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Hummel column: Early to bed, early to rise...

I talked to an athletic man last week who told me he gets up every morning at 5:00 and runs three miles. I asked him what time he went to bed. His answer was "about 9:00 o'clock." Now there is a morning person. He wasn't bragging, he was just answering my questions.

Benjamin Franklin was a morning person who got up early, opened the windows to let cold air in the room then sat there without any clothes and absorbed all the cold, fresh air. Then he wrote in Poor Richard's Almanac: "Early to bed and early to rise, Makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise." Probably half the people in the world, the night people, would disagree. One of them wrote mockingly: "Early to bed, early to rise and your girl goes out with other guys." Who is right? It's not easy to agree with a man who sits naked in cold air, but I consider myself a morning person -- and I'm married to a night person who thinks a beautiful sunrise is boring. "If you've seen one, you've seen them all."

When I was in college, I had a roommate who was serious night person. We were great friends but we couldn't have had more opposite sleeping habits. When I was behind in my work, I just couldn't stay awake and study late, so I would hit the hay early then got up at 4:00 a.m. for cramming during the quietest time of the day. It happened more than once that my roommate came in to go to bed when I was already up for the day. He wasn't a carouser, just a night owl. He liked to schedule all his classes in the afternoon if possible so he could sleep all morning. He was never thrilled by a beautiful sunrise either.

The roommate lives in California now, but I see him from time to time. He's still a night owl. Last summer after a short visit, he left here at about 11:00 p.m. to drive around 250 miles (from Detroit Lakes, Minnesota to Bismarck, North Dakota) all alone. Thought nothing of it. When he's at home (now retired) he reads and reads until all hours of the night, then if he gets bored, he drives to an all night Wal-Mart and just wanders around. There is no cure, but the routine works just fine for him.

Getting up early is not a virtue, it's just a habit. But some early risers are quite self-righteous about the business and act as though everybody in the world should follow their fine example. Nonsense, we're not all the same. Guys like that ought to have their alarm clocks smashed, though most would boast that they don't need an alarm clock and never use one. People can be righteous about religion, politics, race, nationality, education, occupation, wealth and yes, even about early rising. One is just as pompous as all the others. They're all different versions of stuffed shirts. Avoid them all, schedule your duties for afternoon, sleep late and stay up until 4:00 a.m. if it suits you.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) was the greatest English writer of his day. Johnson was brilliant and witty in his writing and extraordinarily vigorous in his conversation. He wrote "I have, all my life long, been lying till noon; yet I tell all young men, and tell them with great sincerity, that nobody who does not rise early will ever do any good." Now there's a bit of advice that makes no sense at all.

Here's what makes sense -- if your engine runs better at night, and mine runs better in the morning, we should simply run them when they run best.