After a big meal, I fell into a restless sleep and dreamt it was 2050 ...
"Follow me," said a jittery old man as we hurried through a dark alley to a warehouse door.
The man knocked on the door five times. It opened and we entered.
"Where are we?" I said.
"The last refuge of freedom," said the man as he lit a cigarette and took a deep drag.
"I don't understand."
"Don't you remember 2010?" said the man. "The government passed sweeping health-care reform that eventually led to the collapse of the private-insurance system. It was replaced with a government-funded single-payer system."
"Sure. Now the government taxes the people to create its health-care budget and pays for everyone's care," said the man. "It was only a matter of time before it started controlling people's behavior."
"With sin taxes?"
"It started that way," said the man. "High taxes on alcohol, tobacco and sugary treats generated needed revenue at first, but soon the government wanted total control."
The man led me to another door in the back of the room. He knocked five times and said, "Cholesterol lives!"
The door opened and we were led inside.
I saw a woman sitting at a table, devouring ice cream from a five-gallon bucket.
"Ice cream production ceased with the Rocky Road Elimination Act of 2022," said the man.
"They banned ice cream!"
Another man was tearing open packs of strawberry Zingers and stuffing them into his mouth, four at a time.
"Zingers, too!" I said.
"Yes," said the man, nodding, "as part of the Dolly Madison Cessation Act of 2024."
Across the room, a woman was eating fried chicken, a man was chomping on a corned beef sandwich, an executive in a business suit was chugging bourbon from the bottle, and a woman next to him was gulping coffee right out of the pot.
"They banned coffee!"
"Caffeine made people irritable and more likely to vote for Republicans," said the man.
"How did this happen?"
"It goes back to 2010," said the man. "The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly a third of Americans -- some 73 million people -- were obese."
"That was surely a problem, but how did it lead to bans?"
"Obesity is a leading cause of health problems and high health costs," said the man. "Once private insurance was gone, the government gradually figured it had every right to ban behavior that caused it to spend more."
"This happened in America?"
"Over time," said the man. "In 2010, bans were being suggested in countries with government health systems, such as the United Kingdom. In America, local governments began banning salt and the construction of fast-food restaurants. In time, the federal government concluded that people were too dumb to regulate their own food intake. You have to admit, they had a point."
"Look," I said, "it's true that Americans were fat and getting fatter in 2010. America's free, capitalistic system unleashed so much wealth in such a short period of time, there was an abundance of many things, including food and the money to buy it.
"And it's true that capitalistic efficiencies were applied to the mass production of food -- processed foods were engineered to cook fast and taste good, but they were packed with calories. Government should require food makers to inform consumers about what they are eating.
"But what happened to simple freedom?" I continued. "How did my country slowly give up its right to make the most basic decisions?"
Just then a siren sounded.
"Raid!" shouted the old man as he grabbed a bowl of cigarettes and dived out a window.
"Raid!" I heard again as I woke, breathing heavily, happy to return to 2010.
Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, is also a humor columnist for the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate. E-mail Tom at Purcell@caglecartoons.com.