Oh no! Where am I this time?
Regular readers will be aware of my tendency to sleep on train journeys with occasional unfortunate consequences. So, when I woke up on a train recently I was straight away a bit uneasy. The last thing I remember before was the train moving towards my home station, the next stop. But now the train was stationary! I looked out of the window and saw an unfamiliar station. Much worse, there was a station sign telling it was the city at the very end of the line, a journey of up to an hour with several stops beyond my station. How could I have slept through all that? It would take a long time to get home and I'd have to explain to staff why I didn't have a ticket - they are usually very understanding as I guess I look like the sort of person who'd sleep on a train.
Now in a panic I stood up quickly and headed for the nearest train door which, thankfully, was still open. Once on the platform it got weirder! The scene looked oddly familiar! It was, in fact, my home station! Confused, I looked back through the train windows to the scene I’d looked at on waking. Now I saw it was dominated by a stationary train at an adjacent platform. It had an illuminated sign on its side giving its destination as the city at the end of the line! But that wasn’t what I’d seen before. When I first woke I clearly saw a big station with several platforms quite different to what I saw now. How is that possible?
So, misperception or hypnagogia? The former, I think, as most of the scene was different from reality (not just one bit) and I now know misperception can affect large chunks of a scene (see also here for similar experiences on waking up on trains). Recent hypnagogic reports I've looked suggest that typically only one thing is different with those (see here).
My conclusion from my experience is I don’t think we can always trust what witnesses report in first few seconds after waking up while their brain gathers information on what is out there! This is particularly so if they are on a journey when the scene on waking is likely to be unfamiliar.
Author :© Maurice Townsend 2021
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