Old habits really do die hard… Like getting up long before the Sun decides to shake off the night’s comforting darkness. Or, getting home long after the Sun has gone to bed itself.
That’s been my routine for so long I can’t remember a different time. It started on Saturday mornings with my Dad. Up at four o’clock in the morning, dressed and out before four-thirty, fishing on the sand at Jones Beach on Long Island, on the road and at work in Bensonhurst before seven. After we moved to California and found ourselves – me included, this time – back in the automotive service business in a 24-hour service station in Santa Monica, the cycle of short – very short – nights and long days returned. Only, there really aren’t any ‘set’ hours in a 24-hour service station. At least, there weren’t when we first opened in 1966.
We would go to work early and leave whenever we were done, regardless of the hour. Add the occasional “missed shift,” where someone fails to show up and you find yourself working twenty hours and not just the ‘normal’ ten, and the boundaries between work and life began to evaporate, and not so slowly.
Years ago, my father determined that the day went more smoothly if we started it with breakfast: sort of like easing into the pool slowly, rather than just throwing yourself headlong into the icy water. Subsequently, breakfast became a ritual – even when no one was talking to each other!
There was a simple and inherent wisdom in that when you think about it. Even when we were at war with each other and not speaking – which didn’t happen often, but did happen – someone would ultimately have to say, “Please pass the salt…” And, the fire that fuels most family feuds would ultimately die out.
This ‘tradition’ of early morning breakfasts continued for the better part of forty years, through countless restaurants and greasy-spoon breakfast emporiums. It transcended family battles, good times and bad, here in Simi and before that, in Santa Monica, and it served our family well.
Now, that I’m the only Schneider still standing at Schneider’s Automotive, it is a tradition or habit or whatever it is, still.
I’m up before six, regardless… Regardless, of whether it is Monday morning with a ‘solid’ day on the books or Saturday when I could actually ‘sleep in.’ But, there are differences… With the exception of one or two of the regular places we ate for years where a basic breakfast club formed – and, even that’s not the same when you find yourself sitting by yourself in a booth that once accommodated four or five – eating alone is different: not the same.
I still get up early… too early, probably. And, I still eat breakfast… albeit, a protein shake or a bowl of oatmeal. But, I find myself dining alone for the most part.
I still leave the house in the dark and most nights won’t return until long after the Sun has gone down. But, now, I head straight to work after fixing breakfast and try to get as much paperwork and planning done before the phones start ringing and the people start coming in.
You would be surprised at just how much you can get accomplished – how much more you can get accomplished – without interruption: without distraction!
And, that’s what I’ve been doing for the past hour or so: that is, of course, with the exception of chatting with you.
I’ve done the deposit. Finished signing the payroll checks. Planned for the rest of the week, more or less. Worked on our marketing plan for the coming year. Thought about the conference call I have scheduled for later on this morning to identify training for the Industry, big “I,” conference scheduled for this coming October. Finished up my notes for the presentation I will deliver in Santa Barbara later on this evening. And, still managed to reflect on breakfast with my Mom, Dad and whoever else dropped by.
Not a bad morning when you think about it. Especially, when you consider that it began at 0:Dark:Thirty in the morning…