IT IS FRIDAY MORNING in the city of Washington as I am writing this, and it is, I suppose, a beautiful morning. The sky is blue, the Celsius is climbing to a number that means nothing to me, the air is so clean, and the birds, I swear, are singing. I have been up for several hours already and I have accomplished quite a bit and now there is something I very much want to do. I want to go back to bed.
I am pretending to be a morning person. I have been pretending now for some time, getting up early, running my two point six miles, eating a real breakfast like in the movies, showering, dressing, reading the papers - pretending, in short, to be awake. I am not. Under no circumstances am I awake before 11 a.m. at the earlier. I am, in fact, asleep as this is being written.
The fact of the matter is that I cannot handle mornings. I never have, probably never will and resent the notion that I am expected to. I am not a morning person. It is not my fault. It is a handicap, like being short or left-handed or having freckles when you're young and want to look tough. I am expected to function when others function, to come out of the house with a smile on my face, kicking my heels like in the commercials - to greet the damn morning with a smile and to function, function, function. It is useless. It is unfair. People like me need to organize. We need to sit-in at some government building - in the afternoon, if that's all right.
People who can function in the morning, which is to say most people, simply don't understand the problem. To them, late-sleepers lack character. Weak people sleep late. Strong people are up with the sun. My father though that way. He is your typical, non-understanding morning person who thinks it is a sin to stay in bed when the sun is in the sky. He would come into my room when I was a kid, look down at me and order me out of bed. I would ask why and he would say - with absolute conviction - because it was time to get up.
I was just a kid, but already I was learning that I was different from most other people. Friends would come to my window in the morning and yell for me to come out and play. Snore. The smells of breakfast would come up the stairs to my room. Snore. Food beckoned. Baseball beckoned. Snore. Snore. I learned that I had to watch myself in the morning. I was likely to do anything, I could fall back to sleep while getting dressed and I did it once while leaning over to tie a shoe. I learned that I had this ability to believe I was dreaming anything that threatened to wake me up. Once, for instance, I dreamed my father had been looked out of the house and was calling me. I dreamed that because my father had been locked out of the house and was calling me.
By then I knew I was different. I became a reader of minibiographies - those "man-in-the-news" things you see in newspapers. I kept looking for the successful man who got up late - the one who would say something like, "Never got out of bed until noon. That's how I made a million." But that was never the case. Instead, I read about men who had done a day's work by eight in the morning - who had risen with the dawn and gone straight to work. By the time I was just starting to come out of my nightly coma, they had already made a fortune.
Over the years I learned to cope, to treat myself as a crazy person who was likely to do anything in the morning. I learned the hard way. I bought and then threw out several alarm clocks, until I realized that it was me who was turning them off in the morning. The conclusion was inescapable. There was no one else in the room. I started to plan my wardrobe at night, knowing that I just could not handle major decisions like what shirt to wear in the morning. I could stand before the closet, looking at my clothes, having a virtual breakdown over this important decision.I would pace and then sit down and then pace some more. Finally, I would sit down on the bed to think things over. Then I would fall asleep.
Then came the episode with Jim Barr. He was the personnel manager at the insurance company where I once worked and for a time I worked directly under him. He knew about my problem and he understood, but one day when I had come in late as ususal he summoned me to his office and demanded to know where I had been. "Asleep," I told him. "You've been up for hours," he said, obviously mad. "I talked to you on the phone." I don't remember his exact words. I remember being scared, of being told that I had told him I was already up, almost dressed, about to leave the house. We had discussed business. We had discussed business in some detail. I remembered none of this. It was like he was telling me about someone else.
Well, I know the shrinks out there are going to have their theories about all this - how maybe I'm afraid to face life or some such thing. I assure you that is not the case. I love life.
It's mornings I hate.