Creature of habit

Melissa Stagnaro

As most people who know me will no doubt attest, I’m not much of a morning person. But with a workday which includes both late meetings and daily deadlines which sometimes seem painfully early, a great deal of my work must be done early morning. That would be before 9 a.m. Monday through Thursday and, in a cruel twist of fate, by no later than 8:30 a.m. on Fridays.

That’s right, while most of you are having your first cup of coffee and arriving at work, I’ve already been firmly ensconced in front of my computer for a couple of hours.

To cope with this work schedule, which goes against every fiber of my being, I’ve put myself on a rather rigid schedule. True to form, I don’t always recognize how rigid that schedule, or how much of a creature of habit I truly am, until something conspires to throw off my little routine.

Most days, it goes something like this: When my alarm goes off, typically at about 4:45 a.m., I promptly turn it off – and go back to sleep.

My second alarm sounds eight minutes later, which this time I silence by hitting snooze, therefore buying myself yet another five minutes of blissful repose snuggled in the warmth of my comforter. (Or at least it does if my intrepid feline, Lulu the ninja-kitty, doesn’t have other ideas. A well aimed paw to the solar plexus and I’m up in no time flat.)

Wiping sleep from my eyes I trundle downstairs to the bathroom, where I spend 10 or so minutes (okay, fine – maybe it’s more like 20) under the mediocre spray of the shower wishing I was still in bed.

Once my early morning bathroom routine is complete, I head to the kitchen to mix myself a glass of Ovaltine (chocolate malt, thank you) and then head back upstairs. Where I stare blankly at my closet for entirely too long, wishing fervently that I’d made that decision the night before. Whatever I choose, there is usually ironing involved. Which does nothing to improve my mood.

A quick session with the hair dryer and a round brush (if I’m feeling up to it), a couple of minutes in front of the mirror, a swipe of the tooth brush and I’m ready to go. If all has gone according to plan, I’m out the door at or about 6.

It’s precisely 13 miles from my driveway to the Evening Sun newsroom, which takes me anywhere from 20 and 30 minutes each morning, depending on whether I get stuck behind someone going 40 on Route 12.

My commute always includes a quick stop at BlueOx in Oxford, where Ella is usually kind enough to have the papers ready for me. Then it’s back on the road, where I try to shake off my morning funk and gear up for the day.

While my coworkers generally start their day at 7, my goal is to be there by 6:30 at the latest. That gives me time to plan my day, check email and voicemail, wind myself up by reading 30 seconds, take a cursory glance at my favorite online news sites, eat a bit of breakfast and brew a pot of coffee (heavy on the cinnamon) before anyone else arrives.

From 7 to 9 a.m., the newsroom is a bevy of activity with each of us typing furiously away on whatever stories we’re trying to finish up for that day’s paper. Except for that quiet clacking of the keyboard and the occasional murmur of someone on the phone conducting a last minute interview, it is usually so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Jeff likes it that way, and out of deference to him (and our continued employment), we don’t protest too much.

We spend the next half hour reading each other’s work: checking for grammar, punctuation and flow before Jeff has a go at it. By 10, that day’s edition is off to press and shortly thereafter the online edition is posted.

By about that time, I’m usually ready for a break, but that doesn’t happen. That’s when we have our daily editorial meeting, where we regroup, share what we’re working on and catch up on the buzz.

The rest of the day (and sometimes into the night) is spent covering a mix of meetings and events, making follow up calls, conducting interviews, snapping necessary photos, writing and the like. But the morning is always the same, barring a breaking story here or there.

After a year on the job it’s what I’m used to. It’s what I’m comfortable with. I need that morning time to finish up my stories. I guess the pressure of deadline just works for me. As a result, I’m not always quite so productive in the afternoon. (Remember me staring blankly into my closet? Just sub in my computer screen in place of said clothing repository.)

That’s why I try my hardest not to accept invitations to meetings and events that take place much before 10 a.m.. This week however, it was unavoidable. Both Monday and Tuesday I had commitments at 8 a.m. or earlier. It cut into my deadline time both days and, although I hate to admit it, I’ve been a little off my game as a result.

But that’s all right. I’m going to suck it up, shake it off and get stuck right back into that nice comfortable groove.

Ahh, the trials and tribulations of being a creature of habit.