Sunday, May 27, 2018

Being a Nighthawk

Philosophically speaking, I'm not big on the concept of free will right now. It's a long story and quite frankly my knowledge on the philosophical aspects of free will pretty much hinges on an educational series of You Tube videos and discussions with my twenty-two year old son who digs the subject like I do Star Trek. Seriously, my son has read all the big names in philosophy and can have a coherent conversation on the subject while I sound like poor white trash talking about the UFO that flew over the trailer park the night before.

On the other hand, the concepts of destiny or fate seem like superstitious nonsense to me. If anything, I tend to liken human existence to water molecules vibrating in a glass. There is some movement but our choices are limited to the circumstances we're born. I realized that's just the half-assed opinion of a middle-aged guy marooned in a pleasantly hellish suburban landscape filled with proto-facist drones, but everyone has to have a hobby.

My doubts about destiny or fate notwithstanding, somehow over the course of my entire work history I have found a way to end up on third-shift. Yes, a couple of times the choice was intentional, since the alternative was worse, but more often than not situations have arisen that seem to seek out my sorry ass and stick me with a vampire-like existence.

For those who aren't acquainted, third-shift hours usually run from eleven o'clock at night to seven o'clock in the morning. Variations abound, including a twelve hour version that starts at seven o'clock in the evening and runs to the next morning. What also can vary is the start of the work week, but over the years mine have always began on Sunday night. The one consistency though is how badly working nights can screw with your physical and mental health.

These dangers start with an increased likelihood of cancer and heart disease when the natural metabolic cycles of the human body get screwed six ways to Sunday because third-shift workers are going against millions of years of evolution by not sleeping at night. Scientists recently found another monkey wrench banging around in the delicate human mechanisms that's even more fun. Researchers have discovered that during normal night time sleep cycles, the brain flushes out harmful wastes that if left in place can cause all sorts of nifty illnesses like Alzheimer's disease and several others. So those of us working night are not only wrecking our physical bodies but the brain as well. This new information does seem to confirm my wife's assumptions that I have a loose, inert jello swishing around between my ears and not active brain cells.

What I've found fascinating though is the number of people who can't fathom the concept of working third-shift, nor the hassles involved. This includes numerous coworkers of mine who can't understand why I don't want to hang out with them until their nine o'clock morning meetings. Well, to be honest not staying for the morning meeting goes beyond just wanting to go home at the end of my shift to sleep. Despite the fact that my daytime coworkers all think highly of themselves, I'll be kind and say they aren't the most enlightened or cosmopolitan people. So I don't enjoy hearing about their views on the “proper” treatment of illegal aliens nor how every school in America needs to a heavily armed encampment. You can call me a snob if you want or a snowflake elitist, I'm just not keen on turning the country into a continent-wide weapons free zone dotted with fortress-like concentration camps.

Sleeping through the day, while most other humans are living normal lives is a whole other order of magnitude of difficulty. That is unless you develop certain strategies and methods. The first item is installing shades and blackout curtains to limit sunlight into the bedroom. These methods do not block all light but it reduces it down to the point to a dark twilight. That your bedroom takes on the atmosphere and mood of a tomb is something you learn to ignore.

Sounds from the outside world is the biggest obstacle to sleeping during the day. So much that I have developed an intense hate for the person who invented the motorized leaf blower. The sound of the average lawn mower has a white noise quality and in my experience, the noise of a motorized weed whackers quickly fades into the background. But leaf blowers, those insidious creations makes a persistent nightmarish noise at just the right frequency to make sleep impossible. The smaller leaf blowers used by home owners are bad enough sounding like a swarm of mutant bees. But the big commercial version used by lawn care services remind me of a shrieking demon set loose on earth and wanting to party.

Then of course, you have the usual disturbances which includes phone calls, trucks and cars driving through the neighborhood sharing their music, and people who knock on your door for some reason. Phone calls can be ignored, except when two or three hit close together. That's when the little voice whispers in my head as I try to sleep it might have been something important like my wife with a flat tire or one of the kids getting sick. So I jump up, fumble for the phone, only to discover it's some fool offering a great deal on life insurance.

Trucks and cars are a unique obstacle to sleeping during the day in that civility and human decency has decayed to the point that far too many people do not realize no one really wants to hear their musical playlist. That goes for every genre including heavy metal, country music, electronic dance, experimental jazz, besides the usual rap and hip hop. Now I wouldn't mind someone playing a selection of soft classical music as they drove by, but if that every happened my new concern would be that I suddenly died.

