Nothing good ever happens after midnight

My mom used to say that all the time. I completely disagree.

In fact, plenty of good happens after midnight:

– The best parties don’t even start until then.

– The likelihood you’ll get dinner and a show at an all-night diner certainly increases (I’m thinking of a specific instance that involved Waffle House and someone pulling a knife on someone.)

– Wal-Mart has fewer people (sure, more boxes in the aisles to skirt around, but who’s counting?)

– If you’re out at a club, you’ll probably be better at dancing after midnight than before …

Oh wait, maybe she was onto something.

I used to be out after midnight every night. It was my job, in fact – we didn’t even go to press at the daily newspaper until midnight. Then we had to wait for the pages to come off the press, inspect them for errors and make sure no breaking news was happening, and then do any planning needed for the next day, where we got to start the process all over again.

It was exciting. It was stressful. It was fun. It was challenging. It was creative. And I absolutely loved it. After midnight or not.

Not everyone at the paper worked the night shift, of course. The page designers/editors did (which was me), usually there was one or two reporters around (a cops beat reporter and maybe whoever was covering a school board or council meeting.) On breaking news nights, such as election night or the night we went to war against Iraq or if a local homicide got folks out of bed, it would be bustling in that newsroom. Those who didn’t have much to do but who wanted to be around in case we needed them would hover around CNN and yell out updates (and we, in turn, would watch the wire and yell out updates back.)

Working after midnight was certainly not all bad. One of my favorite reporters that I’ve ever  worked with, Susan, used to trade candy for error-catching. She wanted us to find mistakes so badly in her copy (and correct them before we went to press), that she kept a drawer full of chocolates that she would toss toward the design desk every time we told her we found something.

Then there was the time we (most of the night crew) decided we wanted to get in shape. So after we finished working, we’d all head back to the makeshift gym on the newspaper’s property and “work out.” I say “work out” because what I mostly remember doing is sitting on a weight bench and talking with Susan, Jason, Heather and Clarence (ok, Clarence actually was working out.) I did run my first mile in that dirty old building, though. One of the proudest moments of my exercise career.

After midnight, you felt like you had the world to yourself. The streets were desolate. The grocery store was quiet.

Of course, on Friday and Saturday nights, suddenly there were cars everywhere. And I never understood why people had the incessant need to tailgate me all the way home every weekend night, until Amy’s husband (the state trooper) explained to me one day that they were drunks, “following the lights home.” That’s kind of scary … And then there was the time the grocery store was robbed at gunpoint about an hour after I’d left. And there was the time Colleen got robbed at gunpoint at her night time job while I was leaving Wal-Mart. I vowed never to go out again alone late at night unless it was an emergency. Well-lit parking lot or not.

The great thing about the newsroom, though, is there was usually someone else who needed to go run late-night errands. And someone else to share the excitement of a breaking news story. Someone to look over my shoulder and shout out headline ideas while I put together the layout for the story that’s going to sell out the newsstands the next day. And someone else to “work out” with at 3 a.m.

Mom, you were wrong. And right. But mostly wrong.