Thursday, November 26, 2009

In the Dark of the Night

It's odd to think that so much of what makes our lives easy goes on unnoticed by most of us while we sleep. Yesterday, I heard a piece on NPR that was not necessarily intended to make me think of these things, but that was the result.

The NPR piece was about a vegetable market in the northeast, a place through which virtually all the vegetables that end up on the tables in restaurants, in grocery stores, and otherwise make their ways to the stomachs of people throughout New England flow. The narrators guided the listener through the night in the market, explaining how the economics of power changed between sellers and buyers as supply and demand ebbed and flowed. The best of the best vegetables were gone by midnight or 1 am, taken by the buyers for the most expensive restaurants and upscale groceries, leaving the vegetables of lesser quality to haggling between sellers and less affluent buyers later on. Before sunrise, most of the participants completed their night's work and headed home to sleep while the rest of us live the more traditional lives of day workers.

I'm not a night person, but I suspect I could adjust if I were thrown into the arena of night-workers whose lives play out under artificial light against a dark sky. I have my reasons to think I could adjust and even begin to like that adjustment. For one, there are fewer people who live that life than live mine, giving some appeal to the dark life. And I suspect their world views may be different than those of us whose lives are more traditional.

On those rare occasions in which I am out and about in the middle of the night, I experience an odd sort of excitement as I see delivery trucks on the streets and wonder what they are carrying and where they are going and why their routes must be conducted under the cover of night. It's strangely intriguing to wonder about the lives of the waitresses and busboys who are hard at work at 3:00 a.m. Do they like this (to me) unusual schedule, or is this the best thing they could find? Is there a camaraderie among night workers that doesn't exist among those of us who arise in the morning and trudge obediently to work under the wash of the light of the sun? What about the hundreds of other people I see on the streets of Dallas as I take my rare glimpses of the life of the night?

I suppose these thoughts are natural, since it's just after 3:15 a.m. and I am awake and alone in my study, with only the glow of the computer screen and a halogen desk lamp lighting the night.

The piece I heard on NPR yesterday ended with a vegetable vendor making his way home before daylight, raking the leaves in his yard before sunrise, and going to bed just as his neighbors were beginning to get up to go to work. I'm not going to rake my leaves, but I may go back to bed before my neighbors begin to get up to work on their Thanksgiving Day meals.

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