The absolute worst hurdle to sleeping during the day is the knock at the door. Most of my neighbors don't think much of me, or I them, but I do have good relations with a meager few with strict instructions from my wife to do nothing that might alienate them. So when there is someone knocking at the door who will not go away, I've got to answer it. Luckily this situation is rare but there was an occasion when one of the good neighbors was irate over the fact that she was convinced one of my two dogs was loose and had taken a shit in her yard. It took me gathering up my two fur balls and showing them to her to defuse the situation. Even then, I could tell from the tone in her voice that she didn't totally believe me. The other occasion involved the old lady living next door who desperately wanted me to know one of my lawn sprinkler heads was stuck. The issue for her was that the stuck sprinkler head was watering a portion of her yard and driveway. Self righteous justification is a dangerous thing, but I honestly feel at times my hate for suburbia and the people who inhabit is based in fact.

The question you might be wondering about is if third-shift is such a pain why don't I find another job? A good damn question and my best answer revolves around the fact that despite it all I actually like where I work. Most of previous work experience was doing maintenance in the manufacturing industries where it's always obvious you're just helping the rich elites and that they will massively screw the workers the minute the economic winds change direction for the worse. As a mechanical specialist in a hospital, I feel like that I am helping people, however indirectly.

At times third-shift sucks beyond human comprehension, its strains on the human body and social inconveniences causes me to buy a lotto ticket every once and a while so I can daydream about winning and then telling the world to kiss my ass. On the other hand, given that I'm such an antisocial curmudgeon whose disdain for the locals is so extreme, I have to admit working third-shift is sort of a sanctuary for me. To me that is a totally messed up and maybe an ironic state of affairs.


MikeP said...

Nice (and appropriate) Hopper pic for your heading. I've always loved that one. :)

Harry Hamid said...

My dad worked second and third shifts for most of his work life while I was growing up. He was never at any of my events, he cut himself off from everyone, and he's still a bit of a dark figure who, in retirement, can't find any constructive hobbies on which to spend his time.

That might not be all the fault of the job, of course. But the same thing happened to my best friend who worked for 20 years running ads during overnights at a local TV station.

I wouldn't do it although, not having a wife, kids, or close friends, at least I wouldn't take anyone else down with me if I tried.

Donna said...

:-) Hey BB, care to have this shared over at my place?

The Bug said...

My dad was a UPS driver for 25 years. When he got older & not spry enough for the little brown trucks he started driving the feeder trucks at night. I wasn't living at home then, but it was quite a change for him. My mom loved it though - she was a total night owl & would often stay up until he got home.

I'm a night owl too - working 8-5 is NOT natural for me. But I don't think 3rd shift would work for me either. If I lived alone I'd be looking for a 2nd shift job :)

Pixel Peeper said...

My ex-husband worked third shift for a number of years, and I think it was reason No. 17 why our marriage didn't make it. My second son works third shift in the same occupation now...and his first marriage ended a few years ago. Not sure how much working third shift had to do with it, but it probably didn't help.

I know how shifting sleep scheduled can mess with your system. I used to work for an inventory service many years ago, and during inventory season I would work all sort of crazy hours, days and nights. I remember waking up once, hearing the kids and my ex in the living room, and I groggily shouted, "What time is it?" The answer was, "It's seven o'clock." And my response, "Don't bother me with details - is it a.m. or p.m.?"

Take care of yourself!

goatman said...


morning sucks!

Ranch Chimp said...

Hey Bum! I was going through this the other day, but had to run when commenting. No, just alot of this really gave me a laugh ... the leave blowers, phone calls, dog shit, etc ... but at least it's honest, about what so many have to live with. Destiny & Fate ... well ... I'm like you, and really dont have any ... I kind of act and live spontaneously though ... my mind is so wasted, and goes in a thousand directions {:-) Night shift ... for some, it's a treat, plus you can do all those daytime appointments that are 8 to 5, without cutting out of work. The only hight job I had was in my early 50's, security for uptown Dallas' nightclub, dining, entertainment district, loud watered down popular music coming from venues... it was SO BUSY too ... like 6pm to 2am hours are busy hours, but really alot of action, drunks, beautiful ladies all dolled up, street hustlers, etc ... checking alot of young peoples ID's so bar owners wont lose their liquor licenses, etc. I didnt mind it. I havent even thought about the part where you talked about millions of evolution and folks sleeping in the night, which makes sense. I heard that like in a place like the artic, they have to get used to daylight all day, or night all day kind of thing, I never been there though. I enjoy the night and day both, but yeah, I generally do my sleeping in the night. Hope y'all had a good Memorial Day ... it was hot as Hell here, like 10-15 above normal (mid 90's) ... later Bum