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INSOMNIACS By Mick Cusimano ©1992

A parody of the Immortals chapter from Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathon Swift. The Immortals were people who never died but just kept growing older. Gulliver interviews them thinking they would be cheerful people because they had eternal life. This story was written for graduate course in British Satire @ Harvard University

Upon arriving in this land, a person of quality told me strange stories about people who never sleep. They were called the Insomniacs. They are pretty rare in this land. Only one in every 10,000 children are born with this condition. They are spotted at birth with the tell-tale bags under their eyes. Throughout their lives they never sleep, staying awake 24 hours a day.

When I heard about them it was easy to conjecture the advantages this condition could have. One could work two jobs and make a lot of money. A person could be a manager of a Store 24 and be the only employee. A journalist would never have to worry about sleeping through a late-breaking story. A married person could work and spend plenty of time with the family too. Just think. Business trips would be a gold mine pocketing hotel allowances on every excursion. There would be no need of that monkey, caffeine, on your back. Who would need coffee to wake up if you are are already awake.

Once my position was secure, I endeavored to spend time with these fascinating people. My guide brought me to a bar having its last call. He introduced me to several people at a table, the legendary Insomniacs. To my shock, they turned out to be a melancholy lot, very irritable, edgy, and bored with never ending grayness of the waking world. All was not a bed of roses for those without beds. Many of them worked and amassed comfortable sums of money when young. But the desire to keep that pace leveled off when they reached 35 or 40.

Late Night Larry told me some problems that plagued these unique people. The divorce rate among Insomniacs was twice the national average. Being together an extra 8 or 10 hours a day caused frayed nerves and increased marital tensions. Having Insomniac children caused more stress. Babies and children would cry, fight, and throw tantrums 24 hours a day. Feeding them and changing diapers was a never-ending chore. Parents could not take a break by putting kids to bed because Insomniac kids never took naps.

Many Insomniacs seeing their harried married friends remain single, according to Larry. All night parties and Insomniac clubs are a common occurrence. With so many hours in a day and no respite drugs, alcohol, and bigamy are major problems. Insomniacs are largely an urban phenomenon. Rural Insomniacs tend to migrate to large cities. The quiet early to bed life of rural towns is unbearable to those who stay up all night long.

The only people who seem to thrive with this condition are are workaholics. They work 80 to 100 hours a week. They have few friends. Besides working all the time they engender jealousy and resentment from fellow employees who they overshadow by their production.

For reasons that the U.S. Health Dept. cannot understand, Insomniacs are growing in number for the last three years. Many hotel managers, alarm clock manufacturers, and pajama salesmen have become increasingly concerned. Insomniacs often encounter discrimination and resentment in social situations. Late Night Larry tells how he was almost run over by an irate coffee truck driver who spotted the bags under his eyes.

I noticed that many Insomniacs worked factory or drudgery jobs. I asked Larry’s friend, Bill, why there were so few architects, city planners, or advertisers among the Insomniacs. Bill explained to me that Insomniacs are not good at conceptualizing things that are not in front of them. They are not good at envisioning new buildings, products, or future projects. Since they did not sleep, they did not dream. Not being able to dream makes them dull unimaginative nominalists. Many Insomniacs, Bill told us, held government jobs.

One group of Insomniacs were found in a basement every week. They put on something called the Naked City Coffeehouse, performing music, poetry, and dancing all night long. They drink large amounts of coffee and cappucino. This legendary bohemian behavior disguises their real condition. The truth is they stay up all night anyway because they are Insomniacs. Recent research by a graduate student at Harvard Medical School has discovered that Kerouac, Ginsberg, Fehrlinghetti, and Corso were all Insomniacs. They weren't called Beats for nothing. That is the way they looked being up all the time. The reason Jack Kerouac and Dean Moriarty constantly drove back and forth across the country was that they never slept. Being on the road was the only way to fill the endless hours of waking existence.

After meeting these people I was lead to conclude that their lives had more pitfalls than one would imagine. I wanted to continue my investigation of these fascinating people but I was too exhausted and went to bed.