MCCULLOUGH: The early bird is just annoying

Nate McCullough

Nate McCullough

I'm a night owl. I have been all my life.

When I was a little kid, my mama used to have to put me back to bed when she would catch me up playing in the middle of the night.

When I got a little older and developed a love for the old horror movies that played on the late, late show, I would get out of bed at 1 or 2 in the morning. I would sneak out to the den and watch Vincent Price, Boris Karloff or Bela Lugosi with the volume turned way down on the TV and sitting right next to the screen, so I wouldn't run the risk of waking anyone up. I'm not sure mama ever knew that. Until just now anyway.

In high school I would watch Johnny Carson on a little black and white TV next to my bed, read novels under the covers with a flashlight or play my guitar very softly. In college, with no one to tell me what to do, the nights got a lot later.

Most of my jobs have been at night, too. Whether it was closing up a grocery store, the graphics business or newspapering, I've almost always gone to work when others are going home. And I've never minded much.

When you work nights, the daytime is a lot easier. Everyone else is at work. Lines are shorter. Stores are less crowded. Roads, too — some of them anyway.

Plus, I love the night. There's a comfort in it to me somehow. It's more peaceful. I guess because so many folks are afraid of it, we night owls thrive in it.

But a love of the night means a loathing of the morning. When your average bed time is 2 a.m. or later, the occasions when you have to be "normal" can be downright painful.

No one who is not on night shift understands either. On the rare occasion that day people see you in the morning they wonder why in the world you look so terrible, why you're in such a foul mood. They can't fathom why you can't just be awake and alert like everyone else.

It happened this week. A lot of us dark-siders had to come in Wednesday at 9 a.m. for training on some new software. Our boss tried valiantly to get the time changed, explaining to the trainers that we all had to work late the night before then turn around and be back a mere eight hours later. But there were airline flights involved apparently, and the schedule couldn't be changed.

So we dragged in, grumbling and groaning, red-eyed and delirious from getting up four or five hours before we normally do. One person asked me how it was going. I replied, "How should I know? It's the middle of the night."

It was, in fact, 8:55 a.m. But to me, that's the middle of the night.

And because everyone else's day is your night, you miss out on a lot. Night people don't meet for breakfast. You're more likely to see us at a midnight movie than a matinee. We don't do brunch. Many of us don't even do lunch.

But it takes years to train your friends. Many of them will continue to schedule meetings and events for what is, to you, the crack of dawn. And they remain mystified — and some even get a little angry — when you turn them down, or show up late, looking like a bum.

But God forbid you should try to turn the tables:

"You want to get together? How about midnight?"

They give you a funny look. "But ... I'll be in the bed."

"Not me. I'll be wide awake. Alert. Ready to go. Let's make it midnight."

A longer stare. "But ... but that's the middle of the night."

"For you maybe. For me it's more like late afternoon."

At that point, these "normal" folks — people who get up at the ridiculous hour of 5 a.m., are jammed on the road with a bazillion other people before 6, at work by 7 and getting in my way in the afternoon when they head home at 3 p.m. — will say something like this: "You're kinda weird."

Yeah, well, the feeling is mutual.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.