I have worked shift work for the majority of my adult life. For so long, in fact, that I would not even know how to function in a regular 9-5 type working environment these days.
There is plenty to say about shift work. About the positives, the negatives, the sleep deprivation. The statistics that indicate health risks associated with unsociable hours. The tendency for shift workers to struggle with weight gain and physical activity. But I’m not going to say anything about that. There are plenty of studies and articles that say it way better than I ever could.
There is a strange phenomena that occurs in the wee hours of the morning. When the rest of the world is quiet and sleeping, and the night is dark and cool. Around the 3am mark, shift workers around the world start to get a little…..well I guess crazy. We lose the ability to discern between appropriate and inappropriate subject matter. We laugh hysterically at things that would make “normal” people cringe. We completely and utterly lose the plot. If you ever wake up suddenly at 3am, and hear the faint sound of sleep deprived cackling in the far off distance, do not start to doubt your sanity. It’s probably the sound of your local graveyard shifters hitting the 3am sillies in perfect unison.
At 3am, subjects cease to be taboo. Anything and everything can be discussed. Loudly, honestly, and often with tears of laughter burning in streams out of tired eyes. We forget how to censor ourselves. We become brutally brash.
I doubt that our conversations would be acceptable in any other professional environment. I doubt, for example, that it would be considered correct office etiquette to have a loud and lengthy chat regarding the consistency of poo if I were a legal secretary. I feel that an in depth discussion (including detailed description) about the existence of blue waffle* would not sit well in the offices of an insurance company. And I’m certain that a rousing game of “Who would you have sex with for a million dollars” would not be taken so lightly if it were played in the teacher’s lounge of a local primary school.
The subject matter discussed at 3am is diverse. I’ve been educated on topics that I would never even consider thinking about at 3pm. I’ve been treated to detailed and entertaining discourse on edging, true confessions about gastro, and have partaken in impromptu “let’s fix your sex life while trying to keep our eyes open” counselling sessions. I once watched an ordinarily mild-mannered coworker demonstrate graphically what she would do if she ever had the chance to bed Leo DeCaprio. I have shared my own wisdom, and educated an innocent friend on the act of teabagging (something which I had only recently been made aware of myself).
Generally, these conversations are punctuated with hysterical laughter, a combination of genuine amusement and sheer exhaustion. Even when the subject manner is deep, there is something about being awake and forced to work at 3am that makes laughter possible. I think we need to be able to laugh. It’s lonely when the world is asleep. Shift workers often work closely together for long periods of time, at a time when social conventions no longer apply. We also often work in jobs that are emotionally draining, which makes the silliness seem essential.
If you ever happen to find yourself awake at 3am, give a thought to the night shifters you know. And then think about the grossest, most amusing thing that you could think of. And laugh, because they are probably thinking about that, too.
*Feel free to google this. Fair warning though- it is most certainly not safe for work. It is also a good idea not to be eating at the time of search
I was supposed to post about New Year’s resolutions, and about how my husband and I have decided to make 2016 about experiences instead of material objects. But 3am got the better of me. Anyhoo, I would love to hear about any cultural festivals, art shows, or family events that I can experience this year. Anything, really. Especially things that I can involve the kids in. Find me on Facebook and drop me a line if you know of anything in the Sydney and surrounding areas that you think I might be interested in attending.