Home » Gate Guarding » A Night in the Life

A Night in the Life

Night time is really the best time to work.  All the ideas are there to be yours because everyone else is asleep.  ~Catherine O’Hara

In this industry, half of us aren’t sleeping. Nearly every position on the rig requires someone to be working 24 hours. A round-the-clock kind of job has created some confusion for me.

Gate guards have to decide how to divide their hours. Many do what we do and split the night and day shifts. Since Heidi is an early morning person and loves to go to bed by 7:30, there was never any doubt who would work nights.

I  like it but I’m mixed up a lot. I’ve been working nights for just over 5 months and to be honest, I still haven’t quite gotten it down.

My day begins around 2 in the afternoon.

Even though I get up in the afternoon, I say Good Morning to everyone I see for the first four hours. They must be used to it because they all say good morning right back to me!

I eat breakfast around 8 in the evening which is usually consists of dinner food.

When there’s a banging on my door after midnight 3 things are true:

1. It’s creepier to have your door banged on in the middle of the night than during the day. Maybe because …

2. The one knocking is always lost or drunk, unless …

3. They’re night owls too,  just paying a neighborly visit

When Henry decides he wants to go out in the middle of the night because his special treat made him so thirsty that he drank a half a bowl of water, I have to first:

1. Look out for scary inebriated lost people

2. Make sure Festus isn’t within kicking distance

3. Look under the RV for rattlesnakes

It’s a quick trip as I keep Henry out the shadows where I can’t tell the black tarantulas from clods of dirt.

There is something haunting in the light of the moon; it has all the dispassionateness of a disembodied soul, and something of its inconceivable mystery.  ~Joseph Conrad

It sounds so much more enchanting when Conrad says it.

I used to take a lot of pictures of the new things I saw each day.

I try to take interesting pictures now, too, but they nearly always come out blurry, plus mostly all I see are trucks and tail lights.

I drink coffee to wake up (and just because I love coffee) even though it’s usually close to 90 degrees by the time I have my first sip. I don’t drink coffee to stay awake, which means I have to quit by 1 or I won’t be able to sleep in the morning.

I blog at night and always forget you’re reading this the next day so I’m writing about night even when I say today or tomorrow and I’m always either 8 hours ahead or usually 8 hours behind everyone else.

Since I begin work in the afternoon of, for example Sunday the 5th and finish in the morning on Monday the 6th, I seem to be perpetually confused about what day it is. It’s like traveling and not knowing where you are when you first wake up except I don’t know when it is… sometimes I don’t know where I am either, but I’m not sure that’s related.

I no longer have a regular relationship with night and day. I know it’s time to get up by looking at the clock, not by looking out the window to see if daylight is starting to lighten the horizon.

I’ve only seen a sunrise 4 times since December, all on the days we moved to a different location. But I’ve become very partial to the moon and watching it wax and wane.

Night is a world lit by itself.  ~Antonio Porchia.

When the trucks aren’t rumbling and all the guys are accounted for, I pick up the phone to call friend or family, only to realize they’ve probably been asleep for 4-5 hours.

I love to read. My entire life, I’ve gone to bed with a book and read myself to sleep. I’ve conditioned my mind to think that if it’s dark and I’m reading I should fall asleep shortly. So I do. I can only make it through 2-3 chapters before my head begins to do that bobbing thing. It doesn’t matter that night is my day. If it’s dark and quiet I can can count on having to renew my library book.

Sleeping in the daytime for me requires: extra coverings on the windows to block out the light, ear plugs and a sound machine. If you’re a gate guard, you know how loud the bell is, added to the steady truck traffic 10 feet from your head.

I still say goodnight when I go to bed, even though it’s 6 in the morning.

There’s something slightly disorienting about being on a different time-table than most people.

It’s kind of like standing on your head except it doesn’t hurt.

Or like reading Goodnight Sun instead of Goodnight Moon.

It’s morning now and time for me to go to bed. I don’t think there’s anything left to say except goodnight…


12 thoughts on “A Night in the Life

  1. I Love reading your page every night I can relate as I work the night shift here. But it is more the little people from across the river that we have to watch out for here. Mind you we do have our share of spiders, Snakes and all the other crawlies too. We have been lucky so far that we have not had Cows and the Hogs have kept there distances.The drunks because of the Walking illegals I keep the 10′ high gates closed at night I do see people walk down the highway at night some times but they do not try the gates.
    Have a great Day

    • Luke, so you’re another one of us off kilter folks! I didn’t realize you worked nights. Although I’m occasionally unnerved by my night visitors, I’ll take them over the one you had today. We don’t have a gate at all, so I feel a little vulnerable at night.

  2. Debbie,

    I know how you feel! It still confuses me to wake up at 5pm to prepare to come to work instead of 5am. At least you can keep your schedule constant, when we finish a job I have to switch my internal clock again and go back to daylight hours till the next job. The transition days are the hardest, I’ve found myself staying up for 24 hours more than once.

    • Emily – I think I’m getting too old for the 24 hour no sleep thing. I’ve done it a couple of times on this job and I now need 2 days to bounce back instead of one. The difference between my job and yours – I know it’s just a small difference – is that you actually have to be alert and brilliant and I have to write down names and plate numbers! 😀 You’re a brave woman!

    • Morgan – so you know what I’m talking about! Like most, I pulled all-nighters in college, stayed up all night many nights with sick little ones etc…but that certainly doesn’t prepare you for the weird world of the night shift.! Only those who’ve done it, get it! Any tips?

  3. I feel for you. My world is exactly the same.
    Andy and I moved our shifts to: 3 am to 3pm for him
    and 3pm to 3 am for me. He seems to be allergic
    to the sun. Maybe he’s yanking my chain?

  4. For Robert Louis Stevenson, ‘there is a romance about all those who are abroad in the black hours’.[13]

    In Jayne Ann Krentz’s Truth or Dare, ‘Arcadia and Harry were both creatures of the night. They managed to appear oddly stylish at one-thirty in the morning’.[14] When Arcadia’s life is threatened, Harry suggests they immediately contact their friendly neighbourhood P. I., only for Arcadia to object: ‘”It’s one-thirty a.m. He and Zoe will be sound asleep.” “Not our fault those two keep weird hours”‘.[15]

    • lol! Love the 2nd quote – as for Stevenson, I’m pretty sure he was thinking of southern Texas – not a lot of romance here between me and the rattlesnakes and tarantulas and Festus!

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