I set the alarm for 4:30 a.m., with a car reserved for 5 and a flight leaving Newark at 6:45.
The problem is that I always fall asleep between 2:30 a.m. and 3:30 a.m., and wake up every day like clockwork at 8:50.
I slept through the alarm, then somehow woke at 5:15. My car presumably came, waited, and left. I hadn't finished packing. I had 90 minutes to dress, pack, find a cab, travel the width of Manhattan and then on to Newark, go through lines at check-in and security, and hop on a commuter jet.
Out the door within 10 minutes, there was, bizarrely, a parade of on-duty cabs rolling down my street. I leaped into one, negotiated an extra charge to get my ass to Newark, and motored off.
It worked out in the end. Newark was packed and hopping by 6 a.m., but Continental staffed heavily and lines moved quickly. There was even time to grab a coffee and muffin on the way: from wake to gate in an hour.
I abruptly ran into a college acquaintance about to board the same flight.
"Jack!" I shouted, full of holiday cheer. "Merry Christmas! Are you still at [employer redacted]?"
Yeah. He didn't want to talk about work any more than I did. I said that it was great to see him anyway, then went to work on a Times Crossword. (In my rush to get out that morning, I forgot to throw Richard Russo's Bridge of Sighs into my carry-on.)
When my parents met me on the other end of the flight, they said that I looked bright-eyed for that hour of the morning. I laughed at them, and if my jacket reeked of cigarettes, they either didn't notice or didn't comment.