What Time Is It?

Savor made me think about another basic difference between people, last night, when she remarked about me responding to a comment in the middle of the night.  Diurnal vs. Nocturnal.  There are day people, and there are night people.  The two don’t normally hang out in the same groups, but sometimes a day person marries a night person….and then the fun begins.

My parents and my younger brother were all day people, impatiently tapping their fingers, waiting for the sun to rise.  My sister and I were both night people.  Our parents, especially Mom, just never seemed to get it.  My sister married young and had five kids.  They learned early in life to get themselves fed and off to school.

Her schedule was much like mine is now, go to bed about four AM, crawl back out around noon, to feed the kids lunch.  Their family moved into a house across the corner from ours.  Mom said it was not unusual to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night and see lights still on.  She bitched at my sister one time, “You should be up early, doing laundry, or scrubbing floors.”  My sister replied, “What do you think I’m doing at three AM, without the kids in the way?”

My dad got me a summer job, two successive years, at the plant where he worked.  Lord knows how early he got up.  He’d haul my ass out of bed at five-thirty.  I’d dress and have tea with him.  I couldn’t face food that early.  We started work at seven AM, and had a half-hour commute, but left around six, “just in case.”

He sometimes praised the glories and benefits of rising early, almost like a religious experience.  One Friday evening, after the standard five-thirty rousting, I got together with a bunch of my friends.  We hit the bowling alley, then a restaurant, had a swim in the harbor, hiked a couple of miles upriver, built a campfire, cooked some canned food, wandered back into town, and one friend and I went down to the beach for another, early swim.  The sun was just coming up.

I thought I might get a bit of sleep on the beach.  I knew I’d be awakened when the tourist hordes descended, but, it wasn’t to be, so I headed home.  I decided to fry myself some bacon and eggs for a final snack.  As I was doing this, my Dad came out of the bedroom.  “See what I told you about getting up in time to watch the sun rise?”  “I just saw it from the other end.  It happens every day, no big deal.  I’m going to bed now.  I’ll skip lunch.  Wake me about two, and I’ll mow the lawn.”  He did, and I did, and sunrise was never mentioned again.

As I’ve worked, I’ve had to put in a variety of scheduled shifts.  The first four years at the metal fab. shop, I was supposed to work from eight-thirty to five, with an hour for lunch, but my department was undermanned.  I came in at seven, and found that I actually got as much accomplished in the first hour and a half, before the rest of the office arrived, as I did the rest of the day.

My next job, as a purchasing agent, I worked under the plant manager, rather than the office manager.  The rest of the office came in at eight-thirty.  This nasty old square-head demanded that I start at eight.  Having put in the four years starting at seven, it was no big deal.  Usually I was there ten to fifteen minutes before eight.  I came in one day at twenty to eight, and found him just fuming.  “Where the hell have you been?  I want to place a rush order with XYZ Co.!”  “I don’t start till eight.  I’m here early, and it wouldn’t matter if I was here at six, XYZ’s sales desk doesn’t open till nine.”  Facts and logic do not trump emotion.  Despite asking four times, I left after 18 months without even the three-month probationary raise he’d promised.

I worked two years straight nights in security.  I’ve worked from four to twelve, four to twelve-thirty, four till one, and, at three places, including my retirement job, from four to one-thirty.  Two of those were supposed to be four night weeks, but one of them regularly scheduled a Friday night four to nine shift, at regular pay, of course.

I put in almost twenty years at the auto plant, rotating through successive weeks of midnights, afternoons, and days.  I could work them all, but afternoons was my favorite.  It was being half asleep on my motorcycle, going in for a day shift, that caused me to misgauge pulling in behind a bus for a turn, dropped me on the street and broke my shoulder.  Workers used to bitch about having to change shifts every week.  I brought it up with the union president one day, and suggested that we rotate every two weeks.  He told me that they had tried it before I arrived, and it failed, dismally.  It’s hard enough to change after one week.  After two weeks, it becomes ingrained and it’s almost impossible.

My last two years before retirement, I worked the four to one-thirty shift.  With the occasional need to finish a specific task, there was a bit of overtime.  Regular pay, of course, but a night or maybe two, per week, of leaving around two AM.  By the time I got home, had something to eat and drink, and wound down, it was often four in the morning.  That’s the schedule I’ve stuck with.

I don’t watch much TV, and morning shows bore and distress me.  We schedule medical appointments for late morning or afternoons.  My son is almost finished five years of straight midnights.  He sleeps from ten till six.  Our schedule meshes with his fairly well, so I’m going to keep going to bed and getting up late until I have to go to a retirement home.  By then, I hope I don’t care.

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