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Sunday, November 23, 2008

M is for Melatonin


Mick had a decent job writing his widget company’s blog and making YouTube video commercials for the company’s marketing department, but since the massive layoffs, Mick’s had a hell of a lot more work to do. He puts in very long days now, but doesn’t sleep much at night because he’s too worried about losing his job ….His boss is always telling him, "Mick, we have a good widget here. But if no one knows about it, this ship is going down and you have no job ... So try to keep that in mind, Mick." Like Mick had a choice. He lay awake at night wishing he could forget that, if only for a few hours.

Most of his friends are up half the night too because they’re all in their 40s too and once you hit the big 4-0, apparently, sleep trouble settles in. But Mick’s a pretty talented and resourceful guy and he knows how to turn things around, make the best of a bad situation. So while up late one night worrying, he started thinking about what special talents he might employ to change his situation, ‘cause that’s the type of crayon he is ... the purple one. a problem-solver.

Mick’s closest friends were always telling him he was extremely intuitive and tuned in to people, like he’d know what they were thinking before they even told him. But sometimes, even though he knew things, he couldn’t wholeheartedly believe he was right, because despite his charm and talents, he had moments, as we all do, when he was less than confident.

So Mick figured out a way to make the most of his insomnia hours by using his special powers in a way that might help some people, and since he’d make a few bucks in the process, he’d have a secret stash to fall back on if he did lose his job.

He set up a little psychic booth in a very busy area of downtown. His spot was right under a bridge near a sometimes thriving club scene packed with people, many of whom seemed more than a little lost. He was pretty psyched about this venture, and even watched a few old Charlie Brown episodes where Lucy had that little advice booth, for inspiration.

But it wasn’t long before he encountered obstacles. The lost people typically didn’t stray far from the clubs, and he was a whole block away. Sure, he got stragglers and some paid the $25 fee and got useful advice about their lives. But for the most part, the only people who interacted with him were the regular crowd of homeless people who called that area home. Being the kind of guy he is, he’d gladly share his talents with them free of charge, but the people unfortunate enough to be residing near the underside of a bridge, knew better than most about what the future had in store for them. They got a kick out of him, though, and started giving him advice. “Mick,” one older lady who lived under the bridge told him. “What the heck are ya doing out here, when you could be home sleeping, in a real bed in a place that has heat on cold nights and A/C in the summer?” At this, Mick would raised his upturned palms, shrug his shoulders and say, “Bertha, I wish I could enjoy that luxury. But I just can’t sleep for more than 3 hours a night.”

“Mick,” Bertha said. “I’m going to do you a little favor. I don’t typically give my advice away for free, but I like you even if you are a wee bit odd with your crazy ideas. I’m going to say one word to you and it is going to change your life entirely. Do you believe me?”

“I don’t know,” he answered with honesty. “But let’s give it a shot. I've got nothing to lose.”

“Melatonin,” she said.

“Does that mean peace, love and happiness in some foreign language?” he asked.

No, it’s a pill from the drugstore. Go now, buy it and never come back here late at night. I will take over your booth. I need a job anyway, and you, you just need to sleep.”

Mick did as he was told. He went directly to the nearest pharmacy and bought the pills. He went home, took one, laid his head on the pillow in his gigantic bed and off into the wondrous world of sleep he went. Some eight hours later, he awoke, wondering if the whole Bertha thing was just a bizarre dream from the M, as he soon came to call it. But it didn’t really matter. For the first time in ages, he felt completely and utterly refreshed. His little spirit was renewed. People noticed that he was a new man. “Mick, what the heck is going on with you?” they’d ask.

“Sleep,” he’d answer. “I’m sleeping.”

After they got through laughing, they’d jealously inquire, “How? Please tell me, ‘cause I’ve been really stressed and I can’t sleep either. What is the secret?”

It’s M, he’d tell them. I’ve started doing M.

At first they didn’t understand. They heard about kids at those rave parties doing X, but M? Nobody knew what the hell M was. “Is that like X?” they’d ask. “No, no, no!” he said laughing. “Well, maybe. M is like middle-aged X. Kids do X because they want to stay up and party all night, right? But M, that’s for the people who are beyond all that, and they’ve learned that the key to life is not staying up all night. It’s being able to sleep.”

“Can you get me some?” they asked.

“Well, you know …. Sure.”

He never did use the word melatonin, because it sounded very boring and technical, like the sort of thing people couldn’t wrap any real beliefs around. When pushed about what the M stood for, he simply said “Magic, of course. It’s all about the magic. The magic of sleep.”

Word spread quickly off Mick’s endless supply of M, and within the month, people who didn’t even know him were calling him with lines like, “Hey Mick, you don’t know me, but your friend Josie says you got an M supplier and I really need some M. I haven’t slept a solid night in weeks. I can meet you, anywhere you want. I know a lot of 24-hour diners. You name the place.”

Sometimes, the calls would come late at night. But Mick wouldn’t hear them, because he was sleeeeeeping, for a change.

Mick never took advantage of the situation. He didn’t overcharge for M. A bottle of 120 tablets cost about $3.50 and he charged his buyers accordingly. It got to the point where he’d awaken each morning to find his phone mail stuffed with messages. Eventually, he recorded a greeting: “If you’re calling about M, meet me at 6:30 a.m. at the Starlite. I’ll be wearing a blue sweatshirt with a big red letter M on the front. Can’t miss me. Seriously.”

Eventually, there would be a line each day. At first, it was just for the pills but eventually Mick set up a merch booth, selling M shirts and matching nightcaps that also had the big letter M. He thought of himself as Melatonin man, but since most of his customers were not familiar with the word melatonin, they just called him Magic Man. The merch booth really began taking off, and Mick started a Magic Man blog and started doing his own video commercials. Eventually, he quit his draining job. Finally, he was promoting something he truly believed in – the power of sleep, and people were buying it and loving it, and benefiting from it. It was beautiful.

When the big pharmacy chain discovered Mick’s little business, they wanted to figure out a way to cash in and hired some fancy schmantzy New York ad agency to try to take Mick down. They called the local and even national news stations to try to expose Mick. But Mick’s well-rested followers would have none of it. They thought the big pharmaceutical companies were evil, and that nightcaps with the name of a pharmaceutical company on them were not a good substitute.

With all the news exposure, Mick’s little business began thriving in a way that was beyond his wildest dreams, and he had lots of dreams now that he’d begun sleeping regularly. The business got so big that he began hiring some of the nightcap-wearing, well-rested believers to help keep the operation running smoothly. He also hired some of the people he met under the bridge. Bertha became his general manager, and franchised her booth out to Ed. Mick started doing what he does best …. Creating little slogans to make people aware of something he believes in. So far it’s working. New York may be the town that never sleeps, but Pompano is now known as the town that does. Then there’s Mick’s other increasingly infamous slogan: melatonin – the perfect nightcap.

For the record, this story was not funded by a major pharmaceutical company. I would not take their money or their prizes and I think they're inherently evil. Sure they have some helpful products. I just disagree with the way they find all those loopholes to bribe doctors with free televisions, lunches and trips to push their products.

This story is purely a work of fiction, loosely inspired by some real characters melded into the fictional guys now known as of Mick a.k.a. Melatonin Man, a.k.a. Magic Man a.k.a the man who inspired people to figure out what they really care about and pursue it so passionately that they’re able to quit their other life-sucking job.

Sleep well.

Mick's hanging out in a little nook in the men's room at Books & Books in Miami Beach ... It's a big spot for M sales, because people who can't sleep at night tend to read a lot of books. He's just trying to help.

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