The last job I had that required me to wake up before 7 a.m. on a daily basis for more than a month was a factory job back in college, and that was a summer gig.
Since entering the real world and being confronted with the surreal salaries of young journalists - "Twenty thousand a year? Great! I can start tomorrow!" - I've never had to wake up early every day. My first job had me at work from about 2 in the afternoon to midnight. After that it was a job that ran from 4 p.m. until 1 a.m.
Today, like nearly every Monday, I'll be in the office from 4 p.m. until about 3 a.m. Even on the days I get up early - and I really should put air quotes around the word early there - it only means waking up at 9 for a 10 a.m. start. Twice a month I do have to live the life of millions. The alarm sounds at 5:30 a.m. It seems unreal that anyone else is up at this hour. But the subway's always jammed two stops down, and I assume those people are getting up that early every day.
Not a morning person.
The phrase implies a lot about someone. It means you probably stay up late, past midnight, past 1 a.m. It means you are a morning person, as long as those morning hours are between 12 and 3. It means those who talk to you early in the day do so at their own risk. It's a phrase that almost forgives bad behavior between the hours of 6 a.m. and 8 a.m.
Say you snap at a parent or a spouse because they used up the last of the milk.
They look at you as if the person who went to sleep last night is not the same monster confronting them now. Instead of apologizing, simply shrug your shoulders, give a gee-whiz smile and say, "Sorry, not a morning person."
It's like the friend who offends everyone but gets excused with, "Well, he's a good guy but you know what he's like when he gets a few drinks in him."
"He's a good guy but you know what he's like if he's awake for the start of the Today show."
I've always wanted to stay up late, and like many things in my life, the blame - or credit - goes to the Lakers. As a kid I engaged in high-level negotiations with my parents whenever the Lakers had a late game on television. They started at 9:30 Central time and invariably lasted until midnight. To get permission to stay up for it, I had to convince my mom that it was an especially big game (and, yes, my homework was already done). Sure, it was a January game in a neverending regular season, "But, mom, this could determine homecourt advantage for the playoffs."
She'd give me half the game, especially if I gave an assurance that it would be a blowout by halftime and I wouldn't even have to watch the last two quarters. Around 10 my dad headed off to bed. When halftime finally arrived and the Lakers only had a one-point lead, there was no way I was turning the TV off. Back then, I might have to wait two days to find out the result of the game, as the morning newspaper never had the late West Coast games. Mom would give a skeptical look.
"But it's a big game," I'd remind her.
Grudgingly, she relented.
I stayed up. Watched the Lakers win. Went to bed. And cursed when the morning arrived and school beckoned. Not a morning person. It was then I started realizing that life is so much more interesting after midnight, and so meaningless nearly anytime before noon.
Today, 12 years into my full-time embrace of jobs that always include at least one late night and only rarely an early morning, it might be too late for me to ever change. There are better TV shows on late at night. Scarier movies, more entertaining and bizarre infomercials. More heartbreaking Cold Case episodes on TNT. It's quieter, more peaceful. I think better after midnight, I write better. Creativity flows easier. Or, more likely, I've simply conditioned myself to believe that, and the clock serves as an electric placebo.
Kids would certainly change my sleeping habits, if not my waking preferences. Maybe they'll learn to hate the morning, too. Maybe we can share that.
Louise is the rare creature who's a night owl and a morning person. In her ideal world, she'd stay up until 1 a.m. and wake up at 5 a.m. And the earlier she wakes up, the happier she is, the more chipper her personality. It's some type of defect.
I have it lucky. I fit into the not-a-morning-person category but my job and lifestyle caters perfectly to me. The people I feel the worst for are those who aren't morning people yet find themselves waking up early every day, month after month, year after year. My mom is one of those unfortunate souls. For 40 years she's woken up at 6:30, often 5 a.m. or even earlier. You'd think by now she'd be a morning person, that it would have been ingrained in her. But she's not.
So perhaps it's not just the Lakers that started me on this path, maybe it's genetics.
Regardless, I embrace it. Last night I stayed up until 3, reading, writing, and watching a V marathon on cable. Tonight I'll be up awake past four, winding down from work. I'll sleep until noon and half the day will be gone before I wake up. But if I miss the morning, I'll know I haven't really missed a thing.