It's 5 a.m. and Tom Keim of Mission Viejo is making good time on the Santa Ana Freeway, passing the Crystal Cathedral in the eerie glow of early morning.
By the time Keim reaches his office in Los Angeles at 5:40 a.m., Walter J. Keating in Lemon Heights has finished shaving and has turned his attention to early financial reports. After leaving Fairhaven Estates in near darkness, he pulls his Porsche 928 into the parking space at Orange's Paine Webber office shortly after 6.
While most Southern Californians are still snug in their beds, a small flock of early birds is stationed at computer terminals, telephones and assorted work stations before dawn each day--cranking out orders and reports, with one ear tuned to the tempo of the East Coast and another to the time zone of the West.
With customers, company headquarters and co-workers three time zones away, hundreds of western workers are up by 4 a.m., out of the house by 5 and at the office by 6 to conduct business with East Coast callers. Conference calls may begin by 7, lunch is taken at 10 or 11 and by 2 p.m., briefcases are loaded up and heading for home, where they may be replaced by golf bags or other tools of leisure time.
Among the groggy legions are stockbrokers, bankers, theater directors, airline personnel, publishers and members of the news media who live in the West but whose lives are dictated by the East. And for many, Eastern rhythms rule their private as well as their professional lives.
"Most of our friends know we're early," says Arlen Crouch of Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith in Irvine. "If there's a party, they know we're heading out early. And they don't call late at night."
As regional director of the brokerage firm, Crouch is up by 5:15 a.m. and at the office by 6:30 when the New York Stock Exchange opens. And Crouch's wife, Derrel, is also on Eastern time when she gets up before 6 to help her husband get ready for work.
Crouch's colleague in the world of high finance, Walter Keating at Paine Webber, is on the same schedule.
Keating is up by 4:45 a.m., or 4 if he has to work in Los Angeles that day. After rising he works out with weights, then reads newspapers as he cools down. Leaving the hills of Lemon Heights about 6:15 for the 15-minute drive to his office on the 10th floor of the Tishman Building in Orange high above the sleeping masses, Keating is ready to begin his job as vice president of marketing by 6:30. In the hushed hallways and dimmed lights of dawn, Keating's first calls are to the East because, he says, New Yorkers are expecting early action.
"New Yorkers are very provincial," says Keating, who is wearing a conservative gray suit and red striped tie. "Remember that New Yorker cover with New York huge and everything west of the Hudson tiny? Well, that is how they look at the world. They think nothing of saying something needs attention by noon their time. So you call a customer out here and say, 'It has to be done by 9,' and he says, 'You're crazy.' "
Keating isn't alone in viewing New Yorkers as merciless time chauvinists. Professionals in the West often must bow to the ways of the East.
"You have to adjust to their habits," says Maura Eggan, marketing director of South Coast Plaza. "In New York, they go to lunch later; so you have the morning to call them. I make a lot of my calls before coming to the office. . . . But you also have to be aware that in the summer, New Yorkers work a four-day week."
Despite the drawbacks, most of those on East Coast time seem to like it. Joe Brunansky, businessman and sports manager, wouldn't have it any other way.
"I think it's the way to go," says the strapping ex-baseball player with the easy smile. "In college I never got up before 10 or 11, but now I like the early life. It gives me a lot more time. During the summer I can play golf every day, and that's what I do."
Brunansky also has time to coach his daughter's Bobby Sox game and play with his preschooler in the afternoon.
Tom Donnelly, a printing broker who arranges the publication of catalogues and flyers for Macy's department stores and other East Coast firms, rises about 5 a.m. at his Laguna Niguel home to reach his Laguna Beach office by 6. After 13 years of early rising, Donnelly says he "wouldn't have it any other way."
"How else could I get to the golf course by 3?" he says, adding that the California weather and casual life style are tailor-made for early birds.
Brunansky, part owner of Full Spectrum Technology eye wear, which provides glasses for patients recovering from eye surgery, also manages the careers of his brother Tom of the St. Louis Cardinals, Don Drysdale (formerly a pitcher and now an announcer with the Dodgers) and Bruce Hurst of the Boston Red Sox.