Shift Work

Getting right into it, the hours of our shifts shape our lives.  Goes without saying, I know, but I wanted to touch upon what I’ve learned, post it, and come back to it in a few years to see what might change.

My first jobs were your typical 9-to-5 affairs.  The pros and cons were as easy to list as the shift is “normal”.
Some cons:

  • If you’re a responsible person, there’s not much in the way of partying the night before your shift.
  • Mind-altering substances of either the legal or “otherwise” variety must be curtailed with special consideration to positions of great importance.
  • The weekends off are far too short and far too spaced out according to many.

Some pros:

  • Weekends/days off are so much more cherished.
  • Most people are 9-to-5ers like yourself, so group activities are easily mapped out.
  • The greatest pro might be the fact that, for the most part, you only have to be around people you might not like being around for roughly 8 hours then you’re free of them.

Next up, I worked a 4-to-midnight shift for quite a few years, and obviously, changes to my lifestyle were significant. When 9-to-5ers get home, they’re bedtimes are not usually by 7pm.  There are responsibilities to take cafe of after work, or de-stressing, or what have you.  We all have them, but even if you’re after-work responsibilities do not consume too much of your free time, you probably still wouldn’t be in bed by 7 or 8pm.  As a 4-to-midnight guy, my life was the same.  After my shift ended, I wouldn’t rush home to go to bed.  I became a night owl, and barely hit the sack by 5am.

Socially, my life changed for the worse.  Nothing is open after midnight on a Tuesday other than the type of places your reverend/priest/imam would warn your soul against.  Unless you prefer a life of solitude, enclosed within your living space, your base, humanistic instincts will win, and you will seek out other lifeforms.  These are people who barely see the sun due to a similar work schedule, or people who live just outside of the “normal” grid.  And if you work this kind of schedule, you too will unwilling become one of those on the outside looking in.

Still, I had a few days off to try to normalize my life.  However, unlike the “normal” 9-to-5ers, I didn’t have every weekend off.  I worked on a “6 and 2”, which means I worked 6 days to earn 2 days off.  It worked in a way to have a full weekend off every couple of weeks — you do the math.  And it sucked really bad, for lack of a better phrase.  Needless to say, I wasted my time trying to normalize anything.  This shift, and the dreaded midnight-to-8 shift, (which I’ve also experienced), along with the “6 and 2” schedule made for a very lonely existence, and a test on the strength of my mind.  Looking back, I can’t honestly decide if my mind passed or failed.

Currently, I work another strange schedule.  And it’s strange for two reasons:

  1. I receive a lot in the way of envious comments from friends and relatives.
  2. It’s another test of my mind, (by way of patience and tolerance), and body, (by way of pure, unadulterated endurance).

The envy comes by way of my “1 and 3” schedule.  I work one day, then I’m off for three days.  However, the days I do work are 24hr shifts.  To have three days off after every shift sounds like a dream, but the price to pay proves it is far from ideal.  People on 8hr or 10hr shifts only have to suffer the company of incompatible co-workers for that amount of time.  I have to eat mine for what seems to be an unnatural amount a time.

The after-effects of such a schedule are disturbing.

First off, when forcefully surrounded by any people, those of us whom are more prone to influence, might come to notice certain characteristics rubbing off on oneself.  And it’s rather unfortunate that most of these characteristics are of the negative variety.  I don’t want people to think I work with complete buffoons or assholes — such is not the case.  It’s just that, like me, they too are suffering from the ill effects of having to support the company of other humans far beyond what one would deem necessary, warranted, or desired.

I’m one crabby motherfucker on my best days.  The wind has to be right, the sun has to be setting;  a full moon must not be forming, and I would have to had finished eating something good within a reasonable time in order to put forth my best face.  If the settings aren’t just right, I can be pretty snarky, darkly sharp, or not so euphemistically speaking, and asshole.  Now stick me in a big garage with 8 to 10 other men for 24 hours, and ask me to smile.  Yeah, right.  So it’s important to mention my co-workers are not bad people, for the most part.  Some are just a bit old fashioned, others are just your garden-variety Fox republicans.  (No one’s perfect, right?)

Then, there are the stresses on my mind and body.  At the firehouse I don’t get much by way of sleep, even if I’m awarded by a slow day.  I’m thankful for slow days because it’s a guarantee no one gets hurt and no one has lost their home and belongings.  Slow days are rough in-house because of what I just mentioned.  The cure for all of that bullshit comes by way of a busy day.  Busy days increase camaraderie by leaps and bounds.  The nonsensical boundaries of race, color, creed, etc., disappear instantly, and the remainder of the night flies by with slaps on the back and laughter.

And that’s how this ends… for now.



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