Saturday night was doing what Saturday does best; stressing out half the world so that the other half can enjoy themselves.
The restaurant was bustling. As good as that was for money, it was a bit upsetting because no one there had worked a busy shift in months. Jerri had seen it all, having been in restaurants for more than three decades. While she was glad that things were moving now, it had been dead for so long that she was sure this place would go under within the month.
Prudy had anticipated getting cut two hours ago. There was a friend's improv show she was planning on attending, but the place had filled up. Now she was sure table 301, a four-top of finance bros, was running her for drinks as some sort of power move.
Jerri turned to Prudy while she was refilling a soda glass. "I want it to be dead, but somehow I also want to walk with at least three bills," she said with a chuckle.
Prudy nodded, "Well, I'd like to dick-punch the jackamos on 301! Man. It's bugging me how much it's bugging me. Why am I so on edge?!"
A calm and professional voice came from behind.
"Well, I mean, why are you here?" said Rose, a composed woman in her 20s with glasses and dark curly hair.
They both turned. Jerri, surprised, with brows raised and Prudy, angry, with brows lowered.
"I don't know how I feel about you questioning my life choices as I vent at the soda station," said Prudy.
"How do you sleep at night?" Rose pressed.
Jerri had things to do, but at this point, she wasn't going to walk away from a free show.
"Excuse me!?" Prudy's face turned into a gigantic frown. She turned square to face Rose. Up until now, she'd never considered a fight at work, but... suddenly Rose realized what was happening.
"OH! NO! No. I mean, how is your sleep? HOW do you sleep?"
Prudy paused and let out a huge belly laugh, "Ohh! HAHA!" she shook her red hair, "I was going to kill you! Oh, man! I have absolutely no idea how I sleep. I have never thought about it."
Suddenly, a sentence made of large, black block letters came through the front door with a loud boom. It came in with such force that it knocked Evelin, the hostess, to the ground. It snaked back to the soda station and positioned itself right above Rose's head.
1. Take time to assess your life.
"What the…" started Prudy. There was no reaction from her coworkers.
Rose continued as if nothing had happened. "If you're questioning why you feel so irritable or frustrated, you should take a moment to assess." She then pulled a notepad off the shelf under the expo line. She passed it to Prudy. "Starting now, and for the next 24 hours, check in with yourself every hour or so. Check-in on the basic things like hydration and hunger, but also do a general summation of your state of mind."
Prudy stared at the words that were still floating a paragraph or so above her coworker's head. She was unsure of how to confront this wildly improbable moment.
Rose continued, "Don't worry if you miss a check-in. If you forget, when you do remember, try and reflect back on those moments you missed. See how long it takes you to actually get an entire day's worth of reflection. And this is just for you by the way. Look back and see how your mood changes. See if you feel exhausted or energized at a specific time of day. Be as honest with yourself as possible. Put those notes away for a little while, and then revisit them. See if you feel the same way on another day. Look for patterns."
"I'm sorry," Prudy paused and looked around. "I'm… writing down what?" she closed her eyes and shook her head. Nope. All still there, and no one else seemed to see it.
"Well, if you don't think you can do that, set an alarm and pause every hour or so and assess in your head. This exercise shouldn't be a burden. The goal is to find out what time of day you feel most energized. When are you most sluggish? Most creative? Most irritated? That kinda' thing."
Prudy started, "I'm, I'm sorry, I have tables -" Jerri cut her off and put her arm over her shoulder. "Pru hun, I'll watch your section. You seem shaken. Take a moment! Chat with Rose!" Jerri turned to walk back out on the floor, "Besides! The people can wait. It's just dinner."
2. Set up a daily schedule! Prioritize sleep!
These words came down through the ceiling. Debris flew everywhere. It was as intrusive and declarative as its exclamation points. Prudy gasped.
Rose made a concerned face and continued.
Prudy's eyes widened as underlined words spilled from Rose's mouth, "What the hell, Rose? Is that a hyperlink? Did you vomit a hyperlink?" she reached up and poked at it. The page popped up behind Rose, accompanied by the sound of a juicy fart.
Prudy laughed. "I guess I'm looking forward to reading about… that." She struggled to keep a straight face.
Rose looked at her confused, "Seriously, Pru. Maybe this job is getting to you. Or maybe it's the hours you're working? It's not uncommon for people in hospitality to be affected by Shift Work Sleep Disorder. This can lead to everything from GI problems to diabetes and cardiovascular issues. It also leads to higher rates of substance abuse and suicide. This is serious!"
