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Monday, December 04, 2006

Turn out the lights and go home

By Dick Hirsch
I’d like to say a few words about sleep, a subject of importance to all of us. I have been a member of the sleep deprived group for decades, not because I stay up too late, but because I wake up too early. In our group, the hours slept are precious, worthy of safeguarding.
I mention sleep because of the news that some of the directors of Buffalo Place, the downtown business group, recently introduced the topic of 4 AM bar closings. They cited the relationship between the 4 AM closing hour and a number of shootings and assaults in the downtown area. Their recommendation: close the bars at 2 AM instead of 4 AM.
Would Buffalo be a better place if the bars closed two hours earlier? This has previously been described as a quality of life issue and I think that’s an apt observation. The truth of the matter is that the late closing issue transcends the behavior associated with drinking too much for too long. Instead it should focus on the sleep deprivation that must be widespread in our community and the impact it has the following day.
How do these people function the morning after? Are they as imaginative, efficient, personable and bright as their employer is entitled to expect? I have been up at that hour on a couple of occasions long ago and it took me days to recover.
I could name names here but I will not because some might consider it an invasion of privacy. While the men of whom I am thinking wouldn’t object, I worry about those gadflies who are quick to criticize writers for revealing details that could easily go unreported. There is no sense in inflaming the gadfly population, especially since I have occasionally been identified with that group myself.
I know some busy individuals of various ages who insist---some might say brag---that on weekdays they are asleep no later than 9:30 PM. Those individuals are men, because I believe women are less likely to share that kind of information in casual conversations. Those men want to be fresh and clear-headed when they arrive in the office the next morning, often before the sun rises. Is it reasonable to assume that a better work product would result if the number of hangovers was somehow reduced?
The bar owners surely will disagree with that assessment. I don’t blame them. They are protecting their businesses, but if they adopted a new game plan they might be able to ring up as many sales by 2 AM and get a little more sleep themselves.
Years ago I dealt with this subject and it proved to be an educational experience. In the interest of the peoples’ right to know, I visited some popular clubs and talked with a number of regulars. To my amazement, I discovered that many of them were closet nappers.
How did they manage the late hour regimen? One attractive young woman revealed her schedule. She went directly home after work, ate a light dinner and went to bed, probably by 7:30 or 8. She set the alarm for later, arose around midnight, took a shower, dressed and headed out to meet her friends and party. She insisted her approach was not unique, but was a common strategy employed by many. That revelation was a real eye opener for me; here was a whole group that slept while I was awake, then awoke while I was asleep, then, after a few hours went home to bed as I was rolling over and squinting at the alarm clock.
It contributed to my understanding of an active nightlife, but I have never been convinced that the two hours difference from 4 AM to 2 AM would be a major adjustment. As one of the Buffalo Place officials was quoted as saying, “Nothing good happens outside the bars between 2 and 4.”
I admit that I write this based on years of observation but limited firsthand knowledge. I have more experience going to bed early than staying up late, but I do have one vignette that is relative. Back in my early days of newspaper work, the late shift on the morning paper ended at 2:30 AM. Many people went home, but some gravitated to the Towne Tavern, a dingy but welcoming place. Closing time was then 3 AM so things moved quickly and when Pop turned out the lights at 3, the group sat in the dark. The only time I was there I dozed off in my chair. They woke me up and sent me home, not a bad place to be at that hour.



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