Three thirty-five in the morning

What a difference a day makes, especially when they both start at the same time. For the sake of comparison let’s lookat the morning of Thursday, April 17, the date of Pope Benedict’s Mass at Nationals Park in Washington, and the morning of Sunday, April 20, a papal Mass-less day in the nation’s capital. Both days started at 3:35 a.m. — not that either one was intended to start that early.

Thursday, April 17

3:35 a.m.: Wake up. Alarm is set for 4 a.m. Why bother returning to the pillow and risking oversleeping? Put on clothes. Fill pockets and shoulder bag with all necessary devices required for modern news reporting. Tell wife she can turn off the alarm.

3:48 a.m.: In the car, headed for the designated “media hotel.” Its parking garage is full. Risk a ticket by parking on the street (no ticket was issued; turns out the police had other things on their mind).

4:05 a.m.: Arrive at hotel, get last of eight credentials to assure entry into Nationals Park.

4:30 a.m.: Get a back seat on the every-half-hour media shuttle.

4:45 a.m.: Arrive at Nationals Park, or at least as close as security will let us. Total commute time: 15 minutes.

5:15 a.m.: Through security, into the press box. Now’s the time to get my bearings before an assembly of 46,000 or so arrive. Wait — they’ve started trickling in ahead of schedule. Go down to the concourse and conduct interviews on every papal Mass-related subject imaginable.

8:25 a.m.: Return to press box. CNS Rome bureau chief has imagined a story subject you didn’t imagine. Go back down to conduct more interviews.

9:15 a.m. Back in the press box, this time in my seat pretty much for good. Start writing copy for others’ stories, and your own. Can’t let the popemobile’s entrance slow you down too much.

9:57 a.m.: The Mass begins, a few minutes early — at least according to the Nationals Park clock.

11:57 a.m.: The Mass is ended. Go in peace. Might as well keep writing while the faithful fan out of the ballpark.

Sunday, April 20

3:35 a.m.: Up again. Oh, well. The body tells you it’s not going to let you sleep any more. What are you going to do? The answer: laundry. The first five of seven loads eventually get washed.

3:45 a.m.: The New York Times arrives. Get all but three sections of it read before the Washington Post plops onto the porch. Get a third of its sections read.

6:45 a.m.: Shower and dress for church.

7:10 a.m.: Drive to church.

7:18 a.m. Arrive at church. Total commute: eight minutes — and that’s after passing a chuch closer to my house.

7:30 a.m.: The Mass begins.

8:37 a.m.: Back in the car for the commute home.

8:45 a.m.: Home again. Another load of laundry. Breakfast. Wash dishes. Fold dry laundry. Folding is a lot more labor-intensive than washing.

10:16 a.m.: Head to the farmers’ market a mile and a half from home to buy produce.

10:47 a.m.: Back home. More dry laundry to fold. The seventh load to wash. Change from church clothes to more comfortable garb for an office where the work will continue long after the air conditioning’s been turned off.

11:10 a.m.: Finish reading the Post — barely — before putting that last load in the dryer, telling a charity telemarketer to call back next week.

11:49 a.m.: Back to the office.


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