Sunday, July 24, 2011

When the World Happens

A Lieutenant Colonel from another unit saw me in the chow hall the other day.

"Greg, what happened to you?" I know you did your R & R in June, and it's like you fell off the face of the planet since."

"Ma'am," I said, "I work nights now to get all our products done, so that's roughly 2000 to roughly 0800. I'm only up during the day now for the mandatory meetings and the trips off the FOB every couple days."

"That's not easy," she replied. "My mother worked third shift for years and years...and you never really adjust."

For a second, let's throw out the whole biological, circadian rhythm, Vitamin-D absorbing technical side of things. Some of that might be correctable if planned out right.

The world happens from around sunup to around dinnertime. Here's what I mean by that: that general timeframe is when meetings get planned, when appointments get made, when drop-ins drop in, and just about when pretty much everything goes on.

So, as the Lieutenant Colonel told me, her mother never got less annoyed when she had to explain to someone for the gazillionth time that no, she couldn't come to [insert name of kids' event] at 3 p.m. because she had to sleep. And no, she didn't have some disorder, or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, or anything of the sort -- that was her equivalent of 3 a.m.

Don't worry, this post isn't about a vent or a complaint -- I'm lucky to have a boss who generally *gets* this concept and doesn't watch the clock with regards to my work. He does expect me to make all the mandatory stuff (no surprise) but completely understands when that means coming in two, four, or even six hours "late" as a result afterwards.

But to others, not so much. I got so tired of trying to explain that your 2 p.m. is my 2 a.m. that I just stopped. I'm quick to duck out before the day's events start "spinning up" and suck me in. There's nothing that can't be turned over, and no legitimate situation in which I ought to be the Single Point of Failure.

But a lot of the interpersonal awkwardness of the whole thing is mitigated by the fact that we're all here. We all worry about our families, homes, etc. but not in the day-to-day way that someone would if he or she was living at home. None of us have a commute, none of us have social obligations, and none of us have relatives calling us to come over for tuna casserole.

Just imagine, though, having to deal with all of that but still having to work from, say, 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. every day.

I don't even want to know. It just sounds like a huge pain that I hope I don't ever have to personally deal with back stateside. Each time I have to ask people not to have loud conversations outside my door at 10:45 a.m., and they look at me like I have a horn growing out of my head, however, I'm reminded that people who work third-shift back in the stateside world have a tough spot that I wouldn't want to trade for. Not that I didn't respect that before, but I'd say I feel it just a bit more acutely now.

1 comment:

C R Krieger said...

I understand.  My first tour in Viet-nam our Squadron flew "nights" every other month.  Fortunately, a couple of months after I arrived we got some air conditioned trailers for the "Night Owls".  Located away from the barracks, they were great.

Regards  —  Cliff