Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Up and At 'em

How one starts his day tells a lot about a person. My life can be divided into blocks, each characterized by the “get up and go” routine. While in elementary and high school I was awakened by my exuberant father pounding down the stairs calling out, “Rise and shine, hit the deck!” If that didn’t snap me out of bed, he would try several choruses of “Good morning, Mr. Zip, zip, zip with your hair cut just as short as mine.” Shortly after, he was followed down the stairs by a bleary-eyed mother, muttering (I thought) something that sounded like, “Why did I ever marry that man?” Finally, half-dressed and half-alive, I came down thinking, not out loud, “Yeah, Why?” Hot oatmeal and a banana, consumed without thought, and off to school.

For me, the Army was not as big a change as for others. There was a uniformed clone of my father yelling morning greetings. I remember them, but won’t repeat them. The language was from a war later than my father’s, but no more effective. Predawn calisthenics was the memorable high point. Try that on a sweltering Georgia morning after several too many beers at the PX the night before.

There was no routine about mornings in combat. Let’s skip it.

By the return to college a wonderful scientific device was on the market – the radio alarm clock complete with snooze button. However, a new impediment to the painless wakeup had arrived -- the need to shave in the morning. With a little practice and minimal loss of blood, this could be done without waking up. I started taking breakfast at Mrs. Fletcher’s boarding house. Chronic tardiness led to the mutual decision that the diner downtown was good move. This worked well. After the waitresses got to know you, they would yell your order to the cook before you remembered why you were there. Marriage changed things a lot. From the diner’s “two over lightly with” it became, “You want Wheaties or Corn Flakes?” The freedom this allowed led to my copying other slug-abeds and entering ground floor classes through the window just at the bell.

Working and commuting made the morning get-up and get to work a real bore. Have you ever had that terrifying moment when you come to that you are some place between home and work and you can’t remember how you got there? You can’t even remember if you kissed anyone good-bye or whether you drove to the train station or got a ride. I graduated to a soft boiled egg from the dry cereal, but then cholesterol checking sent me back to dry cereal (and the gym). But throughout your glorious career pushing back the frontiers of science, or marketing, of finance, of anything – the thought exists that freedom lies ahead when there are no constraints or inhibitions. Retirement!! You can start your day anyway you want.

“You want Wheaties or Corn Flakes?”


Marilyn said...

Ah, but there's been one constant...breakfast. Even as a kid, I didn't like food first thing in the morning. Still don't...around 9:00 (my workday has started at 7:30 for several years) I get the urge to nibble a little something. How fun though to look back on decades worth of morning routines. :)

east village idiot said...

I grew up in a family of five kids. My mother would shout out "rise and shine!!!!" and flip up the shades in each room.

It was like shock therapy every day!!