2002-09-01 20:41:00 (UTC)

Shift Work

My opinion about shift work can be summed up in one word--

You'd think after living for more than 20 years with
someone who's worked shifts I'd be used to it by now. Well,
I guess I am USED to it, but I still don't like it.

When we were first married John was a supervisor at the
cannery. In the non-production months he worked 7 a.m. to 3
p.m. Monday through Friday. That wasn't bad at all. We had
a life very much like other people's. But when they were
running (July through November ) he worked graveyard (11p.m.
to 7a.m.) seven days a week. That was not fun for either of
us. We never saw each other. He was either working or
sleeping. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending
upon how one wants to look at it) the cannery closed. He
found a job as a cabinet maker for a big motor home
manufacturing firm. These motor homes are huge, terribly
expensive and basically junk. They use cheap materials. He
was working day shift again but he hated this job. His
co-workers and supervisors were either religious fanatics or
druggies. He'd come home grumpy. We were so happy when he
went to work for James River but it took some time to get
used to revolving shifts. He worked eight hour shifts;
seven day shifts (7 a.m. to 3 p.m), have four days off, work
seven swing shifts (3p.m to 11 pm), have three days off, and
then seven graveyard shifts ( 7a.m.) followed by one
day off. By this time we had two boys and soon there were
two more. Days and graveyards were fine but on swing shifts
he never saw the boys once they started school; he'd leave
before they came home and they'd be asleep when he returned.

On graveyard I had to keep them quiet in the mornings so he
could sleep.

Later, he transfered to Pope and Talbot and they went to a
4-4 schedule. They work two 12 hour day shifts (7a.m. -
7p.m.) followed by two 12 hour graveyard shifts (7p.m. -
7a.m.) and then four days off. This one's easier to keep
track of and results in bigger chunks of time off.

But I still hate graveyard shift. The bed is too big I
wake up and the light's still on because I fell asleep
reading again. When I wake up at 3 a.m. I can't go back to
sleep so I get up and do housework and play on the computer
and putter around the house and then I feel sleepy again
by 8 a.m. but it's too late because then I have things I
have to do. You'd think I'd sleep more in the middle of the
bed when John's not there but I still sleep on my own side.
I know because when I wake up the covers are pefectly smooth
on his side and just messed up on mine.

I worry about the house getting burgled (or something worse
happening) in the middle of the night but right now there
are three big, strong teen-age boys home who could beat the
H-E-double hockey sticks out of anyone who came in univited
so I'll probably worry more about that when it's just Hugh
who's home with me and then I'll worry even more the
following year when I'll be home by myself.

Well, I do have that aluminum baseball bat under my bed.!
At least it's not like when John worked nights when all the
boys were babies and toddlers and we lived out in the
country. I couldn't have tried to run then because I
couldn't leave the babies by themselves to the mercy of
whoever had broken in and there wasn't anyplace to run to
anyway. John showed me the weapons I had. The stock pot of
boiling water on the woodstove. My iron. My sewing
scissors. And he reminded me of my fierceness when it came
to the idea of protecting my sons.

The strange thing is I've lived in this community for more
than 20 years and have never heard of anyone's house ever
being broken into while they were there. I've talked to
people who've lived here more than 60 years and they can't
remember anytime that's happened. It's a small and safe

Oh sure, there are thefts once in a while. A ladder is
stolen from a side yard when everyone's
gone is about the extent of it. No home invasions. No
rapes. No murders. There hasn't been a murder around here
in almost 150 years and that was--yep, wouldn't you know
it-- at our country place. Well, not in the house because
it hadn't been built yet but in another house that
was on the land then. A man killed his brother and his
brother's wife over gold. He was tried and hung within a
week. Justice was quick in those days. I read about it in
a book a local historian, who lived right across the road
from us, had written and realized when I read it that it
had all happened on the place we'd just bought. The gold
was used to build the house we lived in and to raise the
orphaned children.

I've digressed quit a bit here but I'm sure you get the gist
of it. I'm whining. There are a lot of unemployed people
who'd love to have the job John has. When he worked at the
cannery I would grumble about having to make his lunch in
the evenings when I was tired from doing housework and
dealing with children all day. When the cannery closed I
promised myself I'd never, ever complain about making his
lunch again. If I'm making him a lunch it means he has a
job and we have food on the table. We'll deal with the rest
of it.