What I Do At 5am
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I’m a weird guy. I’m sure you already knew that, though.

This past week I’ve been on vacation, and I find that without the rigorous guidelines of a work schedule, my sleeping habits have become increasingly erratic. I would go off on a rant about how my other job decided not to bother putting me on their schedule, but I don’t really care. It’s nice to pretend that I don’t have responsibilities once in a while. I’ve been doing odd things to pass the time when I’m awake at 5am. You know, the time that I could be using to do something constructive… Like writing… Or learning a foreign language…

When not comparing Power Rangers to the Japanese Sentai shows who’s footage they’ve stolen, or watching reruns of Swat Cats on Boomerang, I get downright retarded. As anyone who’s had the pleasure of driving me home from work can tell you, I live next to one of those 24/7 Quick Chek gas stations. I love this, and spend more time in there than I do with my wife and child. Seriously, they know me by my first name. Aside from looking like some kind of a freak, being “that guy” at a gas station naturally makes you privy to the routines of the customers. One such routine is what i like to call the five o’clock rush.

The five o’clock rush is when all of the men who have work early file into Quick Chek, buying coffee, newspapers, and anything else that’s going to help them suffer through waking up before the sun exists. Normally reserved for the blue collar types, Quick Chek seems to be the exception to the rule. I’ve noticed more guys with iPhone holsters on their belts, accentuated by their nicely ironed shirts, neatly tucked in. Well hey, it’s 5am. I’m wide awake, and I’m bored. Let’s go to the gas station. But first let me tuck my shirt in, shave, and fix my hair.

On a side note, This is why I never shave or cut my hair.

I walk into the place, and Billy (the cashier) looks up from attending his long line of white collar customers and mutters “oh crap…”. He already knows. He’s seen this before. I loudly exclaim “good morning gentlemen!” and get some halfhearted grumbles and annoyed looks. I make my way over to the newspapers, pick one up, and while holding it upside down I pretend to flip through it before tucking it under my arm, explaining that I have to check my stocks, but am more interested in the sports pages. I let out a hearty, yet friendly laugh. I get awkward stares in return. I walk up to the coffee, pour a cup, and try to make conversation with a man who witnessed my scene with the newspaper. He can’t pour those little cups of creamer fast enough to get away from me. The man practically runs away from my good-natured advances.

While standing on line, I pretend that my iPod touch is an iPhone, and have an imaginary conversation with an important client. I loudly boast that learning of Michael Jackson’s passing was a surprise to me, and pretend to play dumb with myself. I start getting dirty looks when I ask my imaginary phone companion whether “the black one or the white one” died. I also confuse him with “That Michael Jordan negro, who was in that sports movie with the Muppets“.

Finally somebody bites. A man who I can only describe as looking “like Willem Dafoe with facial hair” confronts me on my disruption. Still “on the phone” I hold my hand up on his general direction, as if to say “this is more important than whatever you’re trying to tell me. I am not even listening to you. I will be with you on a minute.” and continue my Imaginary conversation. The man is fuming now.

Deciding that I’ve had my fun and should let these people get back to their morning, lest I get punched in the face by some guy going through his midlife crisis, I put my iPod away and cheerfully exclaim “congratulations! You’re on MTV’s boiling point and you’ve just won a hundred dollars! There are hidden cameras here, here, and there! Let me just go out to my van and get some release forms for you to sign.” As I walk out the door, past the embarrassed man who thinks he’s about to receive a hundred dollars and a funny story to talk about around the water cooler, I hear Billy finally lose his composure and start laughing.