The Nap: modern man’s final refuge

Originally published at Playboy.

When I was a kid I found it hilarious when my dad took a nap in the middle of the day. If I caught him in the act my response would be to strut about the room crowing at the top of my lungs, “DAD’S ASLEEP! WHAT A LAZYBONES!”

If he’s written me out of his will, I’ll deserve it.

Only now, at 31, do I fully understand the need for the nap. With pressures from every quarter, what refuge is left for the modern man? Gone is the time when dragging home an animal carcass once a month could constitute a job. A 50-hour work week is normal now, on top of which you’re expected to keep fit, look good, be up to date on international affairs and know where the good restaurants are. No wonder my father stole so many naps.

Naps are always stolen, of course, never given to you. Not since the heady days of kindergarten have we been encouraged to nap. Perhaps the unions could sort this out and instate a naptime in the workplace. I like to imagine a manager going around the desks saying, “Nap time, everyone. Put down that Blackberry, Kevin, it’s time for your snooze.” Cubicles would get quiet as employees would lean back in their swivel chairs and catch 40 winks en masse.

Spain and Greece provide a precedent with their notion of the siesta. Is there any finer achievement of civilization than this socially sanctioned noontime nap? After all, the whole point of civilization is to make life more bearable, more enjoyable. So instead of scheduling lunchtime meetings, let us schedule lunchtime naps.

I’ve tried several times to build a nap into my working day and failed. I once worked in a building that backed onto a public park. It seemed like the ideal opportunity to steal a lunchtime nap.

On my first stealth nap attempt I couldn’t get to sleep because a hobo was eyeing my shoes quite avariciously, which made me uneasy. The second time I scurried out for a park nap, I managed to drift off but woke up 20 minutes later to find a squirrel had stolen my sandwich. The last time I tried it, I awoke in a cold sweat to see my boss watching me from a second-floor window.

I could never relax again after that.

Today I work from home, so I can nap whenever I like. True, time is money, and an overlong nap can cost me anything up to $200, but it’s a sacrifice I’m prepared to make. If having a surreptitious snooze while my empire crumbles to dust is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Napping is forgiven on a plane or a train, but the sleeping experience could hardly be described as fun. The most delicious nap is the forbidden nap, taken when you’re supposed to be doing something else. If you can find a way of napping when fate has sentenced you to work, you’re destined for the finest nap of all and I salute you. Accidentally nodding off in a meeting does not count! To take your place in the higher echelons of nappers, you’ve got to nap deliberately and with intention to shirk responsibility, preferably in a stationery cupboard jammed shut with a box of copier paper or beneath your desk, like George Costanza.

An added benefit of taking a nap in the afternoon is that you can stay awake later into the night. When you don’t collapse from exhaustion at 10 P.M., you can have the social life they talk about in magazines. You can be James Bond or Noël Coward, schmoozing the ladies with an elaborate cocktail. Or you could just stay at home reading Playboy into the night.

Fight for your right to doze. Take your naps where you can get them.

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