Monday, February 21, 2005

In the Dark of the Morning

On Monday morning, my poor husband had to wing his back to Chicago. He'll be returning Friday night, but I still feel sorry for him having to freeze in the arctic for five days while I sashay in the sunshine and play among the palm trees.

On his Chicago work weeks, I have to drag my carcass out of bed to drive him to the airport at 5 a.m. I don't really mind (how can I complain when I get to stay in Celebration, enjoying temperatures in the 80s, while he's stuck with cold, snow, and a daily hour-long train commute), but I must confess that I'm not a morning person.

All my life, I've never understood people who wake up just as the sunny is starting to peek over the horizon, sharp and chipper and ready to plunge headlong into the day. In the morning I am bleary-eyed until I pour some coffee down my gullet, which renders me just conscious enough to pretend that I know what's going on.

But on the flipside, I am a night owl who can keep going strong long after the morning people have dropped from exhaustion. I come from a long line of vampires, and there wasn't much structure in our household while I was growing up. Most nights was I was of pre-school age, I "went to bed" simply by dropping wherever I happened to be at the time. Since the rest of the family was up well into the wee hours, I adopted that pattern too. Once I achieved school age, I was allowed to determine my own sleep pattern, as long as I was conscious enough in the morning to stay alert in the classroom.

My husband is the same way, although he does me one better. He can stay up late and can also drag his carcass out of bed very early the next morning. He survives on miniscule amounts of sleep during the week and then makes up for it on weekend, much like a hibernating bear. On Saturday and Sunday morning, I tip toe around cautiously while he regenerates for the week ahead.

Once, a few years back, we took two weeks of vacation time at Christmas/New Years and didn't actually travel anywhere. We just hung out around our house, relaxing, watching television, and playing video games until the wee hours. Our bodies adjusted themselves to what was probably our natural rhythm. We stayed up till after 3 a.m. each night and crawled out of bed sometime around noon. It was a very difficult adjustment to get ourselves back into a 9 to 5 routine when it was time to return to work.

I would probably do better simply staying up until 5 a.m. to make the airport run. Of course, that isn't feasible since I have to start work in the morning myself, albeit without a commute. Thus, when I hear the cell phone alarm, I know that it's time to start the long, hard journey to consciousness.

While my husband showers, shaves, and dresses, I lie there wishing that it would all turn out to be a dream. But gradually reality overtakes me, and by the time he's ready to go, I'm usually dressed to some level of decency and in possession of enough presence of mind to make the mostly straightforward drive. It's a matter of finding 417 and driving it straight through to the airport. Even though there are two terminals (A and B), when you're not checking luggage it doesn't make any difference which one you're dropped off at. Thus, as long as I can get my husband to one of the two departure terminals, we're all set.

At 5 a.m., the sun is still sleeping below the horizon. Celebration is quiet and still, with virtually no other cars on the road. When we used to come home on Friday nights around midnight during our commuter months, things would be quiet but we'd see at least an occasional living body. In the morning, everyone is apparently still snug and warm in their bed, or perhaps brewing up a pot of coffee and enjoying a hot shower.

Mercifully, at that hour 417 is pretty much devoid of traffic. On Monday morning, though, I had to chuckle. There were only two cars at the toll booth, but apparently the first one in line must have been the long-lost bosom buddy of the toll attendant. That car never moved in the whole time I approached the booth and was there long after I buzzed through the Sun Pass lane. I hope they left eventually so the poor slob behind them could get through, but their headlights never moved for as long as I could see them in my rear view mirror.

Traffic around the airport was minimal, so I drove over to the B terminal and pulled into the first spot where I could find some space. Since his only bag was a carry-on backpack, it didn't matter which airline I dropped him off at. He could bypass all the counters and head directly to Security. At that hour of the morning, all of the Security lanes are open in anticipation of the rush; since the droves of people haven't arrived yet, he can breeze right through.

On the way home, I decided to gas up Canyonero at the Mobil station in Water Tower Place. It's conveniently located but usually jam packed with people, so I figured I could avoid the wild horde if I could remain awake long enough to pump the gas. The gas station was pretty busy for such an early hour, but nothing like the crowd at prime time. The only problem is, that Mobil has the slowest pumps in all of Kissimmee. Sometimes I suspect they must be pumping molasses instead of gasoline. I inserted my charge card, plunked the nozzle into the gas tank, pressed the handle, and waited.....and waited.....and waited. The amount due moved at a rapid pace, while the amount of gas ticked off slow as a crippled turtle. I began to think that it might be time to pick up my husband already by the time the gas tank was filled.

Eventually, the shut-off engaged, and Canyonero was set for another week. It felt so good to finally return home and crawl back into bed. The three cats promptly piled in with me in a furry, purry feline heap, and soon I was back into dreamland for another three hours or so.

My husband returns late on Friday night, but unlike the morning jaunt, I will be bright eyed and wide awake when it's time to pick him up. The night time is my time, and the later the better. I've gotten into the habit of getting to bed around 1 a.m. and then dragging my carcass back out in the morning around 9 a.m. Thus, his 11 p.m. flight will fit right into my natural rythmn.

But I'm not looking forward to his next trip back to Chicago, as I will be accompanying him on that one. Not only will I have to wake up at an ungodly hour, but I'll also have to be conscious enough to drag myself through Security and to the gate, and then onto the plane. Worse yet, we'll be flying Southwest, so we'll be part of the massive cattle call. Even if we have A boarding passes, we don't get the luxury of sitting in our seats until boarding time. There are always tons of families flying to and from Orlando, and most of them seem to think that the "5 and under" pre-board means any child either under or over the age of 5. And of course, they all have a huge gaggle of family members, friends, neighbors, uncles, aunts, and cousins in tow. If you don't manage to get on right after the pre-board, your chance of getting a good seat is on a par with the chance of finding a home for under $100,000 in Celebration.

Oh well, once I get on the plane, I can drift off to dreamworld. And our flight home will be a late one...just the right time for a night owl like me.

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