The myth:”England is old and small and they started running out of places to bury people. So they would dig up coffins and would take the bones to a “bone-house” and reuse the grave. When reopening these coffins, one out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they thought they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the “graveyard shift”) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be “saved by the bell” or was considered a “dead ringer.”
The eerie thread of truth that links a gate guard to a graveyard guard is the listening for the bell part. That’s why I stay up all night. Reality is less intriguing than British fiction. According to the CDC, roughly15 million people in the U.S. work on “night shifts” or time-shifted schedules. I’ve never worked the night shift before although I did pull all-nighters in college. Not the same thing.
Gate guards handle night traffic in a variety of ways. Sometimes the gate is pretty quiet at night and it works to just have sweats to jump into and run out with your pen and clip board. I tried that at first but for me it was like having a newborn. I would sort of sleep, but remained ready to jump at the first ring, which by the way, always scare me to death.
since neither of us was sleeping well, Heidi and I decided to split the job into day and night time shifts. Nights would be impossible for Heidi since she considers 9:00 a late night. When we arrived at our second assignment, I made the switch to nights. It’s a simple schedule. I go to bed around 5:30 in the morning, after Heidi gets up and is ready to take over the gate. If I want to watch a morning news program, I record it and watch it about 15 hrs later (it’s still news to me)!
After the second night, the change was surprisingly easy for me. I sleep until around 1:00 or so in the afternoon without difficulty. I never need an alarm clock. The job provides plenty. Below are are just a couple of examples of things that serve well as an alarm clock for a night shift worker.
Most common: really, really big trucks with really, really big loads, passing about 3 feet from a bedroom window.
They’re fairly quiet eaters but the calves have a lot of separation anxiety and the bulls are big on posturing so the mooing crescendos…
When I get up, I take Henry, my dog, for a dusty walk (he’s on my schedule now) and then get ready to start my day with a shower around 2:00 in the afternoon. From 2-6, Heidi and I alternate working the gate with trips to the grocery, laundry-mat, library, phone calls etc… After a few hands of Cribbage and Rummy, Heidi heads to bed and I have breakfast around 7:00 p.m. which usually looks something like this:
Lunch is a banana around midnight and supper is an egg or cereal about 3:00 a.m. I haven’t figured out why I eat my meals backwards. Maybe it’s because Heidi often cooks while I’m sleeping so it seems like the food that smells the best should be eaten first?
Working nights is surprising peaceful for me. I enjoy the quiet. There’s less gate traffic so, when it’s warmer than tonight’s 40 degrees, I can keep the door open without being bathed in dust. I read until I get sleepy. I knit while I watch TV. I don’t make anything since I can’t really knit. I just make lots of blocks that I don’t know how to connect.
In case you’re wondering why someone would knit who doesn’t know how to make anything, so I am I, sort of. I think I knit, in part because TV both entertains me and bores me and also, so that I won’t eat. I don’t smoke and I can’t draw but do I have restless hands and knitting gives them something to do.
In addition to knitting but not making anything, I guard a gate that they took off, so actually I just guard a cattle crossing 10 miles from Nixon and 6 miles from Smiley. They had to take the gate off the day we got here because the trucks and trailers couldn’t fit through.
There’s more cattle traffic than truck traffic most nights. Have you noticed how the happy California cows lay down a lot? When I was in Ireland last fall I was surprised at how nearly all of the cattle were lying down. Maybe they were happy, too. In Iowa, for the most part, our cows graze (standing up) in the day time and sleep at night. Not Texas cows. They walk around all night long. I don’t know when/if they sleep. These must be night shift cows since they start gathering around dusk and walk back and forth in front of the cattle crossing, mooing mournfully until around 4 in the morning.
Henry and the cows and I seem to be on the same schedule. Henry continues to be disturbed by cattle so I made him a muffler. I think he liked it better when I worked days! 😀