Thursday, September 25, 2014

I hate, envy, and fear morning people

I might have to punch this spoon.

"I never get enough sleep. I stay up late at night, 'cause I'm Night Guy. Night Guy wants to stay up late. What about getting up after five hours sleep? 'Oh, that's Morning Guy's problem. That's not my problem. I'm Night Guy. I stay up as late as I want.' So you get up in the morning. You're exhausted, groggy. 'Oooh, I hate that Night Guy!' See, Night Guy always screws Morning Guy. There's nothing Morning Guy can do. The only Morning Guy can do is try and oversleep often enough so that Day Guy loses his job and Night Guy has no money to go out anymore."
-Jerry Seinfeld

Good old Æthelred
I get up at 5:00 every weekday morning. I also get up at 5:15, 5:30, and finally (for keeps) at 5:45. I am the King of the Snooze Button, a modern-day Æthelred the Unready. Literally, the word "SNOOZE" is worn out on my alarm clock radio. It just says "S   ZE" now. It's currently set to a point on the dial where it picks up two very staticky stations simultaneously (both in Spanish), and the volume is turned up all the way. The sound is, to put it mildly, not pleasant. Imagine two rival announcers yelling ads at each other in Spanish. And yet I'll still remain in bed, listening to that grating, cacophonous noise for many consecutive minutes to avoid getting up. I have a second, battery-powered alarm clock which I refer to as my "fail safe." Occasionally, that faithful little device has been the only thing which has kept me from missing my train to get to work on time. Usually, my morning routine involves staying in bed and negotiating with myself, as I decide which important, unskippable steps I'm going to skip before running to my car at the last possible minute. Breakfast? Screw it. I'm not even that hungry. Maybe there'll be donuts at work. Shaving? Eh, I shaved yesterday. Besides, stubble is "in," right? Shower? Hmmm. Let me smell my armpits. Not too terrible. No one'll notice. And finally, the last concession: Brush my teeth? Hell with it. I've got wintergreen-flavored gum.

Are you starting to get the idea that maybe I'm not a morning person? Friends, I thought I would get used to waking up early after more than a decade at my current job. Nope. I'm still dazed, disoriented, and completely exhausted at the beginning of every workday. At that hour, I can fall asleep standing up while resting my forehead on the towel rack in the bathroom. That's happened a couple of times. At 5:45, I might as well be Keith Richards in 1974 at the depth of a narcotics binge. I try to read on the train, and I inevitably doze off after a paragraph which I've attempted to finish three times without success.

Despite all of this, I have no real desire to become a morning person, even if such a conversion were possible. I'm a confirmed night owl by nature, and I'll be damned if I'm going to oppose nature. Left to my own devices, I would actually go to sleep at around 5:00 in the morning, i.e. the same time I'm supposed to be waking up. I find that my most productive, creative hours are between midnight and four. That's when most of the Ed Wood articles are written... only on Friday and Saturday nights, of course. On weeknights, I usually have to take Tylenol PMs to force myself to get some sleep, and even then I'm up until at least eleven or twelve. My self-imposed bedtime is 9:30, but I never make it. That's the time of day when I want to do stuff. Writing during daylight hours feels "off" to me -- not impossible, but not totally comfortable either. Like milk a day past its expiration date. Sure, you can still pour it on your cereal, but it somehow isn't as fresh-tasting as it ought to be. I don't even know where I'm going with that analogy, and a big part of that is because I started writing it when the sun was still out. The point is, I've dealt with insomnia for virtually all my life, but maybe the problem is that I'm just wired the opposite of most people.

For virtually my entire life, I've lived in suburbia, the natural habitat of the morning person. The 'burbs shut down at night. Everyone goes home and watches Dancing with the Stars or whatever. (By the way, did I ever tell you my idea for a cheap knockoff of that show called Prancing with Celebs? Well, I just did.)  Even in Chicago where I work, the financial district is pretty dead by six in the afternoon. Recently, however, I made a pilgrimage to Manhattan, and there I found a world which was like the Bizarro version of my normal reality. When I got there in the afternoon, I thought the neighborhood was a shithole. Nothing was happening, and nobody was out except for the bums. The place didn't come to life until the nighttime. That's when the bars, restaurants, and other businesses really started hopping... and this was going on during the middle of the week! That's absolutely unheard of where I live. New Yorkers may find this to be all very commonplace and "boojwah," but it blew my mind. I had no idea people lived like that. It's a funny old world, isn't it?

Any thoughts you might have to share on this topic are welcome in the comments section. Night owls? Morning people? Make yourselves heard! Me, I'm going to drink some warm, just-expired milk.


  1. I grew up a very grumpy person in the morning, but during my freshmen year of college, I lived with three night people who turned me into their personal alarm clock. Dorm life, shockingly, turned me into a morning person because it was the only time I could have all the space to myself. All through college I would get most of my homework or workouts done in the morning. Later, I worked a job from 4PM to 10PM and it was pretty much the worst thing ever because I couldn't adjust my clock to nights. Today, I'm an official morning person who has a really hard time staying up after 10. It works for me (I get most of my exercise, blogging, and TV watching done before work) but it makes me something of a pill to hang out with at night!

    1. Hey, I wish I had an internal alarm clock that functioned normally, like a decent member of society. And getting anything accomplished before going to work? That would be bliss and heaven embodied. I keep telling myself, "I'll get up early tomorrow before work and maybe jog around the block." Yeah, right. Never comes close to happening. The only running I do is from my apartment to my car and my car to the train platform.

  2. If I'm a Morning Person, then it is by grudging acceptance, not by choice. For my present job, I have to get up at 6:30 to be in work an hour later, so that's the time I set my alarm for. When it goes off, I get up, knowing full that if I sleep through it (which I've done a few times) I won't be able to have my daily bowl of oatmeal (as Wilford Brimley would say, it's the right thing to do) while I watch something short, usually a sitcom episode or Criterion Collection/Shout! Factory supplement. (For example, I've spent the past couple of mornings enjoying Constance Towers's interviews on Shock Corridor and The Naked Kiss.)

    1. Again, I am in awe of anyone who is able to accomplish anything before work in the mornings. It would be a good time to get some viewing in, but it'd be wasted on me since I'm legally brain-dead at that hour. I don't watch anything on the train either, because that, too, would be a waste.

      Like the idea of using that time of day for DVD supplements. Good call!

  3. I worked for 8 years as an morning person, then 12 as a night/second shift person. The years I worked from 3:30-10pm were among THE BEST of my life! I could get stuff done--go to the doctor, have my piano lesson, exercise, practice...all before work!

    Now, I've been waking up at 3:30 (or thereabouts) in the morning for almost 8 months. I WILL NEVER GET USED TO THIS. I don't often feel like going to bed at a normal time (9 pm), but if I stay up until 11, I'm more than likely to just stay up until 3:30, catch a quick nap on the train, and stagger through work, crashing into bed at 7:30 (like last night.)

    I know why I do it (I can catch a free ride with my father) and I do NOT want to catch a bus and train to get to work. I've done it, but I don't like the iffyness of trying to deal with various bus problems. I refuse to stand for a 30 minute bus trip on an overcrowded, overheated bus. I can get a 10 minute ride (at the most) and a quiet 30 minutes on the train (if there's no one trying to convert me...I don't even have the energy for atheism, much less anything else!)

    As for downtowns, I would've thought Chicago would have a half-way decent evening/night life. Walking around downtown St. Louis is like being in a no-budget zombie film. If there's not a Cardinals game, forget it--the streets are empty. I've been downtown on a Saturday morning where I was the only person out on the whole block. No cars, no people walking, nothing but peace and quiet...which was scary.