Friday, March 18, 2022

Andy Young: Mole people and melonheads

By Andy Young

I’ve never had any problem with sleeplessness.  

Whatever nighttime issues I’ve had over the years haven’t involved insomnia, but rather falling asleep when I shouldn’t. Thanks to card games, intramural basketball, and other less wholesome late-night activities I frequently engaged in during my three freshman years of college, I developed the inconvenient habit of involuntarily catching up on shuteye during daylight hours, unseen and/or ignored by a droning professor at the front of the lecture hall whose voice sounded, as I nodded off, similar to the one Charlie Brown’s teacher had in those long-ago “Peanuts” TV specials. (“Wah-wah,wah wah wah wah wah wahhhhhhhhh.”)

Later on, while serving as a radio announcer with Portland’s professional baseball team, I was generally asleep before the bus left the parking lot on the morning, we’d be starting a road trip of anywhere from three to twelve hours, even after getting a full night of rest. And today, as people who have traveled any distance with me in a car can affirm, when I’m the driver I’m reasonably engaging company. But give me ten minutes of riding shotgun, and it’s a sure thing I’ll pass out.   

So, it was uncharacteristic one night last week when I woke up in the middle of the night to answer a call from nature, but was subsequently unable to return to unconsciousness right away. As an inexperienced insomniac with nothing else to do (and no one else to do it with) at that hour, I decided to try something novel: thinking.

And the first idea that popped into my mind was: what if all human beings were nocturnal? Imagine if everyone was programmed to work at night and hibernate during the daytime. Downtown districts would be deserted at high noon; parks and highways would be empty at that hour, too. There probably wouldn’t be any need for streetlights, or headlights, for that matter since our DNA would have us effortlessly seeing in the dark. Maybe we’d all look like humanoid moles, folks who supposedly have existed for generations in subterranean sanctuaries like abandoned subway tunnels, heating ducts, or mine shafts.

I’m not sure I’d like being a Mole Person. The concept of beauty would have to be different if humans were mole people, because moles are just about the homeliest creatures on the planet. One of their close relatives, the Naked Mole Rat, is bucktoothed, pigmentless, and nearly blind. Naked Mole Rats make Proboscis Monkeys look like Victoria’s Secret models by comparison.

Subsequent research reveals the existence of a 1956 sci-fi/horror film called The Mole People. One of its stars was Hugh Beaumont, who later played Ward Cleaver in the long-running TV show Leave it to Beaver. If Wally and the Beav had known that their dad once helped enslave bizarrely disfigured Sumerian albinos as mushroom pickers, they’d have been in counseling for sure.

The presence of Mole People near where I grew up was something of an urban legend, as was the existence of the Melonheads, a mini tribe allegedly living at the end of a nearby dead-end dirt road that no one had ever gone to the end of. Those in the know said the Melonheads lived in a sort of Kennedy Compound for mutants. Their freakishly oversized noggins were allegedly shaped like cantaloupes because, according to legend, no one had left the homestead for generations, and as a result of inbreeding their collective gene pool had become perilously shallow.

I’d have loved to learn more about Mole People and Melonheads the other night, but fate intervened before I could turn on my computer.

I fell back to sleep. <

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