One of my Fort Wayne neighbors was a police officer, and worked overnight. I’m a part-time editor for a company whose senior staff works overnight, too. I have an easy shift; I knock off at 1 a.m., while they’re up until dawn and beyond crafting custom newspapers for corporate America to read on their BlackBerries on the pre-dawn treadmill. The woman who relieves me should be leaving work (i.e., turning off her computer) right about now, in fact.
I really hope there’s not a wood chipper outside her house at the moment, as there is at mine.
The world just isn’t set up for night-shift workers. After a year of this, I think I’ve finally settled upon the right mixture of coffee and naps that allows me to function on five hours of sleep a night (at best). Basically, it’s this: I write in the morning, I edit at night. Sometime after lunch, when the afternoon sleepies strike, I don’t fight them. I turn off the phone and go to bed. If I’m fortunate and there are no wood chippers about, I get one hour of decent sleep, which I pad out with some recreational reading in a prone position. I’m up and about by 3, feeling like aces.
I’m always looking for tips on how to make this work better. When Detroit hosted the Super Bowl, there were lots of stories in the media about Roger Penske, who was the main mover/shaker behind the event. Penske works pretty much all the time, and has the ability to turn himself on and off at will; he’ll say, “OK, time for a 20-minute power nap,” tilt his head to the side and drift off in seconds, then wake up precisely 20 minutes later. This is why he’s a billionaire and I’m not. Also, he probably doesn’t get bothered by wood chippers.
The business press is full of stories of high-functioning insomniacs and others who claim to be totally refreshed by absurdly little sleep. This is always reported in an admiring tone — such superhumans! — and for the life of me, I don’t understand why. Martha Stewart gets by on four or five hours, or so she says. Madonna, ditto. Half the corner offices, it seems, are occupied by people whose e-mail is time-stamped 3:20 a.m. Meanwhile, all the people I work with at my night job are on my buddy list (we communicate almost entirely by e-chat), and one has this as her Away message: “I’d BETTER be sleeping now.”
I used to be a night owl, and transitioned through my 30s into lark-hood. My natural body rhythms — banished now — would send me to bed between 10 and 11 and get me up around 6, and screw all these naps and cappuccinos. But who can live that way? Not this home-office worker. The price for all our flexibility, for being able to run errands during the day and start stews braising at 2 p.m. and beating the rush at the dry cleaner and grocery store, is paid 12 hours earlier, when I shut the laptop, stretch, turn out the lights, check the locks and look up and down the street at all the dark windows. I think: Lucky bastards. And then I join them.
The wood chipper has moved to the next block. Time to get some work done. For now, the bloggage:
“American Idol” is shaping up to be more talent-free that usual — can we fast-forward to the inevitable showdown between LaKisha and Melinda now? — but entertaining in many other ways. The sadism of the baby-boom producers continues to amuse, as we watch these young’uns forget the words to “Love Hangover,” a song I’d happily pay money to have excised from my brain. And young Sanjaya, cocking his head like a puppy when Simon uses a fancy-schmancy 10th-grade word like “wail.” (Sanjaya thought he was talking about the marine mammals.) This sort of entertaining brinksmanship is why we tune in. The assignment seems so simple — find a song you can sing from the back pages of Diana Ross, a woman who wasn’t much of a singer in the first place — and yet, hardly anyone can find one. I was astonished at how many of the old Motown finger-poppers were spurned in favor of Diana’s disco catalog, or the apres-disco craptastic stuff. (“I’ve chosen a song from ‘The Land Before Time,’ Ryan.”) Melinda should have sung “Touch Me in the Morning” if she wanted something downtempo and emotional. Why didn’t anyone tackle “Reflections”? Leave it to LaKisha to play the “Lady Sings the Blues” card and sidestep the whole oeuvre by snagging a Billie Holiday song. That was smart. If you can sing better than the supposed master-class teacher, don’t sing one of her songs.
Ken Levine is funnier than I am, however: Could they pad the show any more? Christ! It was so long Paula’s drugs were wearing off.
Today is Pi Day. Happy 3.14, etc. to presumed infinity, to you.
Joe Kobiela said on March 14, 2007 at 11:19 am
I have been doing the 3rd shift thing for most of my working life, would not change it. No traffic, no crowds in the stores, and it feels like a three day weekend, every weekend, Back in the day You could get hammered twice a day, on Fridays. Beer and Breakfast at 7:00am get a buzz on, then go to bed about 11:00 get back up about 7:00pm and hit the bars till closing time. If I can get a 30 min power nap I can go all day. I have in the past worked all night then flew to Pontiac picked up passengers and gone on to Texas, snoozed for a hour then turned around and flew back. Once you get adjusted it is great.
Marcia said on March 14, 2007 at 12:06 pm
I did day shift for about 6 months. Never, ever again. I don’t like people, for one thing.
