Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Confessions 1--The Nightshift

"I must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque!"
Wrap my soul in bandages.
I'm tired of this war.
Go ahead and cut me.
I can't even feel it anymore. 

"Ringfinger' from Pretty Hate Machine

It's 2 a.m. I'm sitting in my library on my "day" off. It's not a fancy library, it's just hundreds of books that I've read and collected over four decades. Of course, there are the scattered first editions of books I've never read sitting next to the worn paperbacks of those I've read over and over again. References. No, not just references, definitive references. Math, chemistry, business. The list goes on. Books I thoughtfully accumulated assuming if I ever needed them, I'd have them. I'd share them. I did both.

The internet was supposed to makes books obsolete. Bullshit!  the book industry is on the ropes but the real need for books is undiminished. What bookstores that remain operate on such thin margins, they buy a complete works of Shakespeare for a buck so they can sell it for two. But the value of a book is not the price, somewhat arbitrarily assigned in my opinion. The value is in the contents. If you use books like I do, you already know that what you can find on the internet for free is a far cry from the global repository of all knowledge we were promised. There's more porn than knowledge out there and the trending topics of the masses involve more celebrity scandal than schematics. I use books, I know. And more often than not, the "mundane" information you need is in chapter one of a text, not in the contents of a search engine. Information that is USEFUL is locked up in paid subscriptions to niche sites which still may have 1 billion documents...but not what you need.

I love my library, but it's time is short. What I have spent a lifetime putting together will vanish to the winds in a few short weeks. Why? Well, it started with me losing my job. Again. Unable to afford the modest accommodations which house my library, my wife, our bird and until a few days ago, our dog, are no longer within reach of my economic means. Simple as that. We find ourselves at a crossroads with a bucket of woe in all directions. We even had to scrap together $53 in 1976 Kennedy 50 cents pieces, two dollar bills and loose change to put our 17 year old dog out of her misery. We've always given to animal charities. Play it forward, you say? That's a myth.

If you are are a sterotypical member of society reading this right now, you've got two stereotypical trains of thought going on. One is that of a snotty, well-to-do book-nerd sipping cognac, going on and on about books, surrounded by the smell of leather volumes in immaculate condition bitching about falling on hard times. The other is that of an inept, problem employee who reads all the time and can't seem to hold down a job. You'd be wrong on both counts. Don't fucking judge me!

What I am is a floor cleaner for a large supermarket chain. Graveyard shift. I work with the unseen employment ranks, laboring when most of society is asleep. We serve you the burgers at Jack-in-the-Box when you stay up past your bedtime. On the other hand, they serve us food they would think of serving in the day time, just because they're the only place open when we eat. We guard the storage units, clean the office buildings, flip the switches on the technology you depend on when no one is watching. We work with the sad, the lonely, the freaks and the refuse relegated to the darkness because society doesn't like to look at them in the harsh daylight. Nightshift is the last refuge of the lost and rejected. It's purgatory without a dress code. The hardworking rejects operate right next to the idle slackers just like a classic hardback sits along side a cheap romance novel in a dark storage shed of unwanted books, gathering dust.

Some are the people the day-timers don't want to look at or talk to. The person with the knife scar across the face doesn't 'fit-in' to the office decorum. The awkward deaf dude who doesn't get your jokes gets the 3rd shift. It's pathetic that the "Chatty Cathy" on days who wastes everybody's time with her personal issues simply cannot tolerate "Prison Patty on days, even if Patty has truly learned the value of just doing her job and shutting the hell up. Introvert? Nightshift. Minority? Nightshift. Lazy-eye? Working on the nightshift. "I do not tolerate laziness in any form.You'd better get both of those eyes working, mister, else I'll cut your pay in half. Of course, you do have the option of quitting." Nightshift is the Pliocene Exile of a modern society, the only country for old men these days.

One would be in error to assume the majority of night-workers are druggies. Actually, most people working nights can't even afford drugs. Plus druggies seem to prefer days...so they can party all night and harass the waitresses working at the 24 hour diner. They catch up on their sleep during their day jobs. Nights are where the undesirable and unfortunate meet the totally normal. Much like the blending of late night and early morning shifts at 3:00 a.m., it's not where you are now, it's where you started that defines you. Every person who works at night is a book with a story to tell that no one reads because it's dark.

I clean up the discarded chicken bones and empty soda bottles carefully stowed in the corners of aisles by people who like to consume while shopping. They are not always the stereotypical poor or meandering derelicts one might assume. Some are the entitled, filling baskets with their goods while they cheerfully consume beverages and candy they are simply too lazy to pay for.  Maybe they try something new for the first time before stashing it in my janitorial cart if it's not to their liking. Night crews draw suspicion of larceny like a lightning rod, so thanks for that, asshole! I wish I could say they wear diamond rings, fur coats and drive off in Cadillacs but that would be as big a fairy tale as the stories about welfare queens using food stamps. Fairy tales are for those with weak arguments and no facts.No, these freeloaders look like everyone else and drive ordinary cars, albeit looking a a little bit better fed than the homeless, who do a similar supermarket buffet shuffle. At least the homeless are sneaky about it rather than so goddamned arrogant. And security never seems to follow them around the store like they do the blacks and the Hispanics so no wonder they consume with confidence.

I wasn't always a floor sweeper, though. Once, I was somebody else. Not a "somebody". Never a somebody, just someone else. All that I have done, seen and experienced has brought me to this particular vanishing point. If you've come this far, you might be curious how I came to be here, too. I'll tell you, but maybe not in the conventional way. I'd personally prefer satire, but satire is sometimes not about what I think, it's about what I make other people think. But this is a confession of sorts. It's all about my perspective, a subjective view of the lack of objectivity in others. It's a forensic examination of an entire career spanning three decades, one that brought me here despite my destination. I will take you back, step by step to the point of origin. Or maybe just a point of origin. There were many permutations along the way, so who knows exactly where things went awry. Still, I think it is reasonable to start not at the the very beginning, but rather a time preceding this one. Three weeks ago, it was 8:00 a.m. and I was just a chemist...


   "Just Get Through The Night" by Styx--Written by Tommy Shaw--Kilroy was Here

This could be the longest night in recorded history.
And as for sleep, you might as well just cross it off the list of possibilities.
Now I'm as brave as the next man. I won't turn and run from a fight.
And I could last a million years if I just get through this night.
I could be a novelist, tell secrets never heard.
Pour my soul into each and every sentence, but I just can't find the words.
Still I know that you're out there, and you can relate to it all.
And I could bear the cold and stormy winter, if I just get through this fall.
Don't you know there's no place on this earth where you can run to escape the pain of a broken heart.
It's useless to spend the time it takes you try. But can't you see that I'm here and I'm looking just the same. And I don't know why...

I could be a movie star, the King of Hollywood.
Make them cry, dramatically pretending to keep romance alive.
And I would humbly thank my director, and everyone involved from the start.
I could blow them all away, if I'd only find the the part.
If I just get through this night
If I just get through this night

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