Lee Pitts: Wake-up call
I had an aunt Beverly who took great pleasure in disturbing people’s sleep by calling every one she knew in town every day before the first light. It was a game she played and if she caught you in the act of sleeping she’d gloat at her victory. More objectionable than an alarm clock, she’d call at five and ask hopefully, “You sound sleepy, did I wake you up?”
“Oh no, we’ve been up for hours,” I’d lie.
You could gain a little extra sleep by calling Auntie Bev at 7:30 the night before when she was already asleep for the night, but that was the only way to beat her at her little game. Even then, my aunt would call earlier and earlier until she finally could detect a hint of sleepiness in your voice. I was sad when she died, of course, but I did start sleeping better knowing that I wouldn’t be awakened by her grating words, “Go-o-o-o-d morning!”
“What’s so darned good about it? It’s four thirty in the morning!”
With Beverly’s shame game I quickly grew very tired, literally, so I developed the ability to sound wide awake and perky even if seconds before I’d been sound asleep. Before answering the phone I’d clear my throat, yodel a few notes, slap myself in the face and then say, “Good morning Beverly, isn’t this a grand morning?” I could almost see her disappointment on the phone as I said, “I’ve already jogged five miles this morning up by your house and I didn’t see any lights on. Did you just get up?”
That was how the game was played. Farmers and ranchers play the same game every morning at the coffee shop.
“What time did you get up?” one farmer will ask.
“I slept in until four thirty this morning,” another farmer will answer.
Then another old geezer will say, “You can sleep your life away staying in bed that late.” Then all three will sit and stare at their coffee cups and grunt at each other until it gets light enough to start work, wearing their sleepiness as a badge of honor.
I myself could never see the logic in this ritual. Surely there must be a better way to start each day than having to get up but, no doubt, the cheery “morning-people” reading this will view will think such an attitude slovenly and lazy.
I come from a long line of early risers… and singers… and pot pounders. My Mom usually got up around five and shortly thereafter she’d serenade us with my least favorite song, “Get up, get up you sleepy heads, come on, come on get out of bed.” She’d sing several verses, then pound a variety of kitchen pots three inches from our eardrums until finally, she’d have to physically remove us from our beds. When I started raising animals in the FFA we lived on an acre surrounded on all sides by tract homes and I had to be out at the pens by daylight or they’d start mooing, baaing and oinking for their breakfast and waking up the neighbors. That’s how I got the nickname “Sleepy” from my schoolmates who didn’t know that five o’clock came twice in a 24-hour period.
Now days I get up every morning at three thirty… go to the bathroom and promptly go back to sleep. To perform at peak efficiency I’ve always felt that I needed at least eight hours of sleep per day… and another eight hours during the night doesn’t hurt either.
I know that conventional wisdom says that the early bird catches the worm but I’ve known plenty of cowboys who got up two hours before the rooster every morning and slept four hours a night who are now living on beans and Social Security. While there are many billionaire widows sleeping until noon every day. As for those folks like my aunt Beverly who insist that you should be up before the first rays of sunshine peak through your windows every morning, I am reminded of the immortal words of the great western author Elmer Kelton: “That’s what curtains are for.”
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