Sometimes you just know. One of the things I know is that nine-to-five schedules are killers. Literally. I grew my permanent teeth as a teacher. Before that I had been set on being a minister. Something they have in common is that neither profession relies on a nine-to-five schedule. The hours are much longer than a forty-hour work week, but they’re flexible. If you’re not in class, or in church, or a committee meeting, or your office hours, you can dash out to the store if you need to. You can shut your eyes for a few minutes if you didn’t sleep well the night before. As long as you get your work done adequately, nobody really bothers you about your time. My initiation into the nine-to-five, in my mid-forties, was a shock from which I’ve never quite recovered.
A few years into this unnatural territory, my nine-to-five (925 is quicker to type) evolved into the commuting variety. I didn’t live terribly near New York City, so that meant catching a very early bus. I’m a morning person, so that’s not really a concern. The problem is that my brain’s not a 925 brain. Like one of my professors, I still awake at 1:30 (having gone to bed about five hours before) with an idea that won’t let me go. When that happens you have to put on heavy layers of clothes against the night’s low thermostat and make your way downstairs to the computer. By three a.m. your body’s in the fully awake commute mode. Thing is, you’ve got a 925 day in front of you. When I was teaching I’d be able to snooze again before even my eight o’clock class (I was never one to object to the early shift) began.
The idea behind the 925 is an atavistic throwback to pre-internet days. Pre-pandemic days. Days when you had to be watched to ensure you were working. When you had to sit in a cubicle where nobody and everybody can see you. If you’re not staring at your screen or not in a meeting you’re not working. So this antiquated thinking goes. Teachers and ministers don’t hold to regular hours. They identify with their jobs—the very definition of “professional.” If it’s what you’re born to do you don’t complain. And if you happen to awake at 1:30 with an idea that just has to be expressed, those who pay you will understand if you yawn a time or two the next day when, ideally, you won’t be stuck staring at a screen.