Five more Minutes, Ma!

James McAllen
6 min readFeb 27, 2024

Yeah, I was that kid. The one that couldn’t get up in the mornings unless the house was on fire. I can still hear my mother screaming, “Get Up!” and then ripping the covers off me on a frozen February morning.
It didn’t work.

Part of the problem was that I hated going to bed at a decent time. I always felt like I was missing out on something. I still harbor this horrific memory of my father sending me to bed at 7:30pm during those late spring nights when the sun is still up. The five-year-old Jimmy crying from his room, “I can hear the kids playing outside!”. That was always met with a resounding, “Go to sleep!”
This was usually countered with the following exchange:
“Can I have some water?”
“I have to go to the bathroom!”
“Hold it.”
“But I’m not tired!”
“Just lay there. You’ll fall asleep.”
Eventually, I would fall asleep, and in the morning, long after my father had gone to work, my mother would be left to deal with a petulant child who hated to get up in the morning.
And then the ritual would begin again.
I remember having an earnest conversation with my father about the nature of my plight.
“Why do I have to go to school?”
“Because it’s the law. Do you want them to put me in jail?”
“Well, how long to I have to go to school?”
“12 more years.”

12 years.
It sounded like a prison sentence. It sounded like a lifetime.
I never made it.
After being the kid that was constantly late for school for ten years, as a high-school sophomore, I decided that the best course of action was to drop my first two classes. I just didn’t bother showing up. I started my day at 3rd period. Around 10am.
It was perfect.
I never missed a day, and I was never late.
Of course, I was stoned every day, so most of the day was spent outside of school rather than in class.
When 11th grade rolled around, I decided to just cut out the middle man and not go to class at all.
But I still showed up at 3rd period everyday.
Until my old man found out.
Then he got me a job as a laborer on a construction crew.
A 7:30am start meant a 6am wake-up time. This time, there would be no more battling with my mother. I had to get up on my own.
I hated it.
Not the job. I loved that part. I liked the work, and I liked the guys, and I loved the paycheck. $6.50 an hour. $192 bucks a week after taxes. I was going to do this for the rest of my life.
There was only one problem.
I hated getting up at 6am.
Especially during February.
When that gig ended, it was onto a plumbing supply house in Long Island City where I would cut pipe all day. I liked the job, but hated the 6am wakeup. In order to get there on time, I would have to be out of the house by 6:15. Then I would hustle to the “R” train where I would quickly pass out until the doors opened at the Queensboro Plaza stop. Then I would smoke a joint on the walk to work, and I would spent the rest of the morning in a blissful stupor while listening to the mournful hum of those pipe threading machines. The hardest part of my day was getting out of bed.

When that got old, I decided to try my hand at College and enrolled in a state school about 14,000 miles north of New York City. The first order of business was making sure that I had no classes before 10am.
Unfortunately, the only open Bio class was at 8:30am Mon and Wed.
I was late to that class. A lot. Probably hung over too.

The next venture was when my then-girlfriend’s brother gave me a job installing carpet and linoleum.
That job, I hated. Not just the morning, but the work too. I couldn’t wait to find a new gig.
It took me two years.
A good buddy of mine was a messenger in the city. He tried to get me a job there once, but it started at 7am.
No Thanks.
He made some connections on that job, and he got a gig working as a computer operator on the midnight shift. He told me that they had an opening. I jumped at the chance, even though I didn’t have a clue what a computer operator was, or did.
I didn’t even bother quitting the other job. I just didn’t show up.
I showed up the first night, bright-eyed and bushy tailed, ready for a new start. I was 21 years old and eager to make my mark in the world.
Not really.
I was just a kid looking for a paycheck that didn’t require getting up at 6am.
I was shocked to see how many people worked the midnight shift. It turns out, there were a lot like me. I liked the work, and I liked the people, and I learned a lot. But the best part was at 7am, when my shift was over and I was heading to the train, I would look at all of the people trudging to work, and see the absolute misery on their faces, and I would have a hop in my step knowing that I would soon be home in my bed.
I was going to work this job forever.
A week later, my friend died tragically and unexpectedly.
I was so distraught, I didn’t want to go back. My father consoled me by saying, “If you take a few days off, your boss will understand, but if you don’t go back, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life. Go back for a week, and if you hate it, you’ll find something different. You can always go back to laying carpet.”
I went back to work without taking a day off.
With the exception of one year, I’ve been working the night shift ever since.
In 1990, I got the opportunity to switch the the dayshift. I was taught never to turn down a good opportunity, so I said yes, and then immediately went out and got my ear-pierced. I was still a 25-year old rock star in waiting, so I decided that if I was going to have to wear a suit and tie every day, it was going to be on my terms; with shoulder length hair and a tiny hoop in my ear.
I thought my brother was going to kill me.
I did that job for a year, and when the next promotion season rolled around, I got a gig as the supervisor on the night shift. Midnite to 8am.
I haven’t worked days since.

That all changes on March 11th.
Somewhere along the line, I grew up.
Or grew old. I’m not sure which, but at some point, I grew tired of the nights. Sleeping in the daytime became a chore.
Kissing my wife goodbye at 10pm, and getting in my car to drive to work became something of a prison sentence in itself.
So I started to look for a new gig. My current employer is a big supporter of internal transfers. People do it all the time. I applied for a job in Incident Management. I had 4 interviews with 6 different people.
Somehow I managed to fool them all, because they offered me the job.
Now I’m terrified.
But I was taught to never turn down an opportunity.
So on Monday March 11th,
I will get up at 6am,
and take a shower, and brush my teeth and trudge to the N train with the rest of the dregs.
I may even have to pierce my ear again.


Stay tuned.