May 28, 2017 (Sunday)

by Yule Heibel on May 27, 2018

What a great thing it is to sleep. I really need to do more of it. But unlike “morning people,” my best sleep is in the morning hours, after I’ve battled a night of darkness and restless dreams, slaying all the dragons. Only then, when the sun is truly up and looking out over my patch of earth, can I rest deeply. All is well if I can sleep till eight. Today I slept till 7:15a.m., close enough, I suppose. There’s something so perfect about waking up when the sun has already done its bit to clean things up, as it were. Morning people obviously have a very different set of priorities, a different psychology. After a month or more of torture (getting up between 5:30-5:45a.m.) I’m more aware of my own preferences than ever.

When I was 17 and living on my own, I had this shit job waitressing at Smitty’s Pancake House on Douglas Street in Victoria. I had a morning shift, and I quit in no time. I went to work at The Empress, down the street, in its Garden Café (no longer extant). I started on the breakfast shift, and in short order thought I was dying. I mean really: d y i n g. But since the Café was a big outfit, they had a thriving dinner shift, which I managed to snag, ditching the early (5a.m.) breakfast shift in the process. Dinner was far more suitable – hugely better tips, too.

The breakfast shift was quirky in its own way (albeit intolerable for my biorhythm). I served not only early-departing guests at tables, but also hotel administrative staff at the counter, who of course for the most part wanted everything quickly so they could get to work. I remember two individuals in particular: a small, rather thin, middle-aged woman who looked like she didn’t have much of an “outside” life going on, but who did have ulcers, painfully flaring ulcers, and who tried to diet her way out of this predicament. A classic case, now that I think about it, of controlling one’s life through orthorexia, controlling the input / ingestion in an attempt to gain control over external life circumstances that were literally making her ill. I totally got that, being an anorexic at the time. Control: it’s what we wanted, and it’s what we were so often denied, especially if we were female.

Then there was this very, very proper middle-aged middle-manager, a hotel employee like the ulcerated woman, whose hair was always impeccably trimmed to 1/16th inch of its life, his face clean shaven, his black-framed glasses unsmudged, his black suit (with discreet pinstripes) shiny in no spots whatsoever, his white shirts unstained and pressed. When he learned that I knew how to cast horoscopes, he was fascinated and paid me – or wanted to pay me – to do his chart. This man believed in astrology! For me it was a fun lark, a kind of pop psychology, but he really wanted to dive in. So straight, but so longing to be a nut underneath all the starch in his shirt. I remember thinking, “Imagine if you had an affair with a man like that – you could make him do anything…” Of course I didn’t, and since I left the breakfast shift for the boozier, less laced-up and repressed dinner shift, I stopped serving him at the counter. Our schedules stopped intersecting.

I never met characters like him or Ulcer Woman in the dinner hour – it was typically a customer base of transient guests, not regulars and drones of the hotel. Like airports, hotels are fascinating if you get a chance to observe from the right angle. While I never quite forgot Mr. White Shirt & Suit with Black Framed Glasses & Black Hair Man, I perhaps thought of him again now because of an article I read yesterday, “Neutral vs. Conservative: The Eternal Struggle,” by Scott Alexander, which discussed the authoritarian personality type, a discussion much revived in the age of Trump. But way back in the late 1940s Adorno also flagged believers in astrology. So, now: New Age. It’s rife with this stuff.

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