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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19 thoughts on “What Time Is It?

  1. I’m more night than morning myself and you’re right, morning people don’t always get the night people.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      It can become almost as judgemental as religion. I’ve met a couple of Jehovah’s Bedtimers. If you don’t attend The Church of the Early Risers, you’re doomed to a Hell of polka-playing accordionists.

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  2. I’m more night person too – even as a kid I would stay up late until the last adult went to bed. Now as an adult I’m forced to squeeze myself into a schedule that works for parenthood and professional life.

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    • Archon's Den says:

      Mom insisted that the six-year-old went to bed at 8 PM, and then got grumpy that I was still awake at 11, when she and Dad headed for bed. Of course, that could have been because I kept my sound-sleeping brother awake that late too.

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      • For some reason my parents let me stay up. Maybe it was weekends though, or special occasions, because I do remember having a bed time – probably on school nights.

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  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    Mollie and I are both night people too. We saw a segment on the national news the other day confirming something we already knew, that lack of sleep increases stress, and that in turn does very bad things to one’s health including high cholesterol, heart disease and a diminished immune system. It’s a wonder we are still alive because all my working life was a struggle against natural sleep patterns. Even when I was home Mollie, bless her, was always up with me to get me sent off properly. But the Navy was the worst of it of course.

    Life at sea on a war ship is generally wrapped around watch rotations of 4 hours on duty and 8 hours off, but with 2 hour watches (“dog watches”) each evening. The dog watches have the effect of constantly rotating the schedule. Regular work and sleep are accomplished during the off-watch periods. The U.S. surface Navy has the bizarre tradition that despite the unnatural interruption of normal sleep patterns caused by watch schedules it is still improper, even an unmanly sign of weakness, to be abed while the sun is up and therefore it is prohibited. That’s one reason I applied for submarine duty. Submariners aren’t that crazy – if there’s a chance to crawl into the sack, they do it because you never know what the future holds. I was awake for 38 hours once, and that was after a sleep of only 4 hours, so I can tell you what happens then. Hallucinations.

    Youth can handle stress, I’m living proof of that, but I always thought that when retirement came I would be sleeping until noon, as you describe Archon, and as I did as a schoolboy during idyllic summer vacations. Mollie is a super sleeper, but it doesn’t happen for me. What typically happens is we turn in about 10:30p, sleep deeply at first, and then my eyes pop open about 2:00a, thinking about the meaning of life. I often listen to inanities on the radio (headphones) for about an hour, sometimes two. ET’s, Bigfoot, UFO’s, out of body experiences, conspiracy theories, Greek bank failures. Enough of that seems to be sleep-inducing, but I’m usually up by 7:30a anyway. It’s the daylight coming through the blinds, I think. (Submarines didn’t have windows.) If I had to be up, I wouldn’t want to, but I don’t, so I am. Sigh.

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  4. kayjai says:

    I’m a morning person and so is Hubby. Our kids all seem to be the same. Son has been getting up at 5:30 since his birth…kinda melds well with me. By 10:30pm I’m toast. The girls do their own thing, but they seem to be much the same…maybe once they venture out on their own, they’ll change. Time will tell….

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    • Archon's Den says:

      Until he was six or seven, the son got up with the sun, but slowly morphed to a late-night person. The daughter was always a late-nighter, but when the grandson needed to be readied for school, and the last five years as the president of the housing association, she’s been up early. Grandson is now almost twenty and looking for a full-time job, and a new board has been voted in. LadyRyl can now watch late-night TV, except that she cancelled her cable.

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  5. whiteladyinthehood says:

    I’m a night person forced to be a day person.
    “We started work at seven AM, and had a half-hour commute, but left around six, “just in case.” — that really made me laugh – my Dad was like that and my mom still is…My mom will have a 15 min drive somewhere and leave an hour early “just in case”…

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    • Archon's Den says:

      This *getting up before breakfast, and working between meals* gets old, fast. Dad’s half hour commute included winter highway driving, so I understood his worries. Another town resident who worked at the same plant in the city, but on the afternoon shift, got within two miles of the factory, but was turned back by police for a snow-drifting traffic tie-up. He raced his little VW Beetle around the even snowier by-pass, approached the company from the back, and still got to work on time.

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      • whiteladyinthehood says:

        Well, your Dad had a good reason to leave early if the weather was bad…maybe I need to get VW Beetle! 🙂

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  6. I am a night person, too. If I get on a regular schedule, I’m okay either way, but working shift work just kills me, even if the latest I get home is 11pm. I’m trying to get on an 11-7 sleep schedule, to make sure I get enough sleep (though I prefer 9 hours).

    But if I was l left to my own devices, I’d be more of a 2am or 3am to about 11am sleeper. I once worked nights at an amusement park, and that was about the sleep shift I had. I never felt so rested in all my life. The right sleep truly does make a difference in your mood and energy. I guess it’s chemical.

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  7. Archon's Den says:

    An evening shift, at an amusement park….I am so jealous. Maybe growing old is bringing the grumpy chemical out. No matter how much sleep I get, or what time I wake up, I’m resentful that I have to get up. It does beat the alternative though.

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  8. My sleep habits have always been eratic. My years as a grain buyer were the most regular hours I’ve ever had, and even there, during seeding and harvest the schedule went out the window and I was open whenever somebody needed something.

    The only thing regular about my years trucking was the time to be at the shop after a day or two at home. The regular 8 to 4 or whatever hours of most of my pickup and dropoff points dictated my driving hours to a large extent. On the longer hauls I’d stop and sleep whenever I got weary for however many hours, usually about 4. If I arrived at a dropoff as they were leaving for lunch I’d tell them to wake me up when they got back, and crawl onto the bunk for a snooze. Meals were whenever opportunity arose.

    Now I generally sack out around midnight and I’ll be awake anytime between 3 and 8. I’ll occasionally catch an hour’s nap mid afternoon.

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    • I read about a sleep study once, where they had the people in windowless rooms, and they had no idea what time it was. Those people got onto a general schedule of sleeping 4 hours at a time, then being up and active for a certain number of hours (which I can’t remember if it was 4, 6, 8). But it was a fairly consistent sleep/wake cycle that they naturally fell into, around the clock.

      I know that the light from the sun hitting the back of your eye triggers a chemical release that wakes you. I sometimes have a hard time falling to sleep, even when I go to bed really tired, because I pick up my phone to play “a quick soduku” before I go to sleep. I wonder if the phone light triggers that wakefulness, even though my body is tired and I really want to sleep.

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