Crisis in Progress: Why I Miss 3rd Shift

by pjmcbride

A packet of ketchup, opened with the contents ...

A packet of ketchup, opened with the contents squeezed out (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

…which we’ll get to in a moment. But 1st, from today’s local newspaper, a headline: “Official Forces Extra Golf.” No, not that! Anything but that! I assume they’ll draw lots to determine who’ll be forced to play extra golf, and then the rest of us will be forced to watch it.

And 2nd, Rom has said more than once that I remind him of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory, a show I’ve never seen,  so Nikki the Tragically Hip kindly sent me a link of excerpts of same. I promptly watched all 12 minutes and 57 seconds of it, even though I was supposed to be getting ready to leave the house, and knew it would make me have to rush through my leaving-the-house readiness rituals, none of which may be omitted unless the house is actively on fire. It was–instructive, for lack of a better word. OK, I have a better word–BAZINGA!

Enough wandering in the desert of random observations. On to our chief matter subject. I become nostalgic for 3rd shift at the risk of alienating the shift I’m actually on, and have been on for many years. But you wouldn’t hold it against me, wouldja, guys? Guys? All together now, to the tune of the Sara Lee theme song: “Everybody doesn’t like something, but nobody doesn’t like Paula Jeanne!” Which gets to the heart of the matter: 2nd shift doesn’t sing. 2nd shift doesn’t have time to sing. And I’m unafraid to alienate 1st shift, on which I’ve never worked regularly. Day shift is an abomination, which requires one not to get up at 0700 (loathsome enough), but to be at work at 0700, which is a horror inexpressible. Besides, the calls are numerous but meaningless, and the experience resembles being buried alive in rabbit pellets. (I do too know what I’m talking about. I have worked day shift on occasion, and never voluntarily.)

OK, now that I’ve been by turns apologetic and defiant (All Extremes, All the Time), here are great things that happened on 3rd shift. I mean by this 3rd Shift Proper, which is after 0300. Before that, it’s an extension of 2nd shift. It only finds its true character after the bars have closed and the drunks have all passed out.

–Sending the helpless and innocent Nick (who was a dispatcher at the time, the more fool him) 1000 text messages while he was out of the room. Or he thought there were 1000. That was only as high as as the counter would register. Turns out there were actually 2000. He dutifully hit “delete” 2000 times, only then to be told that he could have just clicked “List” and deleted them all at once. History does not record if he burst into tears at that point, but he did abandon us to become a police officer, where he only has to worry about getting spit on.

–Our old computer system allowed us to change both background color and text. While A Certain Person was out of the room, I changed her background to white and her text to red, which both resembles and causes bloodshot eyes. The beauty part was that she came back and pretended nothing had happened, suffering with it for the rest of the shift, rather than give me the satisfaction of watching her change it back. Leaving the room was dangerous on 3rd shift.

–There was once a train derailment at dawn, which involved some kind of white powder being scattered on the tracks, which the dispatch center was downwind of at the time. “Maybe it’s cyanide,” I speculated. “This Hardee’s food {one of the few eating spots open on 3rd shift} may be our last meal!” Suddenly, as if by prearranged signal, the air was full of flying condiment packets. Apparently we wanted to go out with a food fight. Somebody accidentally rolled their chair over a ketchup packet, which burst. The stain remained for years, until They replaced the rug. Although you can see how replacing the rug in this place might be wasted effort.

–But it wasn’t all fun and games. One night we got food from what must have been the other place open on 3rd shift (I don’t remember where), and every one of us got sick (except the Certain Person, who hadn’t wanted whatever food that was, and was very smug about her lack of sickness, too). Nothing like 6 people taking turns rushing to the restroom, because somebody had to be in the Emergency Operations Center handling calls and air traffic, even though we were having our own emergency at the time. That’s just how dedicated we are, in case you were worried by finding out what 911 dispatchers do to stay awake when they’re not busy.

–We found a suspicious spider (well, we were suspicious of it, though it would have been right to be suspicious of us), and put it in a pill bottle for later analysis by a pest expert. I should say, we put her in a pill bottle, because the trauma caused her to give birth to a great many adorable spiderlings. Our supervisor, who happened to be afraid of spiders, kept this little family on his console where he could keep an eye on it. When he left the room (see, even a position of power couldn’t keep you safe), we took and hid it, so he’d think they all escaped. This supervisor is no longer with us–turns out we were the subject of his PhD dissertation in psychology. I think we should hire him as our staff therapist.

–He was out of the room on a different occasion, and we all hid under our consoles so he would think we’d all left.

Remembering these good times makes me consider going back to 3rd shift every 6 months, when the option comes around. (“Don’t go!” Nick pleads. Right? Look at me when I’m speaking to you!) But nostalgia is outweighed by the fact that I couldn’t sleep, and was always crabby when it came time to go to work. I felt 5 years younger when I went back to 2nd shift. My nails even started growing faster, I kid you not. (In case you thought I was in the habit of kidding you.) Plus, there’s something to be said for being in the thick of things.

My, I have gone on, and after several days of not posting, no less. All Extremes, All the Time. BAZINGA!