One of my Fort Wayne neighbors was a police officer, and worked overnight. I’m a part-time editor for a company whose senior staff works overnight, too. I have an easy shift; I knock off at 1 a.m., while they’re up until dawn and beyond crafting custom newspapers for corporate America to read on their BlackBerries on the pre-dawn treadmill. The woman who relieves me should be leaving work (i.e., turning off her computer) right about now, in fact.
I really hope there’s not a wood chipper outside her house at the moment, as there is at mine.
The world just isn’t set up for night-shift workers. After a year of this, I think I’ve finally settled upon the right mixture of coffee and naps that allows me to function on five hours of sleep a night (at best). Basically, it’s this: I write in the morning, I edit at night. Sometime after lunch, when the afternoon sleepies strike, I don’t fight them. I turn off the phone and go to bed. If I’m fortunate and there are no wood chippers about, I get one hour of decent sleep, which I pad out with some recreational reading in a prone position. I’m up and about by 3, feeling like aces.
I’m always looking for tips on how to make this work better. When Detroit hosted the Super Bowl, there were lots of stories in the media about Roger Penske, who was the main mover/shaker behind the event. Penske works pretty much all the time, and has the ability to turn himself on and off at will; he’ll say, “OK, time for a 20-minute power nap,” tilt his head to the side and drift off in seconds, then wake up precisely 20 minutes later. This is why he’s a billionaire and I’m not. Also, he probably doesn’t get bothered by wood chippers.
The business press is full of stories of high-functioning insomniacs and others who claim to be totally refreshed by absurdly little sleep. This is always reported in an admiring tone — such superhumans! — and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. Martha Stewart gets by on four or five hours, or so she says. Madonna, ditto. Half the corner offices, it seems, are occupied by people whose e-mail is time-stamped 3:20 a.m. Meanwhile, all the people I work with at my night job are on my buddy list (we communicate almost entirely by e-chat), and one has this as her Away message: “I’d BETTER be sleeping now.”
I used to be a night owl, and transitioned through my 30s into lark-hood. My natural body rhythms — banished now — would send me to bed between 10 and 11 and get me up around 6, and screw all these naps and cappuccinos. But who can live that way? Not this home-office worker. The price for all our flexibility, for being able to run errands during the day and start stews braising at 2 p.m. and beating the rush at the dry cleaner and grocery store, is paid 12 hours earlier, when I shut the laptop, stretch, turn out the lights, check the locks and look up and down the street at all the dark windows. I think: Lucky bastards. And then I join them.
The wood chipper has moved to the next block. Time to get some work done. For now, the bloggage:
“American Idol” is shaping up to be more talent-free that usual — can we fast-forward to the inevitable showdown between LaKisha and Melinda now? — but entertaining in many other ways. The sadism of the baby-boom producers continues to amuse, as we watch these young’uns forget the words to “Love Hangover,” a song I’d happily pay money to have excised from my brain. And young Sanjaya, cocking his head like a puppy when Simon uses a fancy-schmancy 10th-grade word like “wail.” (Sanjaya thought he was talking about the marine mammals.) This sort of entertaining brinksmanship is why we tune in. The assignment seems so simple — find a song you can sing from the back pages of Diana Ross, a woman who wasn’t much of a singer in the first place — and yet, hardly anyone can find one. I was astonished at how many of the old Motown finger-poppers were spurned in favor of Diana’s disco catalog, or the apres-disco craptastic stuff. (“I’ve chosen a song from ‘The Land Before Time,’ Ryan.”) Melinda should have sung “Touch Me in the Morning” if she wanted something downtempo and emotional. Why didn’t anyone tackle “Reflections”? Leave it to LaKisha to play the “Lady Sings the Blues” card and sidestep the whole oeuvre by snagging a Billie Holiday song. That was smart. If you can sing better than the supposed master-class teacher, don’t sing one of her songs.
Ken Levine is funnier than I am, however: Could they pad the show any more? Christ! It was so long Paula’s drugs were wearing off.
Today is Pi Day. Happy 3.14, etc. to presumed infinity, to you.