Saturday, November 06, 2010

Up All Night

Perhaps the last time you did it was when you first had kids. Or maybe it was when a close friend got married, and there was that pre-wedding party. For sure you did it in college, most likely near the end of the semester when you realized that 20 page paper on Shakespeare wasn't going to write itself. But unless that's your usual shift, most of us just don't stay up all night anymore.

I'm not talking about "can't sleep" staying up. Rather, it's when you plan on remaining awake long after the rest of those around you have turned in. I've had a lot of those nights lately, a combination of just being busy, as well as traveling to different time zones and work which requires quick turnaround. And while it's been a "long strange trip," I did it with coffee and adrenalin and the occasional chocolate cookie, though I keep flashing on the the Grateful Dead's formula of "Livin' on reds, vitamin C and cocaine."

For me, it came in 2 waves. The first was in various hotel rooms in different time zones. Because of my travel schedule, business was happening here after business was happening there. As such, I put in a full day in the locale I was in, then conducted another via phone and email once I got back from dinner, eventually collapsing for a few hours of sleep in the wee hours before doing it again. The effect was not unlike an astronaut being isolated in a capsule in a far away environment. When I looked out the widow where I was it was dark and quiet, with only a few people or cars moving about in the middle of the night. But viewed down the phone and data lines it was high noon in New York, with a commensurate amount of activity.

Mind you, this isn't something that could be done effectively probably even 5 years ago, and certainly not as cheaply. But with email and Skype and my MagicJack phone thingy, I could see, read and hear in Brazil or Russia as if I was down the block in New York. Indeed, while I felt compelled to tell people where I was out of fear the lines would sound bad, the connections were so good they either didn't believe me, or gave no thought nor concession to my situation and time. And since I had absolutely no distractions sitting on the phone and my computer in a bathroom in Russia at 2AM (so as to keep the noise down while my family slept), I actually could respond quicker and more focused than had I been at my desk.  It's a long way to go to get some quality office time, but it worked.

In the second instance we spend two back-to-back all nighters in New York City as we raced to get a time sensitive project out the door. They were planned for and I had a small team with me. But there were definitely times that each of us literally fell asleep in the middle of a discussion. When that happened we let the offending party catch a few moments of shut eye and just kept going around him or her. They awoke shortly with a start to see we were further down the road, and joined in after shaking themselves out like a dog after a bath.

Of course, this being the Big Apple we were never the only ones awake. When I walked out at 3AM to get some cold drinks and snacks for the gang, there were numerous delis open for business who thought it completely normal for a guy to roll in in the middle of the night for a bunch of sodas and chips. I passed one restaurant that advertised African and Caribbean home cooking where it was nearly impossible to get a seat, as it seemed every cab driver in the city was taking their lunch break there at the same time. And the next night when we realized at 4AM that we were running out of blank CDs, I had my choice of two places within a block that carried multiple possibilities. Nothing like a little comparative price shopping while the sun is still a fever dream in the future.

But then it was over. I was back on a regular clock with the normal human beings. Back to rush hour trains, lines at the coffee wagon and running out of chicken salad in the bodega for the day. I confess I like the light, but there's no denying there are definite advantages to keeping the schedule that Sookie Stakhouse keeps.


Marc Wollin of Bedford has gotten to where if he sees a bed he sleeps, with no questions asked. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

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