I had something happen today that I am sure will be turned around to make me look like a real jerk. What it really boils down to, however, is that no one really understands people like me. “People like me” = midnight shift workers. For some people “Nightshift” is a song (albeit a GREAT song) by the Commodores…..
… or a silly 80’s comedy starring Henry Winkler, Michael Keaton, and Shelley Long…
To me, it is my life. It is my “norm.” Then on the days I do not work, I shift back to the way the majority of the world lives, only to switch back to midnights on my work nights. It is not an easy thing to do. I still do not know how some people work 1st shift for 2 weeks, 2nd shift the next two weeks, 3rd shift after that and midnights after that. Oh yeah, and then switch back to 1st shift to do it all over again!!
The easiest way for me to explain “midnight shift” to someone is to tell them to think ahead 12 hours. 10pm to you is like 10am to me. You start work at 7am – I start work at 7pm. Even this simple explanation doesn’t really explain it. People who live normal lives (during the day) just cannot grasp what it is like for me as a midnight shift worker.
So, What Happened?
I was in bed by 9am this morning. I woke up around 4pm to get up and get ready for work. There was a text message asking if I could take someone to an appointment the following afternoon. This person (name and how I know them withheld) knows that I work midnights. To text with this request with just over 24 hours notice makes the request next to impossible to do (even if I could).
Think about this. Let’s say the appointment is at 2pm. That would mean that if I got home and in bed by 9, I’d have to be up by 12:30 to be showered at out the door by 1:00 to get the patient who lives about 30 minutes away (3.5 hours sleep). Go to the appointment (20 minutes away) which may last 30 minutes, and take them back home (20 minutes) and then back to my house (30 minutes away). Based on this, I’d be back home around 3:30p-4:00p which is about when I normally get up for work. I work 10 hour shifts (with a drive that is over an hour to work – and back home again), which is more like 13 hours. You see what I am saying? Maybe if I was still in my 20’s I could do a 10 hour shift on under 4 hours sleep, but not anymore!
I had to respond and say that I couldn’t help. It’s bad enough that I will be losing sleep because I have to be up early for a staff meeting tomorrow. There was just no way I could make it happen, unless I called in to work, and I certainly cannot afford to do that! I received no response after I texted, so I can only imagine what transpired. No matter how much I WANT to help, I just couldn’t. That being said, if the appointment was on a day that I was off work – no problem at all. I’d do it in an instant.
Only Midnight Shifters Understand
Do a Google search on “midnight shift memes” and you will find plenty of them. I relate to them a bit more than “normal” people. There was a thing that I saw when I first started on midnight shift that said:
- You never know what day of the week it is. Even when someone tells you, you will forget about 15 minutes later.
- Your friends think your life is “sweet” because you can do whatever you want during the day. Ha! All you want to do is SLEEP!
- Whenever you are awake, it is dark. Of course, in the summer, you may catch a glimpse of sunshine once in a while.
- Your blood is primarily coffee (or energy drinks). What is water again?
- You roll your eyes at people who say they are “tired” because you know they have no idea what “tired” really is!
- Sleeping in a series of “naps” is basically normal for you.
- You miss primarily every major event because you are working.
- People get mad at you because you miss the above mentioned events.
- Your body never really has an eating schedule. It seems like you are always eating.
- Door to door salesmen, delivery drivers or any other person who beats on your door in the middle of the day seem to look at you funny as you open the door in your pajamas and can’t understand why you are so cranky!
- You have a great appreciation for ear plugs and black out curtains.
- You often wonder what your neighbor would think if you started cutting your grass at 3am and wake THEM up!
- Naps are your lifeblood, and without them you would have died from exhaustion and lack of sleep years ago.
- Even people that know you work night shifts still sound appalled when they call you at 1pm and you’re still sleeping. You always have to explain that you got off work four hours ago, and finally went to bed two hours ago, so they should really call back in six hours if they don’t want you to sound like a bitter zombie.
- When you need to take a day off for something, you actually have to take two off.
- Midnights is basically sucking the life out of you. Your health suffers just because of the hours you work.
The list could go on and on.
After sending the “I’m sorry, I can’t” response, I couldn’t help but keep thinking about what was being said. I had to write this, just so I would stop thinking about it. It is what it is, as they say. I can’t help what people think or say. I hope that by writing this, it clears my mind and maybe – just maybe – gives you (and those who don’t understand it) something to think about when you deal with a midnight shift worker.