Prudy clicked that link multiple times. She punctuated each of Rose's words with a fart-click.
It was the funniest thing she had ever seen in her life.
"Are you okay?" asked Rose.
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know this is serious." She coughed, "Okay. I'm taking this conversation seriously, Rose." she took a deep breath and closed her eyes, "My problem is that this job is my only income. I'd rather not be working these hours, but I don't know how to pursue what I want to unless I do this." She opened her eyes as she finished, and the words and links had disappeared.
"I hear you," said Rose, "But take a moment to consider that this job isn't permanent. What happens if it disappears tomorrow? Your own well-being has to be your first priority. The point of assessing yourself is so you can determine when you're at your peak. That's where you should be putting the parts of your life that are important. From there, you should make a schedule that gives you the best opportunity to flourish. Get the sleep that helps you do the thing you'd rather be doing. Speaking of which, what would you rather be doing?"
"Me?" asked Prudy as she leaned up against the soda station, "Oh, I do stand-up and improv. I sing a little, but mostly comedy." She absent-mindedly took a sip from the soda glass in her hand. She realized it was from her table and did an unintentional spit-take.
"I see," said Rose, feeling like that joke was a bit on the nose. "That's mostly a night-time thing, right? You should be doing that now, not working here during these hours."
"That's well and good, but -" Prudy started, but Rose cut her off.
"No. Stop. Another thing to take away from your self-assessment is that all you have is right now. You're smart. You'll figure things out, but not if you let this job stop you from prioritizing your well-being. Find your direction! Find your peak productivity schedule, and then schedule in the sleep to support that. Make a hard schedule. Don't worry if you can't stick to it right away. Practice it until you can keep to it. It might take time, but you have to know what you're aiming for before you can hit it. You won't be good to anyone else unless you take care of yourself first."
Prudy nodded her head, "Wow. Okay. This feels like some great advice. I'll do it!" She said this to wrap up the conversation and stop the intrusive word hallucinations.
"Oh, hun." Rose said while pushing up her glasses, "That's just the start."
3. Eat with Purpose
These words climbed out from the kitchen window like a feral creature. A bit spooky, it reminded her of the girl from The Ring.
She was irritated by the return of this intrusive listicle.
Rose continued, "After rest, the most important thing is food. Do you remember what you had for lunch?"
"Staff meal. Pasta and chicken," she replied. Her eyes were glued to her feet.
"Don't be embarrassed!" said Rose putting out a hand, "No judgment! Especially if you've been working all day, sometimes it's the only food you get."
"Um, yeah," Prudy shrugged.
"All I'm saying is to be aware of what you're eating. Mindful eating(fart) is easier than it sounds. Remember, everything you eat is literally becoming a part of you! Eat a cupcake, but make sure it's a good f'ing cupcake, right!? It's not about being 'worth the calories,' it's about it being worthy enough to become a part of you!"
Prudy let that last page hang in the air. It would be another browser tab she'd get back to eventually.
"What you eat and when you eat it (squeak) and drinking alcohol and caffeine all affect your sleep. And sleep is a top priority."
4. LET THE SUN COME IN!
With this, the entire roof came off of the building, and the words spilled in like giant sunbeams.
Prudy said, "Excessive," under her breath while rolling her eyes.
Prudy considered not clicking on these, but they hung in the air, getting larger and larger. She clicked, but this time the sound was a rapid series of burps.
Oh, nice! Switching it up! she thought.
"Okay, yeah, like there's a thing with 'blue light' too, right?" she asked.
"It's definitely something to consider." Rose replied, "A lot of phones and digital devices have settings for that."
"I actually watch a fair amount of TV in bed," said Prudy trying to engage. "Is that bad?"
"Well, I mean, like with the cupcakes, you have to consider if it's worth it for you. There are steps you can take(burp) to make it better for you, but there are people who say the whole 'blue light' thing is overblown.
"...that doesn't mean blue light is evil. "Blue light has become the gluten of the sleep world," Goldstein says with a laugh. In other words, though it may be a potential trigger for health issues, its impact has been blown way out of proportion. - TIME magazine, Jamie Ducharme, 01/10/2020
Prudy poked the quote block, and it spun around like a hanging mobile. "I love all these random changes," she said with awe.
"I know, right!" said Rose, "It can be confusing how science is always changing. The most important thing is to be aware of how your body reacts. Pay attention to the things that work or don't work for you. The science is always evolving, and it's rarely universal."
