Friday, June 15, 2012

When I Lost My Mind Working The Night Shift

From Canyon-Era English Major:


I work the night shift.

I request it, actually. Charlie shift, 11pm to 7am. Graveyard, some people call it. The name fits, it works. Not so much because it’s dead as because it’s… cool. Still, balmy in a way that has nothing to do with weather. It’s an attitude, something born of the knowledge that while everyone around you is prancing through the Land of Nod with the cast of The Tick and Fran Drescher, you are awake and you are… bored.

Yes. Night shift is boring. Night shift is boring like Leonard Cohen singing a capella with no backing would be boring, boring like an infomercial about how to make a fortune in the stock market is boring. It’s a kind of tedium few have experienced. I have cable tv, a dvd player, books, issues of Time magazine dating all the way back to the Reagan era and a job to do, but still, the specter of being trapped in a tiny office in the dead of night – eight hours worth of dead, in fact – it’s just boring. Even if you have four seasons of ER, even if you have a shelf full of books completely worth reading, even if you are scrapbooking your entire life story.

There will be that moment of squirreliness at three in the morning where you stop and look around, left to right with your eyes only, squinting at empty space, at the walls and the mini-fridge and the coffee pot and you think, quite calmly, “Who are you people and why do you all bear a vague resemblance to Fran Drescher?” And you’re afraid, but quite matter-of-fact about it, because you know you’re alone, and the moment will pass, and by 7am when your relief shows up you will have something resembling sanity, if not something resembling good breath. The state of a night shift worker’s mouth at 7am, even if they have gum, even if they don’t smoke, is just shocking. It’s horrifying.

Somehow, in that convoluted, completely fucked-up circadian nightmare that is three in the morning, something clicked in my brain and I became… domestic.

Well, not domestic but I began to share a few too many traits with upper-middleclass housefraus for my own quasi-butch self-image.

I swept. I gathered up the crumbs, the dust bunnies, and the renegade coffee beans, and forcibly ejected them from my office. A few nights later, the act of sweeping no longer able to satisfy my reckless cleaning lust, I tracked down the night janitor and had him bring me a wet mop. I scrubbed that old linoleum until it was all the same uniform color of old linoleum.

The unthinkable happened next: my boss noticed. And complimented my clean floors.

Oh, no.

It was on, my friends. It was on like Donkey Kong, like Jedi versus Sith, like me, my roommate, and only one Voyager Class Optimus Prime left on the shelf.

El Kato, Domestic Dyke.

And now I am in love with an inanimate object: The Swiffer Duster. That thing is… amazing. It is a Dust Magnet. I prowl the office like a lion on the hunt, seeking the dust with a vengeance I didn’t know existed inside of me. The first time I did the whole office, it took five of the fluffy “refill” things. I have never felt so validated as I did glaring in triumph at the wastepaper basket full of fluffy things and dust.

El Kato, Dust Bandit. I would call myself Dust Buster, but it’s not only taken, but is the name of an alternate mode of dust removal, which is unacceptable. The Swiffer Duster and I are together until the end of time.
All that cleaning takes up at least an hour of my time if I’m in full-mania; next I devote at least four hours to scouring episodes of ER for Maggie Doyle (played by Jorja Fox) and trying not to hate Kerry Weaver for her fugly 90s wardrobe and generally willful social ineptitude. I don’t understand why they make her so awful for so long.

Okay, so I do understand, but that doesn’t make me like it. I sympathize with her in her solo moments, when she’s practically orgasming over paperwork. I look at her administrative mania and feel myself twitch in janitorial sympathy. If only she had a Swiffer, I think to myself, holding my Swiffer close to my chest. A Swiffer instead of Mark Greene. That’s all she needs.

Personally I don’t think the show would have suffered much without Mark Greene. But then, I’m a dyke and bald men look like dicks. And he’s just whiny. Even when it’s all going his way, he whines. He has horrible time management skills, his wife was totally hot and he lost her due to that fact that he has horrible time management skills, and as far as I can tell he never really learns to prioritize.

I mean, just imagine ER with Kerry Weaver carrying around, like, a Swiffer with some wire-rimmed glasses on. Making diagnosis’ out of the side of her mouth, arguing back and forth about patient care, having discussions in the lounge.

“Oh, this paperwork is such a nightmare. It’s so amazing of you to take it all on, Kerry, and still find time to be such an amazing doctor.”

“Why, yes, Doctor Greene, it did take me a long time to color code and alphabetize all of your work, but anything to make this hospital – YOU THERE, CAROL HATHAWAY! YOU ARE WASTING MONEY! I DON’T KNOW HOW THIS TIME BUT YOU ARE! – run more efficiently. Now, if you please, I need to forge your signature on a few things, if you have the time.”

“I always have time for such a fabulous doctor and alphabetizer such as yourself, Kerry. In fact, why not join me for dinner?”

“Well, thank you, Mark, but you’ll be staying in my locker when I leave here today.”

“And what a well-organized locker it is, too.”

1 comment:

  1. Hah, I'll have to don a cap around you. My poor genes force me to shave my head but I keep a beard similar to Shel Silverstein. He's cool, right?

    If I'm not mistaken, your current workplace employs one of the guys who invented The Swiffer Duster. Rosenberg knows details. Hopefully I didn't just make that up from lack of sleep.