This Week’s Words

This appeared 15 years ago (Oct. 1, 2002) in our local newspaper, The Athens Messenger.  I was invited to be on the Board of Contributors–about two dozen community members who were asked to submit approximately four columns per year. The only payment was a free subscription to the newspaper.  (Update: Our children are now grown and on their own, and our dog is now gone.)

Have you ever met anyone who is an “afternoon person”?

I have never met anyone who claims to be an “afternoon person.”  Among people who get off work around 5:00 p.m., I don’t know a soul who finds afternoons the best part of the day.  In fact, everyone I know employs an arsenal of survival techniques, such as vertical napping, to get through the afternoon.  Afternoons are to workdays as potholes are to roads–gaps to get over.

People I know are either “morning persons” or “night persons.”  These days, children as young as three know which they are: “I can’t go to bed now, Mommy.  I’m at my peak for coloring inside the lines!”

People didn’t always label themselves by their optimal hours.  When I was growing up, no one used the terms “morning person” or “night person.”  We knew some “early birds” and “night owls,” but most people didn’t fall into either category.  Both types were considered odd enough that we allowed them extra personal space (then called “a wide berth”).

I didn’t realize that I was a morning person until I was 29 and started working an 8:00-5:00 job.  I found I woke up energized, needing only a cup of early daylight.  Ten years later I needed a cup of coffee to achieve the same level of enthusiasm, but even today I can accomplish more between 6:00-8:00 a.m. than I can in all of the after-work hours put together.

Today, morning people marry night people, and the children must choose one camp or the other.  Unfortunately for me, my wife and two children are night people.  They think that the day is still young at 10:00 p.m.  I can’t think that my clanking around in the kitchen at 6:00 a.m. on weekends is as irritating as their house-filling racket at 10:00 at night.  The moon is a night light, not task lighting.

By 10:00 p.m. my cognitive day is over.  Trying to hold thoughts in my head at that hour is like trying to float bowling balls.  I have to keep repeating the mantra “Bathroom, then bed.  Bathroom, then bed” to find the stairs and successfully retire for the night.

Night people don’t understand.  Around 10:00 my son will ask me to double-check his 37 math problems, or my daughter will want me to read her 12-page paper.  My wife, interpreting my glazed-over look as “needing something to do,” will bring up every important decision we need to make in the next 5 days and ask what I’ve decided.  What part of “Bathroom, then bed” don’t they understand?

My only ally is our dog, who is a morning dog.  She glazes over even before I do, and first thing in the morning she’s ready to “go.”  Over time she has learned that even morning people can snarl before their first cup of coffee, so she patiently counts floor tiles until my cup runneth empty.  Then she puts me on the end of a leash and takes me outside.

Copyright © 2002 by John Arthur Robinson

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This Week’s Words

Despite Vladimir Putin’s illegal takeover of The Crimea and his machinations in attempting to subvert democracies everywhere, the average Russian people on the street are not our enemies.  When you get right down to it, they are a lot like us.  I wrote this a few months before the Berlin Wall fell:

The Red Scare

Russian children fear the dark;
Russian parents worry;
Russian lovers fall in love
(their parents think too early).

Copyright © 1989, 2017 by John Arthur Robinson

This Week’s Words


It was the first week of high school.  My fellow students from our Catholic grade school were joined at the central Catholic high school by students from grade schools up and down the river valley.  I quickly guessed that the boys from one of those schools must all have nicknames for each other.

One of them started calling me “Bugs” every time he saw me.  That’s “Bugs” for “Bugs Bunny.”  That’s “Bugs Bunny” because of my protruding front teeth (which, because they were never straightened, I still have as an adult).

I was horrified.  I would like to say that I confronted the kid and threatened the status of HIS teeth if he didn’t stop calling me that, but I wasn’t that brave.  Instead, I just dreaded running into him in the hallway.

“BUGS!”  I faced the prospect of getting stuck with that nickname my entire life!  Most people hearing it wouldn’t suspect it had something to do with my facial resemblance to a cartoon character.  Most likely they would think that it had something to do with my personal hygiene.

It wasn’t long, though, before he called me that nickname in the presence of another kid from his school, named John.  As soon as he heard me being called “Bugs,” John said something like, “I don’t think we’re going to do that.”

And there it stopped.  The reason that I am not now known by that nickname in my 60s is that John intervened with just a few words.  This told me two things about John: (1) that he was a compassionate kid and (2) that he carried a great deal of moral authority with the kids from his school. I considered John one of my closest friends from that point on.

I attended the 50th reunion of our high-school graduation a month ago, and John was the person I most hoped to see there, because after fifty-four years, I finally wanted to thank him in person, even though he probably wouldn’t even remember the incident.

He wasn’t there.  I asked the organizer of the reunion to give me John’s address, and I sent him an advance copy of this post.

The bottom line that IS the bottom line:

You will never know when a few kind words can change a person’s life.


BACKGROUND: For 7 years (November 1, 2010 – June 2, 2017), I posted one of my own photos with a funny title and caption at, either every weekday (for the first 5 years) or every M-W-F (for the last 2 years).

You can see a gallery of over 270 readers’ favorites at:

START DATE for this blog: July 1, 2017

END DATE: April 28, 2018

[Click on the “Older Posts” link at the bottom of the page to see ALL the posts on this site, from the beginning.]

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