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Morning Glory?

A worker's lament: Terminally tardy

By Max Weiss

GEOGRAPHY IS DESTINY. This is what I'm thinking as I skulk into work about 20 minutes late and attempt to surreptitiously slip past my boss' door. But, of course, I can never make it to my office unnoticed. I can never call up some useless file on my computer, spill out half my coffee, and give that "I've been here for hours" look. Because I have to pass his office on the way to my own.

The next voice you hear will be the sound of your boss.

"Weiss, why are you late?"

He asks this half-jokingly. It's a kind of a neo­Lou Grant thing. Postmodern, newsroom irony.

But these are the kinds of jokes that come back to haunt you. These are the kinds of jokes that are, in truth, no joking matter. Usually, I play along. I make up some half-baked excuse: dog ate my alarm clock; I had to save small children from a burning school bus; I was held at gunpoint at the 7-Eleven.

But today I try something different, something virtually unprecedented in the annals of the boss-employee relationship. I tell the truth.

"I overslept," I say.

I try to explain how hard it is for me to wake up. How there must be something deeply, physically, even neurologically wrong with me. Surely, other people have an easier time getting up or everyone would be this late. I have a condition. An illness. I should be pitied.

And that's when he says it: "What's your home phone number?"

Is this something he'll need for the employee termination report?

I give it to him.

"I'll be calling you tomorrow at 7:30 a.m.," he says.

A wake-up call. A wake-up call from my boss. When I tell this to my good pal Meg, she nods sympathetically. "When your boss gives you a wake-up call, it's a real wake-up call," she says.

I'll say.

Then Meg tells me something surprising. She tells me that she actually enjoys her mornings. Savors them. This is a strange and exotic concept to me.

Here's what Meg does on a typical morning: She wakes up early. Takes her dogs to the park for a long, leisurely walk. She makes herself a little breakfast--some coffee, maybe some cereal. She reads the newspaper. Sometimes she has time to do the crossword. If Meg comes late to work, it's not because she overslept, it's not because she was stumbling around her house in a half-awake trance, but because she was enjoying the morning a little too much.

Me? Well, I'm usually rushing around like a maniac, cursing under my breath, hoping to find a pair of socks that match, trying not to trip over my dog, Maggie, who is always inconveniently underfoot (she fears that in my haste I will forget to walk and feed her--not a completely unreasonable assumption).

Of course, I set my alarm for 7:30, which would give me more than ample time to get to work. But I have this snoozing problem. A veritable addiction. I've gotten to the point where I don't even need to look at the clock. I can just swat the snooze bar absently with a loose hand and go right back to sleep. I can do this for hours.

Believe me, I've tried all the various methods of waking up. I've tried to trick myself into thinking it's 15 minutes later by setting my clock fast. If there's a moron out there who actually falls for this method, he should probably just stay in bed.

I've tried different kinds of clocks with louder buzzers. I've tried talking clocks. I've tried clocks that quack, clocks that chirp, clocks that play reveille. I've tried clock radios.

Music, by the way, is particularly ineffective in getting me up. I always incorporate the song into my dream. I never ask myself, "Why is Smokey Robinson in my dream?" I just go with the flow.

I've tried putting the clock halfway across the room, so I'll have to physically get out of bed to turn it off. I've tried several clocks, all set for the exact same time. I've tried several clocks with staggered ringing. I've tried them all.

As horrible as it is now, it was even worse when I was a teenager. Over the years, my father, bless his heart, tried and failed at a variety of creative methods to get me out of bed. There was the overly cheerful, gym coach-y method: "Chop, chop! Up and at 'em!" Sometimes this involved a vigorous pounding on the mattress. There is nothing more obnoxious than a happy, awake person when you are sleeping. I would shut my eyes tightly and think, "Die, die, die."

Then there was the sympathetic, soothing method. He would rub my back and speak to me in a quiet voice. "Wake up, sweetie pie." I loved this method. It never woke me up, but it was nice to get the back rub.

As a last resort, there was the militaristic, pissed-off method: "Get up, you lazy bum!" This was accompanied by the dreaded pulling down of the blanket, leaving me curled up in a defenseless fetal position in the middle of the mattress. This method had me hating my father from the age of 14 to 17.

So tomorrow something new, something scary, something I probably deserve. My boss on the telephone. My boss leaving me with no excuse to be late.

I'll probably be up all night worrying about it.

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From the August 21-27, 1997 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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