Archive for April 7th, 2022

Graveyard Shift

GC Myers- Graveyard Shift sm

Graveyard Shift– At the West End Gallery

Some folks like working the graveyard shift. I know a number of people who have worked it and relished that shift. Less muss and fuss, especially in those jobs that deal with people. My mom worked for about a decade on that shift as an aide in a local nursing home and I know several corrections officers who have spent a lot of time working the graveyard shift in local prisons. I can understand opting for that shift in those jobs.

But I never enjoyed my experience on that shift. I am just not wired for sleeping during daylight and the way it messes with your eating patterns and such. After a while, I always felt sort of zombie-like when working on that shift.

I worked the shift as a waiter at a Perkins pancake house for many months before moving to the dayshift and eventually falling into this career. Dealt with a lot of drunk guys and idle kids who just wanted to find a place to sit and drink coffee and smoke, back when smoking was allowed in restaurants. The kids were fine for the most part, but the drunks tested one’s patience greatly. I can’t even imagine dealing with those guys now.

I also did it for a while early in my working life in the old A&P factory in Horseheads, a huge building with a 37-acre roof that processed a huge variety of foods. It was a weird vibe in that place during the graveyard shift. During the dayshifts when all the lines were running, the huge space was filled with workers and was a beehive of activity.

But at night, most lines shut down and the cavernous spaces became still and ghostlike, blackness contrasting against the harsh fluorescent lights. It often felt like the vast empty hotel in The Shining.

And I was Jack.

I worked one job there where I worked completely alone all night in a huge space making fondant. Fondant is the dense sugar/corn syrup base for many candies that were made there. Turning old cast iron valves, I would fill the large steam kettles with liquid sugar and corn syrup. Then just wait as it cooked then went transferred it to a large beater that churned it into a thick heavy paste that would empty into these little stainless-steel carts, each holding about 400 pounds of the stuff.

I would line these carts up to be ready for the dayshift when the space would come alive again with human activity.

I felt sort of like a ghost on that job. It was boring and hot and isolating. Even the breaks were weirdly different. The cafeteria, normally loud with chatter and laughter, held only a handful of workers who often seemed to sit in an absolute silence with a sort of dazed, blank look on their faces.

It was the same look I had long noticed when I worked the dayshift and would pass the graveyard shifters as they left the building, squinting at the daylight as they shuffled slowly towards the parking lot. They had a blankness in their faces that was hard to miss.

I often thought of them as empty cartridges and would always be grateful that I wasn’t on that shift at that instant, feeling that drained-by-a-vampire feeling.

I am glad there are people who like that shift and do the needed work that can only be done in those hours. I salute their efforts. But, man, it makes me appreciate what I do now.

Here’s a song from Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band. It’s called, of course, The Graveyard Shift.

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