According to a 2007 Gallup poll, 55% of U.S. adults consider themselves morning people; 15% consider themselves afternoon people; 20% consider themselves evening people; and 6% consider themselves late night people.
Some research suggests that, on balance, self-identified early birds make more money; are more productive, healthier, and happier; and live longer. (If these qualities appeal to you, but you consider yourself an inveterate non-morning person, you can find instructions on how to become a morning person here.)
Although the jury on my personal longevity is still out, my excuse for never having any money is that I reside among the ill-fated 6% that mulishly identify as night owls.
As far as I’m concerned, God created the period from sunup to noon (give or take an hour at each end) for shuteye, and individuals that habitually cross over into the Land of Nod by midnight strike me as belonging to a somewhat different breed of homo sapiens from myself. (Not better or worse. Just different.)
Invariably, whenever my sleep habits happen to come up in conversation and I mention that I generally don’t turn in until the wee hours of the morn, my interlocutor will raise his or her hands in bemused perplexity—elbows firmly placed against the ribs and palms turned heavenward—and with an I-don’t-get-it kind of mien, as if expressing puzzlement over why someone might get off on driving rusty nails into their cheekbones for kicks, pose the perennial question:
“What [in the sense of WTF] do you do at three o’clock in the morning?”
What puzzles me is why anybody would ask a silly question like that; let alone why, as my experience hath shewn, this particular question—which only varies with respect to the precise late-night hour o’clock (e.g., “3 A.M.”) the asker will select at random in order to signify a time of night when “normal” people are supposed to be cycling hither and yon between REM and non-REM—enjoys such universal popularity on both sides of the Atlantic.
Stripped to its essence, the question is synonymous with inquiring how I spend my waking hours. In other words, it’s like asking me what I do with my time on planet Earth when I’m not asleep.
Nothing wrong with expressing interest in another’s personal activities—except that, I would presume, self-identified morning people rarely get asked, with like tone of perplexity, what they do at three o’clock in the afternoon.
I’m just not quite sure what might be so fundamentally different about different times of day that some warrant probing in a way that others do not.
In any event, let’s cut to the chase: what do I do—i.e., what can a person do—at three in the morning?
Well, save a handful of things that would require real-time interaction with businesses that are closed or with individuals that are passed out at this hour, and given the widespread availability of ingenious sources of artificial illumination (such as the common light bulb) that don’t involve striking flint stones against steel to make fire and hence carry little risk of sparking a catastrophic conflagration that might devour one’s digs and scorch the entire neighborhood, 3 A.M. is no more and no less suitable than any other time of day to do whatever one does in this world when one isn’t busy catching z’s:
One can read. One can write. One can study.
One can do anything that involves staring at a screen, like working (or playing) on a computer, or catching up on one’s TiVo-ed backlog of Dexter episodes.
One can work out, go for a walk, or stand on one’s head.
One can plan or pack for an upcoming trip.
One can, yes, interact with fellow night owls, or with morning larks in different time zones.
One can—drum roll please!—think. Or meditate.
One can listen to music (quietly or using headphones in case one suspects or has confirmed the presence of slumbering bodies within earshot). One can compose music. One can paint. One can tinker around with the scenery for one’s model railroad.
One can do one’s taxes. One can fix the toaster. One can knit a little sweater for a homeless puppy.
One can bake a cake.
And so on and so forth. You catch my drift.
Some years ago, upon being confronted with the insipid question in question once again, in the course of enumerating a selection of things I might do at 3 A.M. (some of which are included in the list above), I mentioned “cleaning my apartment.”
The other person’s jaw dropped to the floor as if I’d just confessed I had eaten my parole officer’s liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.
“You clean your apartment at three in the morning???” he gasped.
Yeah, so what? I had neither said that 3 A.M. was my favorite time to clean my apartment, nor even that I always performed my cleaning chores at that hour. My point was simply that 3 A.M. was just as good as any other time of day to scrub the tub and dust off my shelves.
Now, we are running low on energy resources to sate the burgeoning demands of an exploding population.
The space above our heads seems to be running low on wireless radio spectrum needed to accommodate the ever-escalating wealth of YouTube clips and other digital information that zips through the air 24/7.
There’s always a shortage of love, sanity, and honest politicians.
The bird flu has reportedly caused a shortage of feathers to make shuttlecocks in China, if you can believe it.
There are plenty of shortages in this world.
Finding things to do at 3 A.M. isn’t one of them.