America’s air traffic controllers are asleep on the job. Here’s the story from U.S.A Today:
Since two airline jets landed at Washington Reagan National Airport shortly after midnight on March 23 without clearance because the lone supervisor on duty had fallen asleep, the FAA has revealed five more similar cases. A medical flight carrying a sick patient was forced to land without clearance at Reno/Tahoe International Airport early Wednesday after the tower controller fell asleep.The FAA announced this week that it would no longer permit controllers to work alone at small and mid-sized airport towers on the midnight shift. The agency has added a second controller at 28 airport towers and one small regional facility.
“Asleep on the job” is a phrase that has an idiomatic meaning in addition to its literal meaning. Used literally, it’s a good description of the sleepy, overworked controllers. As an idiom, “asleep on the job” means not doing what you should be doing. This idiomatic meaning also makes sense as a description of the controllers; they didn’t do their jobs properly. However, the idiomatic phrase could be used in any situation in which a person fails to carry out their responsibilities (even if they aren’t really sleeping). You could say, “The city government has been asleep on the job for years.” Of course the city government hasn’t been literally asleep, but they’ve neglected their responsibilities.
In the air traffic controller crisis, it seems that maybe the FAA has been asleep on the job for years. They knew that controllers’ long, stressful shifts and irregular schedules were dangerous, but they didn’t do anything to change the situation.
Now that you know how to use asleep on the job, maybe you’d like some more sleep idioms:
could do it in [my] sleep = able to do something very easily
I’ve grilled so many hamburgers, I could do it in my sleep.
couldn’t/didn’t sleep a wink = to not sleep at all
I was so excited last night, I didn’t sleep a wink.
sleep like a log = to sleep very well
He came home exhausted and slept like a log for twelve hours!
sleep on it = to think about a plan or idea for a day or two before making a decision
You don’t have to decide now. Sleep on it, and let me know tomorrow.
Is there something that you’ve done so many times, you could do it in your sleep?
[photo by erocsid]