Friday, February 1, 2008

The Wonderful World of Work, or, I Feel like Ripley, Except for the Aliens and the Screaming.

Working from midnight until 8am is very surreal. My day starts at 10pm, when my alarm goes off. The phone usually rings shortly after- it's my boyfriend, calling to wish me a good night as he goes to sleep. I yawn, shuffle past the yarn all over the bed, and go downstairs (I have a loft bed). My alarm is a local radio station that plays really peppy music at this time of night. otherwise, I would never make it to work on time.

I take a shower, figure out what to wear, and have some breakfast if possible. I make a quick lunch or grab a premade one from the fridge. I check Ravelry, write a note or two, and wait for my cell phone to ring. The call comes from the livery service that sends a car to my house every work night. Pretty snazzy, huh?

At 11:30 at night there is relatively little traffic, even in midtown. It usually takes 15 minutes for the driver to get me to work, and as he drives I fill out the voucher from work that pays the far. I'm outside the building at 11:45. I take out my work pass, say 'good morning' to the security guards and walk through a mostly empty lobby.

The floor on which I work is devoid of people except in my work area; four people are usually going off shift when I come in. The second shift people are made up of two proofreaders and two 'operators', or word processors, and a traffic coordinator. There's usually no immediate jobs when I come in. At night I'm the only proofreader on shift in the US. The others who work for the company are in India. I've never even spoken to them.

We have one operator who works swing and leaves at 3am. Three others come in on the same shift as I do, and and so does a fresh traffic coordinator. Except for the cleaning people, we are almost the only ones on the floor of the building until around 5:30am, when a few lawyers with overseas clients trickle in. I have never seen my floor when it's in full swing, except about once a month or so when we have proofreader meetings in the middle of the night (4 in the afternoon ET to you). A few lawyers come into our office from other parts of the building for the first three hours of my shift, bringing documents that need to be ready by morning. In most cases the operators handle them and they are passed to me for proofing; over in India, the same thing is happening, but at a busier pace because the work there is being sent from our law offices in Europe and Asia. when they have too much it spills over to us. Occasionally I get in-house documents- menus for seminar dinners, employee health info- and I get a lot of confidential documents having to do with finances, since we service major corporations whose corporate offices are in New York. What this means is that very often I have a pretty good idea of what companies are merging, which ones are breaking up, and which are about to undergo some major shift- and I can't tell a single soul. I don't even discuss the work with the operators, most of whom aren't interested in the economy anyway. Nor am I allowed to invest based on the documents I see, since I could get in trouble for insider trading.

My office has tons of windows looking out onto Times Square. I see the lights at a distance, but there's no sound. I'm too high up to hear cars, or the tourists who are straggling back to their hotels. The only thing I hear is the ticking clock in my office, the music I sometimes put on, and the conversations of the operators in the next room. The coordinator or an operator will drop in as often as needed to bring me work to proofread, and it's all very slow-paced and sleepy- which is dangerous because that makes it easier to make mistakes. I constantly guard against falling asleep. I only drink coffee during my first work hour, so that the caffeine will be out of my system before I go home to bed. Lunch is around 3am, when I open my lunch container and eat at my desk. Most night workers gain weight on shift, because the only food available is junk, an there are no stores open to tempt one outside for a walk. Bringing lunch keeps me reasonably healthy- I've also lost weight. but it's lonely work, and trying to keep from falling asleep can be difficult. Add to that the fact that the building's thermostat gets turned down; I'm perpetually cold and am usually swathed in scarves and shawls to keep from freezing to death.

When I get off from work I usually can't shop for another two hours- everything is only starting to wake up. socializing is almost impossible, since most people are going to work. My DVR records my favorite shows, and I plan ahead. I have to wait until the weekend to eat out unless I want breakfast. When I go home I force myself to stay awake for a few hours by reading, catching up on my favorite shows, going online, taking a bath. Then I roll into bed at 2pm for a nice night's sleep, and hope a telemarketer doesn't call me. I have velvet curtains at the windows to keep out sunlight.

Why would anyone want to live this way? Well, the money is pretty good. I get to crochet on the job when work is slow and I don't have other talks. I get to avoid sunlight- I've always had very light-sensitive eyes, and this way I'm not in perpetual pain anymore. I get to see museum exhibits in the morning, before they get crowded. plus, I get to pretend that I live in a spaceship. I intend to do this while I pay off some bills, or until I find something that pays more. It would be nice to see movies when they come on tv, or to watch the sun go down. But I get glorious sunrises, fresh bagels, and a chance to live like a vampire. In my book that's not too bad.


Anonymous said...

That's a great description. Thanks.

I used to work sleeping nights six and then five nights a week (so I'd be on shift during the evening, until people went to bed, and then I went to bed with an intercom next to me, and had to be up for the person coming in to do the day shift at 8am) but yours actually sounds more anti-social!

It is great being off during the day on weekdays - like you said, the museums are open and not full, and you never have to rush to get to the bank or anything, but it can be difficult to spend time with people who work normal hours! Well done for setting yourself proper hours of sleep as well!

Carpenoctem said...

Thanks. It really is an antisocial lifestyle, but at the moment it suits me. We do sometimes joke around the office, which is nice, and I get to socialize with people at School, so it's not completely bad. But yeah- I'm beginning to realize just how odd it is. And with the global economy growing, more and more people will be living like this. I think what I miss the most are going to movies after work, and being able to browse stores.