Graveyard Shift


A little bird blogger tells me that this weekend is Labor Day in the USA and Canada.  As such, most of you will be out enjoying the last days of summer with a Barbecue and a Bud at the Beach, Ball park or Beach. (The previous sentence was brought to you by the letter ‘B‘; tough economic realities has forced the management of this blog to accept sponsored messages).

What that all means is that this post may be a waste of time as it will remain unread…….but never mind, the blog must go on.  And, actually for the rest of the world, Labor Day is May 1st.  Don’t know why the North Americans have to do things differently.

Anyway, this North American only Labor Day celebration got me thinking about my own very checkered history in the work force.  Some of the jobs I had to do were quite demanding physically, emotionally and mentally.  I have paid my dues.

One of the things I once had to do was a 48 hour timed experiment where I had to take water samples from an elaborate setup meant to study the survival of pathogenic microbes and their indicators in the environment.   Initially, the setup was  in a laboratory to get baseline data but later, I had to repeat this with the equipment setup in the field.  I had to take samples and process them which takes about 45 minutes and then repeat the process every 4-6 hours.

This meant that  1)  I became increasingly sleep deprived and prone to making mistakes, 2) I became addicted to coffee and 3) I regularly worked the graveyard shift when past the witching hour, strange things are seen and heard.

For about two years, I was set up in a small medical laboratory in a very old building of a very old teaching hospital in Malaysia.  For most of the night, I was the only one in the complex.  Apart from the long corridors, my small lab was the only one lit as the rest were locked and in darkness.  The long corridors were also dimly lit and passed through open courtyards where ancient trees with creepers hanging down blocked the night sky making the darkness more complete.  I know this sounds like the setup for a B-grade horror movie but it is absolutely true and there is more.  As this section is essentially shutdown at night, for me to go in and out, I have to take the back way which connects with the main hospital building………….and this means I have to walk through the morgue. And I have seen many horrible sights there.  The bloodied bodies of accident victims were often in this room I had to walk pass ……..and after that was that long, long, dark corridor.  And when the wind blew and the trees creaked, you could almost swear you heard voices and saw shadows.   A glutton for punishment, I then killed time in the wee hours of the morning in between my samples by listening to ghost stories on the night radio.  Never needed coffee.  I stayed jumpy all night!

Even more unnerving was when I had to retrieve samples in the Malaysian jungle at night.  In one location, I was camped in the jungle.  The camp itself was quite nice and well lit but every 4 hours, I had to drive a jeep about 20 minutes along a rutted and unlit logging trail.  I then had to scramble for another 10 minutes along some rocky terrain on foot to a small river with only my head lamp to guide my way.  Taking the sample would take another 10 nervous minutes.  All that time, it was pitched black except for where my light shone in front of me.  Especially, when I was bent over collecting my samples, I felt very vulnerable.  There were some very real dangers like tigers (uncommon but not at all impossible) and perhaps more of a danger were wild boar and snakes.  But my heart was also pounding as I remember the tales of jungle spirits and wraiths.  The jungle at night is very dark but it is very noisy with all kinds of sounds; many of which one would not be able to identify.  Why, that noise could be the Malaysian jungle version of Jason or Freddy Kruger!

Then, even if I made it back to the jeep with heart racing, one always had to check to make sure something evil was not hiding in the darkness of the back seat.  But the part I found scariest of all was when I was driving back and my world was just that arc of illumination in front from the jeep headlights.  Occasionally, I would look at my rear view mirror and all I could see was darkness.  But you know, I kept expecting that the next time I looked, I would see a pair of glowing red eyes and hear a deep guttural growl.

But anyway, all’s well that ends well.  The Lone Grey Squirrel made it through those dark spooky nights unscathed …………..or did he? Mwahahaha.

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4 thoughts on “Graveyard Shift”

  1. Actually we in North America do not celebrate May 1 with the rest of the world because we are not going to glorify that evil communism/socialism political ideology on our streets. No Sir!

    We celebrate May Day on May 1, as in dancing around a maypole in the finest pagan tradition.

    Labor Day for us celebrates them that toil at their work not particularly them who scare the pants (or fur as the case may be) off themselves, while being able to grab a few hours sleep, if so inclined, between tasks. Luxury LGS, that would be luxury, working alone at night, unsupervised, unencumbered.

    I one time worked the graveyard shift for the post office in SF California. The fact that there were three foremen standing over 6 people gave me the willies far more than any night time where I may have encountered some beast looking for a meal or haint looking for a soul.

    Fear not furry friend, findings indicate that your post will be read, examined and howled at. Happy labor day!

  2. That makes the 18 years I’ve worked overnights at a store built on an old Indian burial ground seem like a cakewalk in comparison…

    And hey, I will be laboring on Labor Day for the 19th year in a row! That’s how a day called Labor Day should be celebrated, right?

  3. Mark,
    I think North American right wing neo-imperialist capitalist just want to have two holidays instead of one. May 1st just wasn’t enough. Another excuse was needed for the tailgate barbecues and beer parties.

    Okay, 3 foremen for 6 staff is bad but I think I got you trumped! When I worked at the University, my supervisor (otherwise known as Demon Boss), would make surprise inspections between 2-4 in the morning and he liked the sound of his own voice and he liked to nitpick on everything. When our team had to decide who would sit in the same car as him on long journeys, we drew straws!

  4. evilsquirrrel,
    I am impressed with your 18 years at a store built over an Indian burial ground. Smacks of the Poltergeist movie. Did you have to work alone? Hope you get a medal next year for 20 years of Labor Day laboring.

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