I learned the other day that I glow in the dark. You do, too. Evidently, we all do, although I suspect that some radiate more brightly than others.
Apparently, all humans emit a small aura of light. The light is produced as a result of the chemical reactions within our cells. It’s called bioluminescence, and it’s the same kind of light produced by fireflies.
Neat, huh? Makes me want to avoid small children with glass jars.
Sadly, we cannot see this light. The visible light spectrum for humans is something like 350 to 750 nanometers. The wavelength of bioluminescence lies beyond our ability to see it without high-tech equipment.
It’s a shame, really. I think it would be neat to watch a football game, for instance, in total darkness. Can you imagine twenty-two little glowworms chasing a ball all over the place?
The closest I’ve ever come to really seeing people at night is when my Mother became ill, and as her caregiver, I had to take a third shift job in the big city to keep daylight hours available for her care. That’s the first time I realized that a whole new world exists out there after most folks go to sleep.
Once you spend a few weeks acclimating to the night, you begin to see people –– people going about their business in the shadows. People don’t really glow, per se, but you do begin to see the invisible emerging from the shroud of obscurity.
These are the people of the night.
I used to park outside the 24-hour Waffle House, on my way home, and watch diverse cultures coalesce to share their workday meal. Nothing brings people together like an all-night diner.
A diner is the hash-browns version of the United Nations.
It wasn’t uncommon to see a utility truck with a toolbox parked right next to an S-Class Mercedes, waiting to shuttle a businessman to his redeye flight. Sometimes I’d see the burly truck driver hold open the door for a young mother and her frightened kids, coming home, perhaps, from dropping Dad off at the emergency room.
Another time it might be the waif, ordering soup after scrounging just enough coin to quiet her pangs of hunger. On a good night, you might see another patron, with a knowing nod, slip a banknote into her hand as she slips silently again into the murkiness.
We make jokes about law enforcement men and women congregating at the diner or the donut shop. You have to realize that, for a long time, these were the only places open that a policeman could get a meal in the morning void.
The reason cops are out in the first place is the very reason I dare not sit too long in the parking lot. Bad guys, like scientists, realize that we can’t see each other bio-luminescing in the dark, and choose the shadows as their workbench.
Through the vestibule I watched walk Caucasian with Black. Sikh with Hindu. Liberal with Conservative. The nighttime brings us together.
Most often, the night remains peaceful. Time slows. People relax. Work is more deliberate. The pace of life is gentle. Moonlight unites people in a way that sunshine doesn’t seem able.
In a very real way, the nocturnal world is the world that daytime people crave. Night people seems to understand that we are all in this together.
Maybe it takes the darkness to see how people can really shine.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media