Maintenance – part 4

One of my students drew a picture that needed no words to illustrate the point I’m making.  When I admired the drawing, the student gave it to me.  It’s right by my computer so that I see it when I write.  This is what it shows: A strong man, wearing ripped shorts.  A pair of giant wings are attached to his back, but his arms and legs are chained and his head is bent in dejection.  This caption is underneath the sketch, “Man is born free, but everywhere he is in chains.”

Sometime around dawn we rise and start our workday.  The alarm clock blurts into our dreams and begins its job, maybe with an obnoxious and repetitive beep that summons us to action. The word alarm is an interesting choice of word for this type of clock.  The dictionary defines it as dread, dismay, fear and apprehension.

Once I lived in a communal household where one of my housemates had such a pleasant demeanor that his nickname was Smooth.  His room was next to mine, and every morning when his alarm went off, it was still dark outside.  He’d let out a string of loud, angry curses, then stumble out of bed and within a few minutes was out the door and short order cooking at the local diner for all the other poor souls who needed a quick breakfast before setting off to their jobs.  One day he quit in disgust and took a bus to California.  I never heard from him again.   Now and then, I wonder how he fared.

We obediently rise, whether we need more sleep or not.  Pay no attention to the body.  Chances are good that time is short because there is someone at the other end of the commute that has power over us and expects us there at an early hour.  No excuses.  The breakfast hour––ought I to say the breakfast ten minutes?––comes.  If you’re like me, right after I wake up is the worst time to eat.  I prefer to be awake about three hours before eating.  Everyone is different, but no matter, the job beckons, and the only chance to eat is very early.  The metabolism may not be geared for food but it goes down anyway, perhaps with some coffee to jumpstart the mechanism.  This is not good for digestion or weight, and food choices are necessarily limited to those immediately ready.

Many a morning, Therese and I have risen early and followed exactly such a scenario, especially if we’ve had the temerity to chat while still in bed, perhaps discuss an interesting dream.  The comfort of a warm bed is replaced by her need to get to school in time to use the copier before the line starts.  Down goes a piece of toast smeared with peanut butter.  It’s eaten while she moves quickly, preparing to leave.  She’ll wash down the toast with half a cup of tea but run out of time, so the other half stays in the cup.              Typically, I do not have to be at school until nine or ten but even that relatively reasonable hour cramps my morning.  Therese has a short commute to work and often rides her bike or walks.  Often, I take my bicycle, even in the winter.  (I’ve learned that if I dress properly, and above all, protect my neck to prevent the wind from going down my shirt, I can ride comfortably in cold temperatures.)  Therese and I both made conscious decisions to live close to where we work.  Many people cannot or choose not to do that. For them, the picture is more complicated.

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