Gaithersburg
Book Festival
Saturday
May 20, 2017 10am - 6pm
Gaithersburg
City Hall
Grounds
Gaithersburg
Book Festival
Saturday
May 20, 2017 10am - 6pm
Gaithersburg
City Hall
Grounds

Brief History of the Sleep Enforcement Agency

Posted By: Robin Materese

April 28, 2016

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by Jon Methven

“Americans are facing a sleep debt of epidemic proportions, and the nation’s leading doctor is taking notice.” – American Academy of Sleep Medicine

“A bigger threat than drugs, assault weapons and ISIS,” the surgeon general warned. “Mister President, America is exhausted. We need to put the country down for a nap.”

With the overhaul of the healthcare system, government bills had piled up. Despite more doctor visits, the population was not getting any healthier, or nicer.

“We can’t force people to sleep,” an advisor said.

“Maybe not,” the president agreed. “But we can reallocate tax dollars to fund a covert agency under the guise of national security. Then pass laws that give the agency authority to force them to sleep.”

The Sleep Enforcement Agency (SEA) was a division of homeland security that employed 15,000 with the mission of ensuring every American was getting a good night’s rest. Within a year of its establishment, healthcare costs plummeted nationwide. The common cold virtually disappeared. Monday Night Football was rebranded as Monday Dusk Football.

***

Two SEA agents approached the minivan. “You know why we stopped you, sir?”

“Uh, speeding?”

“Gas tank door,” an SEA agent said. “You were driving with it open.”

“I must have forgotten.”

The agents shined flashlights, three child’s car seats, groceries, a fresh coffee in the cup holder. All the signs of a classic DWI – driving with insomnia. The perpetrator was probably working on five, maybe six hours of sleep at the most. Federal mandates required a ten-hour night of rest. “How many cups of coffee have you had today, Mister Wright?”

“How do you know my name?”

“Four larges, extra sugar!” the second SEA agent said. “We’ve been monitoring your debit card transactions. That’s triple the legal limit for blood caffeine content. Out of the car! Hands where we can see them! And don’t even think of popping a 5-Hour Energy.”

The first agent frisked him. “You’re looking at a sizeable fine, a two-week furlough from your job to catch up on sleep, and mandatory daily naps for life.”

“We were out of diapers,” he pleaded. “I stopped for gas. I only had a few sips of coffee, I swear.”

“Tell it to the judge, scumbag.”

***

WiFi ceased at sundown. Coffee was outlawed. The SEA raided cafés, known hangouts for sleepless cells hell-bent on staying up past ten o’clock. Crossword puzzles were discouraged.

“A gateway habit, which leads to Sudoku, which leads to Bingo,” read the surgeon general warning at the bottom of newspaper crosswords, “which leads to reruns of ‘The Hollywood Squares’ and ‘Press Your Luck’ on the Game Show Network at three o’clock in the morning.”

Parents with young children were issued mandatory 28-hour days to ensure they were getting the required sleep. The parental time zone meant Tuesday was cancelled for families to keep the calendar relevant, which confused everyone. Many citizens refused to obey the sleeping laws, such as astronomers, and Texas, which finally made good on its threats to secede.

“First they’ll make us sleep,” they hollered at one another during protests, “then when we’re sleeping they’ll come for our guns.”

There was a brief uprising, which was not televised. Ten hours of slumber meant no one had time to watch around-the-clock war coverage, much less engage Texas in combat. Snuggle pornography became the preferred erotica, everyone lying in bed fully clothed watching fully-clothed actors lie in bed, listless, the less movement the filthier: “Check out those sweatpants. That’s hot.”

***

“It turns out stress makes the country function. Eliminate stress and we’re all,” the surgeon general penned in her resignation letter, “fucked.”

Businesses shuttered. The economy tanked. Without the population teetering on the brink of insanity, nothing operated on time. A well-rested citizenry, while cheaper from a healthcare perspective, was irritatingly pleasant and optimistic and useless. It was easy to remedy. Coffee shops were opened, baristas charged with re-caffeinating the public. Parental time zones were terminated. Tuesday was reinstated. The SEA was disbanded. Texas rejoined the union with the guarantee its citizens would not be required to get enough sleep.

Everyone went back to being anxious and exhausted and grouchy assholes, and it worked just fine.

Jon Methven is the author of the novel, “Strange Boat.”

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