“Why,” asked my Greek landlady, “are you getting up at that hour?”
“What,” I responded, “are you doing still pottering around at 3am?”
“I’m picking up a group at the airport,” I’d tell her, “so please keep the noise down. I’m going to bed at 8pm.”
She just laughed at me. “Who goes to bed that early?”
I’d been working in Athens as a meet and greet guide for a month when Olympic Airways discontinued its international route from Sydney to Athens via Bangkok.
This decision caused widespread chaos to all inbound Japanese groups who until then arrived and departed twice a week at a civilized mid-morning hour.
My newly-created erratic schedule therefore entailed early mornings: British Airways flight from London – 4am. Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt – midnight. Airport departures - 6am. Sleep – priceless.
I invariable negotiated jobs with our office-based scheduler: “I’ve got a 4am arrival, so may as well do the 6am departure – seeing as it’s from the same hotel.” It’s common sense, really.
During the summer, Athens airport operated 24/7 and I occasionally did an all-nighter (something I hadn’t done since my college days): a midnight group arrival, followed by 4am arrival and 6am departure.
I’d come home to sleep just as my landlady left for work.
“Out on the town, eh?” she’d smirk.
“More like, out at the airport.”
Three early morning insights
# 1. 3.30am, on a major thoroughfare in downtown Athens.
“Kalimera, ladies. Good morning.”
“Yia sou Otsuka. Hello. Going to the airport again?”
A Japanese colleague chatted leisurely with the local ladies of the night as she waited for her bus driver to arrive.
They were on first name terms and kept each other company until Otsuka was safely on the bus.
# 2. 5am, heading into Athens from the airport:
“Is there an accident?” my Japanese passengers asked, as our coach stopped in bumper-to-bumper traffic, with hundreds of pedestrians milling about on the streets.
“No,” I replied. “Everyone’s on their way home from the nightclubs.”
Actually, most of them were on their way to work. (It was normal practice for Greeks to head straight to work after partying all night).
I simply didn’t have the stamina.
# 3. 6am, leaving the hotel for the airport:
“Is that a woman?”
My sleepy Japanese passengers nudged each other awake, peering at the figure loitering on the street corner.
“Nah, definitely a bloke,” I advised them.
They stared unashamedly out the window, some taking photos, until the figure disappeared from view.
I would never have experienced these local insights during daylight hours - but I’m still not a morning person.
Permanent night shift
My preference for late nights started when I was born at 3.10am.
I’ve never really enjoyed early mornings and it takes me a while to ease into the day.
By ‘ease’ I mean I’m not the kind of person who can jump out of bed and head out the door in 20 minutes. I end up feeling frazzled and disorganized all day.
I prefer a languid start to my mornings: a stretch out on the deck, followed by Tai Chi or yoga, a leisurely breakfast, shower, and much dawdling in between.
Give me an hour or two and I might be ready for action.
One of my best working arrangements was as a sub-editor on a country newspaper doing an 11am-7pm shift for two years. Perfect timing!
I simply work better in the afternoons and evenings. My head’s clearer. I’m more focused. The house is still.
Of course, they’re all in bed hours before I consider retiring for the evening.
I have occasionally made an appearance at early appointments, but avoid them where possible.
Just this morning I received an amusing email requesting committee members arrive at an upcoming Toastmasters conference by 7am.
“You’ll be lucky if I make it there by 8am!” I responded promptly. “Seriously, I’m not a morning person.”
Are you are morning person or night person?
Do you prefer sunrises or sunsets?
Postscript: Apart from work commitments, I have, on some occasions voluntarily attended 6am yoga sessions and for many years swam laps at the pool before work. But that's all in the past.