5. How's Your Space?
The entire restaurant disappeared. It exploded outwards into a giant, characterless, white expanse. It was just her and Rose, and everything else was gone. The words zoomed behind Rose like a train coming into a station.
"The Matrix is back, I suppose," she mused.
"Did you see the new Matrix? Did that mess with your sleep?" asked Rose.
"Huh? No. Nevermind. Tell me about space."
"Ahh, yeah. My space. How should my space be?"
"Oh, uh," Rose felt like she was missing something. "Well, your sleeping space should be comfortable. Cool but not cold, dark like we said, and quiet. But one of the most important things is your pillows, mattress, comforter, etcetera. You should be thinking of these as your sleep tools."
"Oh, yeah. Like with comedy. You wouldn't go onstage without jokes, right?"
"Well, I do a lot of improv, so…."
"Ah. Hm… you wouldn't go on stage naked, would you?"
"I would if it got me a laugh," she replied.
"You might have deeper issues," said Rose concerned.
"Oh yes. Absolutely. But we aren't getting to the bottom of that here. Talk to me about tools."
"Sleep is a skill. You have to practice it, and you need the right tools to practice with. Your equipment quality and condition will affect your practice. How old is your mattress? Is your pillow still comfy and supportive? If you have a Flexible Spending Account, you can use that for some non-prescription sleep aids(BELCH) like sleep masks and vaporizers."
"Wow! I did not know that! How about beds? Can I use my FSA for, like, a new mattress?"
"Only if it's treating a specific medical condition. Your doctor, chiropractor, or other orthopedic professionals would have to say it's a medical necessity."
"Aren't you a psychologist or something?"
"I'm studying sleep psychology(poot). Yes."
"Can you get me a prescription for a mattress?"
"A few things. For starters, I am still in school. That's why I'm here with you selling cheeseburgers. Second, we don't have that kind of relationship. Don't take this the wrong way, but I kinda' hope we never do. Lastly, we're fictional characters. This is a fictional setting, and we are literary devices primarily being used to explore the world of restaurants. Nothing I say here should be taken as medical advice."
Prudy decided not to click on that link out of a feeling of self-preservation.
"Besides," added Rose, "there are companies that offer free trials of their quality sleep tools. The mattress company Lull(*wink*) even offers a year-long money-back guarantee!"
Prudy felt this was safe to click. It produced a very cute wink sound that cleared the void and brought the restaurant back around them.
"Wow! That's awesome! I'd be crazy not to consider a Lull mattress!"
Rose and Prudy both turn and stare at you.
Yes. You. 👀
6. There's! So! Much! More!
These words popped out of the floor like plants blooming.
"Oh good, this feels like we're wrapping up."
"In a way, we are," said Rose, "I mean, we've been talking about this stuff for so long that Jerri has taken over both of our sections."
Jerri ran by carrying five plates from the kitchen. "GUYS!" she yelled.
Rose continued, "But when it comes to sleep, there's nearly an infinite number of things to consider. And it'll keep changing over the rest of your life. Smells and plants(fart) can help you sleep better, so can the simple act of going on a walk(burp). But the fact is, everyone is different. We don't all need the same amount of sleep(foooop). That's why you need to start with checking in on yourself. Take time in the coming weeks to see when you feel good when you don't. Figure out what leads to those feelings!"
"Also, there are many medical conditions like sleep apnea(burble) and ADHD(pftftftftft) which can affect your sleep. And these can only be diagnosed by a medical professional. Apnea and ADHD are also often underdiagnosed in women. So take the time to figure out what's going on with yourself! Self-examine and then talk to a doctor!"
As all this information spilled out, Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity by Gustav Holst, started playing all around them.
"Wow!" said Prudy in awe. "I mean, this is all great! Now I'm like six steps away from great sleep!"
"There are many steps. This is only the start. I just said that." replied Rose.
Prudy took another sip from her table's soda glass. Again, she realized the error and spit it out.
Across the restaurant at the host stand, Jerri and the hostess Evelin stood staring at Prudy. For the last 30 minutes, she'd been drinking and spitting out the same glass of soda water while talking to the wall.
"What is going on with her?" said Evelin.
"I have no idea," replied Jerri.
Rose walked by with a tray of dirty glassware.
"Earlier, she mentioned something about micro-dosing before going to her friend's improv show," said Rose.
Evelin sneered, "She might have macro-dosed."
"All I know is that I keep giving her water. She sips it and then spits it on the ground," said Jerri.
Rose shrugged, "Maybe she needs a nap?"