Lessons from the night shift

Out of desperation for money, I worked last night from midnight until 6:30 at my job at a local grocery store named Giant. This was a new experience for me, as I have never before taken a night shift. I realized when I took it that it might have been a bad idea, because on the Saturday right before the shift I had a musical rehearsal for three and a half hours, and then the Sunday morning immediately following the shift I had to be at a church to play in a service with my brass quintet. But, out of the aforementioned desperation for money, and with assurances to myself that I would be able to get an hour, maybe two, of sleep, I decided to go ahead and try it.

I was encouraged by the fact that I was able to sleep in until noon on Saturday, so I was very well rested, but rehearsal went late that evening, so by the time I got home, I didn’t have enough time to think about taking a nap. So, I made myself a pot of coffee and got ready for work. With the coffee flowing through my system, I showed up at work at midnight wide awake and ready to go. I expected to be doing something having to do with changing the tags on the shelf, but instead I was delegated to running uscan, which is the most boring job in the store even during the day with plenty of customers. Luckily, there were plenty of other things to do that took enough attention away from the fact that my body would rather by sleeping.

There are a few things I gleaned from my time at work last night:

  • Managers who give you free coffee are awesome
  • People tend to go to bed around midnight, which means there’s no one to text.
  • I wish Giant played more songs I know.
  • Because they don’t, I had to resort to singing musical tunes (mostly Jane Eyre) to myself to keep occupied. In my head. Mostly…
  • When that ceases to amuse me, I start thinking about what kind of a blog post I can get out of this.
  • There’s a line between thinking about a blog post and a continuous internal monologue that gets crossed around 4 AM.

And finally:

  • It turns out your body really does miss the sleep it expected to get that night.

I am actually very proud of myself for staying awake and fairly attentive throughout the entire shift. And by itself, without anything else to follow except sleep, I would probably do it again. I mean, it was boring, and tiring, but an extra $1.50 an hour isn’t bad at all.

The problems came after the shift. I was exhausted by the time the shift was over. And by the time I had given my coworker a ride to her house and gotten home myself, I knew I was in trouble. My body desperately wanted to shut down and sleep, but I knew I still had to play in church. So I made a pot of coffee, got some practice time in, took a shower, and headed on my way, with my trusty phone/GPS to guide me.

Unfortunately, the extra coffee I’d drunk (drank? You know, I can never remember) didn’t do me any good. I know I dozed off a few times on my way there, and as the driver, that scared me. But I made it to the church in one piece, and went inside to play. We played at the beginning of the service, which I was able to stay awake for, and a little further on in the service, which was still ok. Then we sat in the front pew and listened to the sermon. And for the life of me, I can’t remember what the guy said. I was definitely barely conscious, at minimum. I roused myself for the end of the service, and we played the postlude.

Now, the quality of the music I was playing may not have been very good. As it turns out, not getting any sleep tends to mess with the concentration. If I remember correctly, it definitely could have been worse, and in fact, I was pretty pleased with most of it. But if I had been well rested, I know I could have focused a lot more on getting the right notes and tone.

I was a little worried about driving home, after the dangerous drive there, but after stopping at a nearby Turkey Hill for a Dr. Pepper and a bag of chips, I was fine. I was even very much awake when I got home, though I did have that weird feeling you get after 24 hours without sleep, when your body feels disconnected and sluggish, even tingling, there was definitely a little tingling going on. It was only when I had gotten a couple bites into the burger my parents had picked up for lunch that I went out cold. After about five hours, I woke up and was fine. It’s still very much messing with my sleep schedule, as you may have been able to tell by the fact that this was posted between 1:30 and 2 in the morning. I wish I felt tired, believe me.

So, what I have learned from this little experience? Taking a night shift, by itself, is not a bad idea. It can be done. But definitely, absolutely, without a doubt, never take a night shift when you have to be somewhere immediately after it. These things do not mix. Lesson learned.

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3 thoughts on “Lessons from the night shift

  1. haha, oh my. i was beginning to feel sleepy when you described what it felt like to be so exhausted :P. but anyway. i enjoyed this post :).

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