My husband gently rouses me from sleep – although at 3:30 in the morning, no rousing is gentle. At this hour, even the birds look at you like you’re nuts for being awake. Our bedroom is still black as pitch, and there isn’t a sound to be heard, aside from my own early morning expletives and complaints of inhumane wake-up calls. My husband, probably anticipating my foul mood, has a mug of hot tea at the ready. Smart guy…. I knew there was a reason I married him.
I have always been a night owl. I sleepwalk through most mornings, functioning just enough to get my kids ready for school, and not crash my car into a tree getting them there. Many morning people have tried to convert me, all with no success. Here’s how the conversation usually goes between me and a typical early bird:
Annoying morning person: I love early morning! The entire neighborhood is still asleep and the only sound you hear is the birds singing. It’s so peaceful! *Sigh*
Me: You know another time of day when the neighborhood is peaceful? Eleven o’clock at night. And what’s so great about birds? All they do is crap on my car and repeat the same two notes over, and over again. You call that singing? If Beyonce did that, she’d be out of a job.
Annoying morning person: But what about sunrises? Sunrises are SOOOO beautiful!!
Me: Yeah, I know. I see them all the time in the cheesy chick flicks I watch at night. *Exaggerated sigh*
Annoying morning person: (With growing agitation) You don’t know what you’re missing out on.
Me: Well I know what I’m not missing out on – three extra hours of sleep.
That’s usually where the conversation ends.
But on this particular morning, I’ve got to set aside my natural night owl tendencies and rise with the damn birds. We are on our way down to South Carolina to visit my in-laws – a twelve hour drive we try to make twice a year.
I chug my mug of tea in the hopes that the surge of caffeine will prevent me from crawling back underneath the covers. But the caffeine barely makes a dent in my feeling of exhaustion, and the heated liquid is having an unexpected soporific effect on me, like I just drank warm milk. My husband’s urging to get my butt in gear is ultimately what gets me moving – he wants to get on the road before rush hour traffic has the chance to clog up our only means of escape off Long Island.
I go into the bathroom and attempt to put in my contacts, but my eyes practically recoil to the back of my skull. So, I decide to put it off until we are ready to leave the house (apparently my eyes need even more time to wake up than the rest of me). Instead, I get dressed and pack the few remaining items that didn’t make it into the car the night before.
Around four o’clock, I wake up both my kids with kisses and apologies, and I promise them that they only need to stay awake long enough to go to the bathroom and crawl into the car. Within an hour or so, we are all packed into the car, in various stages of alertness. My seven-year old son, Aidan, the only natural morning person in the family, doesn’t seem to be too effected by the loss of sleep. He is peering out the car windows, observing the world around him that is still cloaked in darkness.
We stop off at 7-11 for my second cup of tea. Despite the fact that this will make me have to stop for a pee break much sooner than my husband would like, I don’t see how it can be helped because without more tea, I’ll be comatose before we reach New Jersey. As I fill up the biggest paper cup I can get my hands on, I notice that I’m surrounded by a bunch of burly guys – blue collar men that have more callouses on their hands than fingers. I suddenly feel pathetically girlie making tea alongside these guys as they fill their thermoses with coffee.
Our second stop is a gas station so we can fill the tank before beginning our 750 mile trek down south. I’m surprised to see the gas station buzzing with customers – I had no idea so many people were conscious at this ungodly hour of the morning. Again I notice the abundance of scruffy, blue collar workers that surround us, all clad in their stained sweatshirts, jeans, and construction boots. Most of the guys look as though a shower and shave isn’t a part of their morning routine.
As my husband pumps the gas, Aidan blurts out, “Mommy, why does everyone look so CREEPY?”
A surprised laugh escapes my mouth, and I realize he’s been people watching too. I look over at the guy pumping gas next to us, the one I’m guessing prompted Aidan’s non-politically correct question – he looks like Santa Claus’s much less jolly alter ego. I start to pay closer attention to all the other patrons, and I suddenly I feel like I’ve slipped into the pages of a Stephen King novel. Aidan’s right – these guys are creepy.
Part of me felt bad for poking fun at hard-working guys who have to rise with the sun, and bust their ass all day to earn a living. But the other part of me, (the part that could never run for political office), finds it funny when someone has the guts to say out loud what everyone else is thinking. And when you catch me off guard the way Aidan did, I can do little to mask my amusement.
I already told you I barely function before noon – did you really expect me to be a good parent at five o’clock in the morning?? But don’t worry, I made a mental note to give the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ speech later on… once we stopped laughing.
By the time my husband, Kevin, got back in the car, my daughter (Meghan), Aidan, and I were still giggling. Just so Kevin didn’t think we had slipped into some sort of exhaustion-fueled delirium, we filled him in on the details of Aidan’s new game – officially named spot the creepy.
As we got back on the road, Aidan continued pointing out the window at the creepy looking drivers around us and exclaiming, “There’s another one! Mommy, look at THAT guy!”, which was often met by another round of giggles from everyone in the car.
But along with the sunrise (which I have to say, was entirely overrated) came an infusion of clean-shaven guys in neck ties and smartly dressed women with up-dos, making the population appear decidedly less creepy. It seemed our game was at an end…. at least until our return trip back home.