We’ve become well aware of many forms of discrimination and how to avoid them in the past few years, but there’s one I suffer from (besides, increasingly, ageism) that rarely gets any acknowledgement at all. Being that which is popularly known as a night owl.
I’ve become very conscious of this lately because we’re having building work done in the house. I am actually in the fortunate position normally of not only being able to get up later than the rest of the human race, but I start my day by working in bed. A laptop and the web are the liberating factors here, along with being self employed. I am even recorded in a book as a working in bed eccentric. (see here!)
But at the moment this is all very embarrassingly public and it is probably only because I am used to being identified as eccentric that I can cope with builders turning up every morning at some unknown hour while I’m asleep, and then having them (in large quantities) wander past my window as I answer my emails in bed.
I avoid waving, so’s not to draw attention to myself and generally no-one stares. I have noticed before now that one of the courtesies that our regular early starter, Jeff the Gardener, follows is that he never looks into the house. He is good at these kinds of thoughtfulnesses and I’ve often wondered whether other people in similar outside jobs are taught to do the same.
Then today I needed an urgent dental appointment and was told to ring early on Monday morning. That means when I’m normally fast asleep. If I do force myself awake and into active contact of that sort with the world I will pay the price of feeling ill all day. It’s a cost, and I’m not sure yet whether I can face it.(Especially since I have another deplorable eccentricity – I loathe phone calls.)
There must by now be some people reading this and swearing at me. People who are as early morning sensitive as I am but who are forced to get up early every day of their lives. For work, for the children or for someone they are caring for. I gather there may be as many as a third of us in the general population – judging by this research.
How on earth does everyone cope? And why aren’t there more protests about it? Why isn’t it a recognised issue, confronted by accommodations like flexible schooling? Why did my dental receptionist ask whether it would be possible to ring early morning and have another possibility for me if I couldn’t?
I suspect part of the reason is that the whole world (as far as I know) is organised to suit early risers. At one time, before affordable artificial light, they were the hands down winners. Like my builders, they had to work in daylight. Interestingly though, I understand that historically we used to have two sleeps in the night, waking up and re-engaging during the night for a while before having a second sleep. To destroy this habit to fit us into an industrial society we had to learn that it was bad to lie around in bed enjoying ourselves in a nice dozy way.
And somewhere in this whole process the early risers have gained and kept their moral superiority. I believe that people like me are regarded as degenerate. I know I never really like to casually admit it. I couldn’t face asking the dental receptionist ‘would you get up in the middle of the night to ring someone up?’ Being a latey is a source of shame and subterfuge.
But there must be a lot of us, subterfuging away?
Or suffering from living in the early world?
And, anyway, who ever wanted to catch a worm?