Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Working Musician's Hours

So I had a long rehearsal last night. And the plumber showed up this morning -- woke me up so I could let him through the security gate. And he gives me that snide look; that look that says "Some people are so lucky they can sleep in until noon. The rest of us do a good day's work."

Asshole. Let me put this in context. It's not that I work late. It's that my work-sleep cycle is identical to yours -- it just takes place over a different span of hours!

Go to work at 9:00 AM. Leave at 5:00. Get up the next morning at 7:00 so you can breakfast and hit the commute. That's 14 hours between the time you left work, and the time you woke up.

I leave work at 11:00 PM, typically. That same 14 hours would mean I'd get up at 1:00 PM!

If our schedules were truly identical: assuming you had dinner at 9:00, caught the Late Show, and were asleep by midnight -- for seven hours of sleep -- I'd be having dinner at 3:00 AM and be in bed slightly before dawn.

Actually, I'm up at 10:00 AM most mornings. Since my usual call isn't until late afternoon, I make a slow morning of it; instead of being breakfasted and out the door by eleven, I'm doing paperwork, reading the news, cleaning house, and otherwise puttering about and ready to hit the road around noon. Not infrequently I'm at a job site by 1:00. Not only is that only four hours later than Mr. Morning Person, on the equivalent of his cycle he'd be showing up for work at THREE BLOODY AM IN THE MORNING. And he gives me a sneer for not showing up at work until after lunch!

Right. I know some people think "But I've worked late at the office plenty of times, and I don't have to change my whole schedule around." Right. How often? Do you do it five, six days a week? With no chance to recover on the weekend? Do you do it just for the crunch and take a break when the project ships, or is this your Normal and Ordinary schedule?

And what kind of work? Are we talking the typical slightly-more-relaxed late hours office, with someone being sent out for pizza and all that? Try doing a six, eight, ten hour shift WITHOUT DINNER. Without a dinner break. Without food. On nothing but cold coffee, with nothing but toilet breaks. Carrying 40-pound lights up swaying ladders or using power tools.

And leave that work not just hungry but dirty, sore, cold. Driving home at midnight, getting back to a freezing apartment.

I think us artists do damned well showering, putting away tools, cooking and eating a healthy dinner, unwinding from a tough day at work, and still being in bed by two.

Because when all is said and done it is a job like any other. We might do some crazy hours, and put up with some crazy conditions, but once you get into it for the long haul all ideas of pulling an all-nighter on pizza and beer and catching up on sleep when the project ships go bye-bye. Treat it like an ordinary day if you want to see forty; proper sleep, proper hygiene, healthy food.

And resign yourself to sneery-face morons who wake you up at nine AM and chuckle "Oh, those artists!"

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