and then we were signing autographs half the night and then I had to get up in the morning to catch a train and I’m like, “I’m taking some of these to France!” ‘Cause my schedules there are so nuts where I’m just slapping myself to stay awake to do the show and taking vitamin fizzies, and doing anything so [Alert Drops] are great, ‘cause…they just take the edge off… But my husband Bob is the absolute acid test for this because he gets up every morning at 4 o’clock! And he drives from…Tujunga—all the way to Orange County and if he leaves early in the morning, getting up at 4:30, it’s not too bad, it’s like an hour, but then when he drives home…the traffic…can take two hours or more…and then there was the day it was raining and there were all the accidents and he didn’t get home ‘til 9:00 that night. It was just a disaster… And he’s tried everything, rolling down the window and listening to music, and then he started eating oranges in the car and kept the blood sugar up… So when I brought this up, I was like, ‘Bob, you’re the guy who needs this.’ And he’s like ‘Give me that thing,’ and he said, ‘It’s amazing. One squirt, two squirts,’ he can make it home. He said it was like night and day… So, he’s taking a couple handfuls of these down to the job for all these guys who drive two and three hours across California…to work on construction and they’re exhausted and operating heavy equipment and you can’t have these people exhausted, and you can’t have them jacked up on Red Bull and coffee and drugs. That’s completely illegal and unsafe… He’s already sent some to his relatives [to rave reviews]…and it really BLOODY works!”
The day is as festive as it is life affirming, and the traffic infiltration, almost like guerilla theatre minus the pretention and political correctness. Yet people don’t seem to want to roll down their windows—at first; leaving a giddily mystified Anson Williams to joke, “All these good looking people approaching your car, what do you think’s gonna happen…?”
Both the improv-safety theatre above along with the uplifting tenor of the morning were just resplendent, but my favorite conversation had to be between Marion Ross and Donny Most (casually moderated—not that I really needed to—by yours truly).
Marion Ross – I remember coming from Happy Days one night, now we finish the show and…I have an old 1960 Rolls Royce Silver Cloud…
Donny Most – I remember that car!
Marion – I still have it! So I’m driving to San Diego…and I’m gonna go down to San Diego after the show, and it’s probably 11:30 at night. My hair is up…I still look like Mrs. C.
(Donny Most laughs)
Marion – Now there’s not a lot of traffic on the U.S. Highway coast going to San Diego, so I’m driving along, singing…driving very casually and a cop pulls me over and he says, “You’re all over the road…Get out of the car!”
Donny – He thought you were drunk huh?
Marion – He took one look at me and he said, “Get back in the car!” He said, “You’re a terrible driver!”
Donny – Well you were drowsy at the time.
(Uproarious laughter from all around)
LA Beat – Did he call you Mrs. Cunningham at all?
Marion – No he didn’t. But he knew who I was!
LA Beat – And he knew who you were and he said, “Get back in your car. Get back in your room!”
Marion – (big belly laughs) “You’re a terrible driver!!!”
LA Beat – Too bad Anson didn’t have a time machine in the 70s and give you some drops in his time machine!
And no, while we still have no Time Machines—that we know of–Marion does still have that car, Anson has now made those drops, and if we could somehow find that original police officer, I’d say we have quite the potential for reenactment, if not, emotionally corrective experience, to be sure!
Meantime, you too can procure these magical drops below, all the while experiencing your own non-run-ins with cops and non-scrapes with drowsy driving in the process by clicking: