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June 8, 2011
Throughout all of my growing-up years, a sign was attached to the doorbell of our flat in San Francisco. It said "Please knock. Day sleeping."
As I have explained before, my father worked as a railway mail clerk, in the days when they carried mail on special cars on the train. He would go to work in the afternoon of one day, work the mail through the night as the train ("The Lark") traveled from San Francisco to Los Angeles, then spend the night at the Figueroa hotel in Los Angeles, near the train station, eat at The Pantry greasy spoon restaurant, get back n the train the next night and work the mail all the way back to San Francisco ("work the mail" means sorting it into various bags so it could be taken to the post office in LA and further sorted for delivery.) His job required that he stand up all night.
He would get home around 9 in the morning, having worked all night, and would then go to bed for his 'night' of sleep.
He didn't do this every night. After a trip to LA he would be off for 2 days and then do it again, so it was two or three days a week when the sign was on the door.
But "day sleeping" meant not being able to be a kid. You didn't have friends over, you didn't play music, you didn't play anything but quiet games, you were hustled outside to play as often as possible. You prayed the phone didn't ring. And you hated the people who ignored the sign and rang the doorbell anyway.
"Day sleeping" meant that no matter what woke him up, it was somehow your fault ("your" being my mother, sister and myself) and there would be hell to pay, in the rage, followed by the silences (which were worse than the rages). The government didn't bring an end to the railway mail service until after I went away to college, so I lived my whole life with "day sleeping."
I can't imagine what hell it must have been for my mother having two children too young to understand the need to be quiet. A 4 year old and a newborn must have been great fun for her! I'm sure we spent a lot of time going for walks to the park!
As I continue to struggle with the effects of jet lag, I begin to understand ....a little... what it was like to be a "day sleeper." Last night I fell asleep sometime before 10 p.m., which meant I was wide awake at midnight. I then could not get back to sleep to save my soul until 5 a.m., which meant that by 10, I was ready for a nap. And then, waking up a bit after noon, I was only functional for half an hour and then back to sleep until 4 p.m. Essentially, I have slept the "night" away, yet it is 6 p.m. and my "morning" should be starting now. In fact, I was just out at the grocery store, along with all the students wandering aimlessly among the ailes wondering where canned lychees are, doing the week's shopping that I should have done in the morning with all the other stay at home mothers and retired men and women.
The problem with "day sleeping" is that everybody else is going about their business normally and people who wouldn't dare call you at midnight think nothing of calling you sometime during the day. I have long said that I am convinced that there is some sort of connection between my eyelids and the telephone. All I have to do is doze off and the phone rings. There is one guy who seems to have ESP regarding my day sleeping. Invariably he calls just as I've begun my sleep. Or someone will call asking me to help save the musk ox or donate to the Society for the Heartbreak of Psoriasis.
When I am awakened after only 5-10 minutes of sleep, I get grouchy. And it takes me awhile to get back to sleep again. I am hoping that I am going to be able to kick this jet lag thing over the next two weeks. I am having lunch with a friend in Sacramento tomorrow and lunch with 3 more friends three days next week, as well as a dental appointment, a show in San Francisco (that I don't have to review!), and a show to review on Friday. Hopefully by then, my body will be back on track again, since it will have to give up its afternoon nap in order for me to get everything done.
Being a day sleeper awakened doesn't justify getting angry with everyone who is working hard to keep the house quiet, of course, but at least I now now how my father must have felt all those years.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
D'ya suppose L. Frank Baum was inspired by something like this?