January 28, 2011 2 Comments
Since I’ve started working nights, I’ve noticed there’s definitely a hierarchy-and night shift workers are treated differently, much like part-timers are treated differently than full-timers. It’s not just in the workplace-it’s outside of it as well.
We privilege the day over the night–businesses are open during the day, though they may or may not be open at night (or overnight). Now, before you accuse me of being all PC-happy, let me explain. Daytime is just dandy. We have all this natural light to see and shit. But there’s this attitude that nighttime activity is shady, because it’s dark outside, you see, and dark = bad.
So. I work at night. I work well past “bed time.” When I get off work, I don’t usually go immediately to bed. Why would I? When the day shift goes home, do they go to bed? Ha! No! There are things to be done, not the least of all, winding down from hours of workworkworkworkOMGYOU’RECHATTINGworkworkGODYOUHAVETOPEEALOTWHATISWRONGWITHYOU
So. Bed time for night-shift is very late. We are, however, still human (though sometimes it doesn’t feel that way) and so, we need to sleep. Logically, go to sleep later, sleep later, right? You’re not going to wake at the same time as your day-shift comrades, duh. Except…many don’t see it that way. There’s this idea that’s fixed in our collective mind, that those who sleep “late” are lazy. The cutoff for just sleeping, and sleeping “late” have been determined by our daytime compatriots, however.
Needless to say, I’ve been treated as or called lazy quite a bit since I’ve started the night shift. Frustrating? Oh yes. Compounded by the fact that I’ve always been treated as lazy for sleeping the 9-10 hours (when I can) to avoid seizures, the frustration is doubled. Night shift works the same eight hours that day shift does, but for this reason, we’re treated as if we’re lazy. In the workplace, that means management (who all work 1st shift, naturally) blames us for errors, malfunctions, and other setbacks, regardless of when they occur. It also means if we’re busy, we’re the ones to take on the extra work. Outside the workplace, we’re met with condescension and/or contempt. This is if it’s not assumed we’re unemployed. Then, well, a good many of you know how the unemployed are treated.
Sleep isn’t a very valued activity in work-centered cultures. We’ve created entire industries out of helping people avoid sleep. Because business is conducted in the daytime, many night shift workers must forgo sleep to maintain households, further careers, or take care of other things. Sometimes the ability is taken away if a night shift worker lives in a household of day-shift workers. After all, if the day shift workers are awake, you’re just being lazy if you sleep, so you’re not entitled to the consideration of quietness that you give to the day shift workers when you return home from work, right?
Am I complaining? You bet your ass I am. I’m grouchy for lack of sleep. I notice the suspicion in the looks I get when I do my grocery shopping at o’dark-thirty at 24-hour grocery stores. I see the resentment in the clerk’s eyes, at my “making” them be there. I hear all the underlying messages when others ask, “why haven’t you done _____ yet?” or “Oh, you just now woke up?” I catch the eye rolls and the dismissive tones when I ask for quiet while I sleep.
But I’m also asking you to think.