The pros outweigh the cons, but the cons are many. As you said, the world isn’t set up for off shift workers, especially the world of parents. I have to put my schedule in about 6 weeks in advance, so don’t change the date of the choir concert or the football scrimmage a week before it happens and just assume that because it’s in the evening everyone can make it. I probably can’t make it, and sometimes that means my kid can’t, either.
As far as sleep, get a fan, Nance. I sleep much better with the outside noise stifled.
Marcia said on March 14, 2007 at 12:10 pm
P.S. 3/14 happens to be my anniversary–my 20th, this year. If you want to see my wedding picture complete with 80s eye makeup, come visit.
Danny said on March 14, 2007 at 12:24 pm
I did day shift for about 6 months. Never, ever again. I don’t like people, for one thing.
This is one of the funniest things I have read … today?
BTW, great Then-n-Now photos, Marcia. Youz guyz still look good. Despite the night shift hours. Happy Anniversary!
Dorothy said on March 14, 2007 at 12:49 pm
Marcia could you send a link, please? I forgot to book mark it the last time you mentioned your page!
And Happy Anniversary, too! Friday is my eldest sister’s 33rd wedding anniversary.
Heather said on March 14, 2007 at 1:08 pm
Lately I find myself going to sleep around midnight or one AM, getting up around eight, then conking out for a good hour and a half around mid-afternoon. I do work in the evenings, but I still can’t lose a lingering sense of guilt, even though to do without usually means that I stare groggily at my laptop for about the same amount of time.
Nancy: try earplugs. They work wonders for me when my upstairs neighbor decides to move furniture around in the middle of the night. I think that at the very least they would mute wood-chipper noise to a tolerable drone.
Marcia said on March 14, 2007 at 1:19 pm
Dorothy, just click my name; it should link. If not, Nancy has me in the sidebar as Nurse Marcia. (Thanks Nancy, although it sounds as if I should be wearing a white garter belt, panty hose, and red lipstick.)
nancy said on March 14, 2007 at 1:24 pm
Which is exactly why I put it there. An alternative vision: Louise Fletcher holding up a big hypodermic, or maybe an enema nozzle.
deb said on March 14, 2007 at 1:25 pm
night shift’s easier when you’re single and can drink/nap/crash as needed. having kids completely mucks up the works.
my favorite “idol” moment last night was hearing diana ross (sorry, i’m not calling her “miss”) use the non-word “pronunciate.” twice. my kids were appalled. patrick observed, “so, she’s mean AND she doesn’t know english.”
John said on March 14, 2007 at 1:40 pm
“Night Duty Nurses” sounds lovely Marcia! BTW you look fabulous, both then and now. Congrats on 20 years! They say the first 20 are always the hardest!
cce said on March 14, 2007 at 1:50 pm
Ahhh, an “Idol” chat. Just wondering why Sanjaya’s still in the mix. Is it the pity vote? I think I hate him for being pathetic, flashing puppy dog eyes and singing like a fifth grader. He’s in trouble when his voice changes.
As for sleep and night shifts and such…I have sleep issues on my mind. Today’s post: http://www.madmarriage.com/blog/
ponders the NYT article about separate master bedrooms. This is a follow up to Sleep Trumps Sex in most households from last week. Yawn, now I need a nap.
Dorothy said on March 14, 2007 at 2:26 pm
It worked, Marcia. You and your hubby look great – then AND now!!!
Danny said on March 14, 2007 at 4:34 pm
I do the earplugs too (as needed). The only downside is that it keeps me from hearing sweet-nothings whispered in the middle of the night. But then gain, if she isn’t whispering them (and at our age, I mean, c’mon), I can just boost my own ego and think/imagine that she is and I that am just missing them because of the earplugs. A good night’s sleep and a false ego boost. It’s a plan.
Marcia said on March 14, 2007 at 8:10 pm
Thanks for the good wishes, all.
Although whoever said this: They say the first 20 are always the hardest!
Well, dear God.
4dbirds said on March 15, 2007 at 11:50 am
ppffftttt! You are all lightweights. Try a rotating 6/2 shift. Six days, two off, six afternoons, two off and six Midnights, two off; and do it over and over and over and over again. That’s the norm for a signals intelligence analyst. Now retired from the army, I work days and have my weekends off. I feel younger and healthier than I ever did. Humans need sleep and we need it at a consistant time. At least this human does.
Oh and Sanjaya is still in it because there is a movement to keep him in. Both this website and Howard Stern are asking people to vote for him. http://www.votefortheworst.com/
Although usage is rare, this is from Webster’s New Millennium™ Dictionary of English –
Part of Speech: v
Definition: to declare or pronounce
Marcia said on March 15, 2007 at 2:33 pm
4dbirds, have a seat on the commenters I hate bench.
You’ve taken Diana Ross from a big-haired dummy who makes up words to someone whose vocabulary is bigger than the ones of all of those who were snarking on her, like, say, me.
joodyb said on March 15, 2007 at 5:45 pm
i have this image of ms. ross, crafting a pungent email at her laptop, picking up a dictionary, as so many of us do to validate ourselves.