Monday, October 10, 2005

Time changes in New Orleans

A friend of mine now visiting Buenos Aries has commented about the late-night hours kept by local Argentines.

Dinner at 10 p.m., social gatherings at 11 p.m., late-night carousing until just before dawn. And sleeping hours stretching into the mid-day.

He doesn't realize it, but he's describing the New Orleans that I knew before Hurricane Katrina.
The Crescent City was one of the nation's few truly 24-hour cities.

My personal life clock typically ran this way during the week: Wake up around mid-morning; arrive at the office around 10 a.m.; home by 7 p.m.; dinner around 9:30 p.m.; in bed around midnight.

Mind you, I was considered an early bird compared to most of my neighbors.

That lifestyle was largely a result of the economy and the job market. With so many people working in the city's service and tourism industries, many kept late-shift work hours which gave them a life clock that ran about five or six hours later than the typical 9 to 5'er.

So far, the new New Orleans seems to be keeping time with the rest of the world.

Curfews, early business closing and limited work forces all have conspired to send those of us who have moved back home crawling between our sheets much earlier than normal.

Out-of-town workers, many of whom undoubtedly hail from the world of suburbia, also head for the doors at respectable hours.

It's strange to walk into a nearly empty restaurant or bar in the French Quarter at 10 p.m. and realize that you missed the evening rush by an hour.

Another contributing factor is exhaustion. After spending all day working longer-than-normal work hours or doing the hard physical labor required to repair storm damage around our homes, businesses and neighborhoods, we just don't have the energy to do much else.

Maybe this suburban-life schedule will be good for all of us, at least for the time being.

Maybe it was our late-night hours that kept us from dealing with and fixing so many of the problems that faced New Orleans before the storm.

Maybe through this new work ethic, we'll find the time to correct the city's ills in ways we only dreamed of before.

Whatever the case, I hope the change isn't permanent.

My experience always has been that the least interesting places on this planet always are the ones that roll up the carpets and turn out the lights by 10 p.m.

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