Nightshift

I love night shift.
The day slowly comes to an end, and with it, daylight. The masses return home, to hermit themselves for the night, shielding themselves from the darkness. In darkness, strange creatures emerge from the fringes of society, emitting a multitude of cries varying from the joking, the drunk, the desperate to the downright insane.

Nachts sind alle Katzen Grau – at night, all cats are grey. The Germans have a great proverb for darkness. Streets begin to look the same, shadows become familiar, everything blurs in to multiple shades of grey; one suburb being a clone of them all.

Unless we are called. Our emergency lights bounce and ricochet off walls, street signs, windows; our siren wails a lonely echo between family homes; our floodlights pierce the darkest shadow in desperate search of a house number. Life and action is focussed for a moment at the scene of the emergency – until the scene is under control, we take off, and everything falls back in to quiet, soothing, yet eerie darkness.

– ~ –

I hate nightshift.
The restlessness, a pathetic excuse for sleep, comes abruptly to an end. The dreaded alarm bells have rung, tearing me from the temporary safe cradle of my comfy chair, releasing me in to a blurred stumble to grab van keys, glasses, a whiff of fresh air, and – hopefully en route – wakefulness. Eyes as dry as the Sahara and sticky as treacle don’t help the cause, neither does a mind as fuzzy as a duckling with an Afro. Moves are automated rather than thought through, communications at hospital are grunted rather than eloquently executed. The clock ticks by at quarter speed, every second seeming like a minute, every minute seeming like an hour until the end of the shift.

Once back in own bed, sleep is a raw necessity rather than something of pleasure or, heaven forbid, beauty. Raw, basic, primeval need for sleep drives me in to bed, hopeful to make up for some of the rest lost over the past hours. Never enough, but enough to keep going.

Limbs as heavy as lead, a feeling like your body is wading through the thickest of syrup, every move is a double effort. And that’s just to get to the fridge for some food. No motivation to go anywhere apart from a shower, and then maybe back to the fridge. You know your day is wasted, the lack of motivation stealing your day away, the lack of sleep stealing your health away.

But we still do it. Like an alcoholic, ecstatic about his next drunken stupor we knowingly race in to, and through, the night – just to awake with a giant hangover the next morning.

Like an addict, we keep coming back to the drug until it consumes us.

  • http://twitter.com/markgreene74 Giuseppe ‘markgree’ Cunsolo

    Great post.

    Wanted to add sonething from my experience.
    Been a volunteer in Red Cross for more than 15 years, I can feel into my bones what you wrote here.

    Things I don’t like: feeling lonely, almost lost.
    Anything and everything can happen during a night shift.
    Will happen.
    You feel like the last man on Earth, and still you have to carry on with duties.

    Things I like: that moment of absolute, perfect silence between 3:00 and 4:00am, when you return to the base after a call.
    (universal law, there’s always a call between 3:00 and 4:00am)
    What I really like is to watch at the sky, feel the silence around me.
    Always find myself thinking “I am here, awake while everybody is sleeping, to take care of all the people”, and I like it.

    Night shift between the walls of a hospital is somehow different, less “wild”.

    Cheers.
    Keep doing your great job.

  • http://insomniacmedic.com insomniacmedic

    “A mind as fuzzy as a duckling with an Afro”

    Yes. In a word, yes.

    Great post Flo.