Everything That Rises

Have you ever found yourself gritting your teeth and swallowing back curses while talking to someone who describes themself as an "early riser"? These "morning people" can have such an air of smugness about them, it certainly rubs me up the wrong way.

It's just an assumed social fact that early risers are somehow superior beings to those of us who work to a different biological clock. It's known as the "Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise" myth. This of course ignores and contradicts the accepted fact that many, perhaps even most, of the creative and artistic people in history were/are "night owls." It's not that night owls are better, it's that there are simply MORE OF US.

Didn't know that eh? I was reading a study by a chronobiologist (Dr.Richard Coleman) and he has calculated that 31% of people prefer a night owl retiring schedule as opposed to only 6.5% for the early bird retiring schedule. (Figures were about even in regard to rising schedules).

Of course any amount of data and analysis can be disputed and even ignored by the Risers because they have language on their side: the damage is done by the pejorative terms Early and Late themselves.

If get up at noon, that is called getting up "late". But what am I late for? I don't have to work until 7pm. But I am still "late" and that annoys me. If someone else were to get up at 6am, that's "early"–but their work might have started at 5am, yet they are still "early". Damned by the language itself.

Musicians are notorious for late nights and the inevitable late morning. I regularly don't get to bed before four or five (and often six) in the morning. This means that when I meet a "Riser" at, say, noon the next day I may have had only six or seven hours sleep, less than the recommended eight. And yet I still hear the chuckled, but barbed, comments–"Only just up? It's well for some, ha ha." This is usually followed by a quick synopsis of their morning habits:"Yes, I'm up at 6:45am, have breakfast and a quick shower before driving an hour out to Shannon, so I probably get about four hours work done before you turn over in the 'scratcher,' ha ha."

I first encountered the phenomenon of the "scratcher" while I was living with a couple of Johnny Wageslaves some years back. No matter what the situation, if a Riser is asleep, then they are in what is known as a "bed". Then a magical transformation occurs at approximately 9:15am (I've thought about this quite a bit!), the piece of furniture once called a "bed" now becomes a "scratcher", with all the associated negative connotations. It is of no matter that you only got in to it at 6:30am the same morning.

In addition to the distain, I'm tired of the discrimination too. Because my business as a musician takes place in the evening/nighttime, I am therefore not entitled to visit a bar to unwind after work. Ditto all the people who do shiftwork out in Dell or wherever. There's a large community of marginalised workers who have to risk proscecution and put up with surly bartenders if they want to sneak a late pint at 3 or 4am.

My hope for people reading this article is this: if you are a night owl, realise that you are not a bad person, not a freak, and not alone. If you are an early riser, think about your attitudes before you express them. Are we really so much beneath you simply because we choose a different 8 hours to do our sleeping? Is conformity that important to you? Is the nurse who treats you in the emergency room at 4am some morning really an idle layabout, because at noon the next day she's asleep? In the "scratcher" perhaps? Get over yourself!