The Graveyard Shift

How about picking up the phone at the first ring - at 2 am in the morning? Even though it isn't an interesting proposition, there are moments of time when you need to do it. 

On the Phone in the Night
A zombie me has done this the very thing on an occasional night or so, for the last many years. Courtesy - work. And there have been nights when such early early morning calls have been frequent. These are the moments when you realize the value of sleep.

Although I sympathized with myself for this situation, my heart went out to my friends and colleagues who made that call. They are the real heroes. I was just a spoke in the wheel.

Whilst I lost a couple of hours of precious sleep, I admire them for doing The Graveyard Shift.

I am Working Late through the Night
What exactly is The Graveyard Shift? Well, it's the work which you do in the night - usually after 11 P.M. It is a.k.a. the Night Shift.

Think about the watchman who works in the night shift. The nights are dark, lonely and cold. The empty roads are stalked by howling dogs. Yet, he goes about his work, doing the rounds and providing security to the people as they enjoy their sleep peacefully.

Unable to Carpe Diem
Recollect the receptionist at the hotel. As you check-in yourself into the hotel, she manages to give you a warm smile as she welcomes you, even though the clock might read half past midnight. Her smile sparkles brighter than the glowing moon.

And as you get the few hours of sleep before the long day at work tomorrow (sorry, it's today), she manages you to give the wake up call at quarter to seven in the morning. You wonder, did she sleep at all though the night?

How about the pilots and their team? Usually, they have to do the graveyard shift. Flying a super jumbo is a difficult task in itself. How about getting the jumbo to lift off in the middle of the night, making a roaring sound as the world sleeps? 

The Dreaded Night Shift
And then resisting the desire to sleep as the plane makes its way towards the destination carrying a thousand dreams, surrounded by darkness. As the mean machine grumbles on its journey, the men and women are chasing a sunrise.

Have a thought for the people who have to clock hours through the night, day in day out, as part of their job. The human mind is designed to sleep through the night. Yet, these people are supremely alert in the work. 

The business process outsourcing industry has made the world glocal. As a result, you have people in India responding to phone calls from America. When America is awake, India is asleep. Yet these people keep the American engines chugging, sacrificing their precious sleep, all in the name of a job, to earn a living.

The Graveyard Shift

I have also worked through the night sometimes. If there is one temptation which is overwhelming on such days, its the need to sleep. And if you have been working continuously (the previous day) without a wink, such desires are extreme.

And just yesterday, I slept off on my computer at 3 in the morning. No, I was not working, but talking to a friend. Incidentally, she told me that she was full of energy - even though the clock read 3. :-). 

Recently, a friend of mine asked a doctor as to what she was doing awake at 1 in the night. She indicated that a call from the hospital was the reason, and she had to stay awake for another call which was expected soon. She said that it was common. Hats off to her, for putting her duty ahead of herself.

It's not only about staying awake here. Some of the work done during the graveyard shift have an added important responsibility of taking decisions. And taking decisions is difficult to say the least, since such decisions would influence subsequent actions. And it can be as serious as a matter of life and death.

Who is your best friend on such night shifts? Well, it is a cup of coffee. Or a friend or colleague with whom you can talk to through the night. Or sleep herself.

Coffee - Best Friend in the Night Shift
Coming to sleep, there are nights when she takes you over - even though we are working. On such nights, its best to relent to her temptation rather than resisting her. After all, who would resist such a charming empress.

If I have recollect a few places where I would have caught a nap while working in the night, I can come up with an interesting collection. For some nights, it has been a 4 ft shelf. Om other nights, three lined up chairs have been my bed. Sometimes, even two chairs. 

Sleeping in Office
And on other nights, just a single chair - wherein you have to sit and sleep. On odd days, the office floor - although a bit hard and slightly dirty - has been a precious bed. When sleep is taking you over, everything else takes a back seat.

The examples I have quoted would not be enough glorify the people who burn their midnight candles for the benefit of the few. As the world takes a nap, they are full of energy, doing their tasks.

Robert Frost's lines would echo their sentiments in the best manner.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

And for anyone who has worked through the night, the advertisement would reflect your thoughts and feelings.

P.S. After every dark night, there is a sunrise. Maybe it is this thoughts which pulls the people through the Graveyard Shift.
The Graveyard Shift The Graveyard Shift Reviewed by Vyankatesh on Saturday, March 24, 2012 Rating: 5


  1. I worked for a call center of a bank as quality head some years ago and the guys on the floor doing the grave yard shift were the most hard working of them all.

    are you working in a call center?

  2. I cry to work during the day...i cant even imagine what night shifters go thru!

  3. really its hard to work against your biological clock... who does is not only a strong person but a person of great will power.. as its not at all easy to resist a sleep :)

    I'd like to add few more
    like thousands of police men and our military men, patrol every single night without an exception...
    often we don't care about them, especially the police men.... coz we r too much blinded by their few bad actions that what they really do n sacrifice is never get noticed...

    Awesome post Vyanktesh !!

  4. Vyankatesh, Its a wonderful post. I dread to even think of what work life is going to be beyond 11 pm.

    I once had to work for a complete stretch of 38 hours to fix a major production issue involving millions of dollars. Oh Boy! I dont want to work in night shifts. I'd rather search for something elsewhere.