Midnight Cowboy

Well, I am back on the midnight shift at work. I’ve worked midnights before, so it’s not a big new thing. In fact, I was on this shift a few years ago when I got the opportunity to go on a straight day job.

Unfortunately, the straight day job ended this summer. Our management decided to balance all us electricians across shifts and did away with all day jobs. Everyone had to rotate between afternoons and days every other week. I don’t think this was a upper management thing. It was more a middle-management protecting their empire thing.

Our contract is odd in regard to shift rights. The lowest seniority employee has the right to work a swing (day-afternoon) shift. A straight shift is considered a preferred shift and can be requested by seniority. A lot of people want days and quite a few want midnights, but very few ever want straight afternoons. I can’t blame them. The last week I worked afternoons, I never saw my son or daughter the whole week. They were up and off to school before I woke up and in bed before I got home.

Most of our plant now operates all three shifts. That means every person who doesn’t want to work straight afternoons can work a swing shift. To accomplish that, a day job must be made to swing on the other rotation. I could have the highest seniority in the place and someone right off the street might force me off a day job. The only straight shift that is left is midnights. A lot of people like it. It pays a ten percent premium for one thing. It’s also not too bad once you get used to it.

I’ve never been able to get used to the swing shift. You go through a week of afternoon shift and no matter how hard I try to go to bed early, before I know it, I’m up watching Letterman, or worse. Next thing you know, you’re going to bed at 3:00 AM and sleeping till noon. Then it’s the weekend and before you know it, you have to drag yourself out of bed at 5:30 AM to go to work. You make it through Monday. Go to bed at 10:00 PM. Can’t sleep. Tuesday you drag yourself through. Fall asleep after work at 4:00 PM for an hour or two, then can’t sleep at night again. By Wednesday, it’s all you can do to get up in time and get in to work. By the time you get yourself straightened out it’s the weekend and you go back to afternoon shift the next week.

So, since I couldn’t get back on steady days, I asked for midnights. I can get that based on seniority. As I said, I worked that shift before, both in production and in skilled trades. Things are a little easier on that shift. Fewer bosses stirring things up. Things still need to be done. Machines still break down. They run almost as much production on midnights as any other shift anyway. But the plant is cooler and things are just a little more civil and the pressure is a bit less.

Midnight shift is really a misnomer. It starts at 10:30 PM. Sunday night. You get out at 7:00 AM Monday and so on through the week. Friday morning your weekend starts. It’s not bad. You can get a lot done in the morning and sleep later in the day or sleep right away and have the evening with your family.

I’ve been having enough trouble sleeping anyway. The swing shift was not helping matters at all. Hopefully, I’ll be a little better off on midnights.

At least I’ll have time to do some things I got into while I was on straight days. I made some commitments to a couple organizations based on being able to attend meetings in the evenings. That’s what made me mad about the whole doing away with my day job. You work for years on the swing shift. Pay your dues. Beg off from any duties in any group that wants you to participate. Then, when you finally have done that long enough to get a day shift opening, you finally take your turn helping out the organizations and they pull the rug out from under you and put you back on a swing shift. It’s not just me they hurt. It’s not just my family. They hurt the community too. So, I’ll have my cake and eat it too. I can do midnights.

It doesn’t matter what the organizations are. That’s not the point. It happened to be the Ski Club I am serving on the board of directors of, and the robotics team at the High School that I am an advisor for. The ski club met once a month. You guessed it, the meetings fell on a week I was on afternoons every month. The robotics team meets daily once the build season gets going. Midnights will actually give me more flexibility with that, as I will be able to get into the school any time, morning or afternoon.

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