LANGUGE FOR NIGHT OWLS: OR WHAT DAY IS IT?

What exactly do you call today when it’s past midnight, but bedtime isn’t for another five hours?

I have always been a night owl. My natural body clock reverts itself to a bedtime close to two am when no outside schedule is applied. Summer vacations and the times I’ve been without a job, it’s been the same pattern.

Even my early years when I had a strict bedtime, I remember laying in bed, wide awake, with my thoughts running wild. Something about the quiet of night, when everyone else is sleeping, makes my imagination come alive. I have distinct memories of a few night’s daydreams even after all the years. One I remember warmly is imagining myself in the chocolate room scene of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I was in the first grade and my parents had rented a VCR and the movie. I was enchanted by the vibrant colors, the music and, most of all, Gene Wilder’s voice, not to mention the novel experience of VHS tapes. I suspect the memory I have is from many nights of silently repeating the words to the songs in my head and thinking about eating one of the tea cup flowers.

In my teenage years, I journaled and wrote poetry long into the night filling notebooks with my round cursive. I’ve had both the bad kind of insomnia and the good creative kind as an adult. What I never have an easy time with is going to bed before midnight or waking before nine.

It’s still true to this day. I seldom turn off the light until Chris is sound asleep, but instead lay in bed read for at least a few minutes. It is a ritual I find soothing regardless of what time I go to bed.

Even my night owl ways have been challenged of late.

With my new job, I am working from 6:30 pm to 3 am. Luckily, Chris is on the same hours though we have different days off. We are, I neglected to mention when I posted about the job previously, working at the same place, but that is beside my current point.

The first week was very difficult. I trouble staying alert. Not having any callers after midnight was a mixed blessing. At least I didn’t have to think, but there was no adrenaline to keep me on my toes. And believe me, the first week on the phones in a new call center involves plenty of adrenaline as you struggle to put training into practice while giving the caller the impression you’re an expert.

I indulged myself in coffee and junk food to ease the transition. Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly adjust to going to bed at five or six in the morning, I found myself getting a second wind after my “lunch” at 11 pm without a second cup of coffee. It took a few more days to sleep beyond my previous wake up time, but now I’m better adjusted to this than I ever adjusted to working 7 am to 3:30 pm even after a year.

The one part I can’t same to wrap my head around is keeping track of the days of the week and the date. As I write this, the calender on the corner of the computer screen says it is 7/18/2012, a Wednesday, but in my head it is Tuesday. It is bad enough that Tuesday is my Friday, but it seems Wednesday morning is my Tuesday night. I am confused and dependent on the clock and the calender by this going to bed with the raising of the sun in a way that staying up til two never troubled me.

It feels funny to tell the few remaining workers when I leave “good night” and great Chris with “good morning” when I drag myself out of bed. Maybe it troubles me so because I am a language nerd. I value precise use of words. I don’t claim to be perfect, but certain things drive me batty. For example, people say “PIN number” or “ATM machine” without registering the redundancy. I am too polite to point out they are saying “personal identification number number” and “automatic teller machine machine” but don’t think for one second it is easy to refrain.

What I would love to see happen is for a sort of generic equivalent to evolve to denote a sleep and waking cycle which doesn’t follow the wake by morning, sleep by night paradigm. And don’t even get me started on the weekday/weekend workweek cultural assumption. I don’t know nearly as many people who work Monday to Friday “business hours” as I know who work all kinds of crazy days and hours. Being wished a “good weekend” when your weekend is long shifts and grouchy customers is demoralizing.

It seems inevitable as we move more to a global culture and a twenty-four hour business day that we’ll get some new words or phrases to accommodate. I also suspect within a hundred years, we’ll abolish time zones in favor of a global standard. It think it would be practical for syncing business operations and less brain power would be spent calculating time zones. Each current time zone could still schedule activities better done in daylight during those hours, but it wouldn’t matter where on the twenty-four clock the daylight.

The sooner this happens, the better for me. Let’s get on it, society.

Author: Tina Louise

Nerd. Geek. Dork.

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