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Early to bed, early to rise -- is insane

By JAY HORNING

© St. Petersburg Times,
published August 28, 2001


I am not a morning person. Never have been. Never will be.

Simply put, I guess I'd rather be around bats and owls than roosters and alarm clocks. In fact, one of my favorite memories is of a longtime editor who retired about the time I was beginning my newspaper career (on an afternoon paper, which meant that I had to rise at an uncommon hour and be at work before dawn). At a retirement ceremony for this grizzled newsroom veteran, his colleagues gathered around his desk to present him with gifts they thought he might enjoy, probably money.

I still remember his thank-you speech. It was brief and to the point, something like: "Thanks for the gifts. I'll miss you all, but I won't miss these hours." For emphasis, he continued: "I'm going to leave my alarm clock set when I go to bed tonight, but I'm going to take a hammer to bed with me. And when I hear that ring in the morning, I'm going to take that hammer and bust that clock to smithereens."

Whether he did that, I don't know. I'm not sure I ever saw him again. But my admiration for him has never faded.

My antipathy toward early mornings did not begin when I joined working America. I believe it is something in the genes. Leaving a comfortable bed to get up and go to school was always a problem for me, as well as for my mother, who apparently felt duty-bound to see that I received an education. Once I got to college and no longer had my personal wake-up service, cutting my 8 o'clock class was a given.

Breakfast before 9, in my view, borders on the unthinkable. The one group that got daytime scheduling right, at least for awhile, was Protestant America, which decided the best time for its weekly holy hour was 11. Unfortunately, many denominations have pushed the time back over the years, but most still offer some other options, including the ever-so sensible hour of 6 p.m. at my parish.

I know what all you early risers will say. The morning is quiet and peaceful, and you love watching the sun rise and hearing the birds awaken. I like to shift into low gear in the evening, watch the sun set and the moon rise, in phases yet, enjoy the birds settling in for the night and maybe have a nice candlelight dinner or a nighttime walk on the beach and under the stars.

You will tell me you can get so much work done in the morning. I say, go ahead, but we night people can accomplish more after the sun goes down, sometimes after midnight. I suppose that is why I was so much happier when I finally had a job with a starting time in mid- to late afternoon rather than in the pre-dawn hours.

People told me I would change when I retired, but after 10 years, I think I've proved them wrong. Early hours are still anathema to me, and even if I begin to give in to sleepiness sometimes in the evening hours, I usually get a second wind and enjoy the night.

For those of you who just can't sleep after daylight arrives, I'm sorry. But for those of you who could sleep but choose not to, I have no sympathy. You've made your bed, and now you don't want to lie in it. It's your choice, of course. Just please don't call me before 9 a.m. And make that invitation for brunch.

- You can write to Jay Horning c/o Seniority, the Times, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731. Or send e-mail to jayhorning@aol.com.

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