Sunday, August 15, 2010

Working Afternoons

I work the afternoon shift, from 3 to 11:30 p.m. I am a night person. I just don't want to sleep before three or four a.m.anyway. Most days I wake up around 11 a.m.

Around 2 p.m. I'll leave for work, sometimes running a quick errand on the way. My workplace is located downtown, it's not a huge town, but the hospital is adjacent to a university. Parking is at a premium. As a new employee I was given seven typed pages of instructions designating where people in particular departments were allowed to park on each shift. They take it very seriously. I once parked in the wrong spot and my supervisor was immediately notified. I was told that we are allowed one 'error' and any future errors were marked against us in our file. It could affect future raises and promotions, etc..

So I'll drive through the enormous parking garage to my designated section and park. Then trek to the elevator, a glassed-in concoction that has become a sauna ride during this hot hot summer. I've given up on wearing makeup, it just melts off my face during the elevator ride.

I hike across the street--there are signs telling cars to yield to pedestrians. Most people do, but during shift change they get a little edgy if too many people cross and force them to wait. I tend to run into the same people on the way in, all of us working the afternoon shift.

It's about a five minute walk to my unit through a sprawling old building. I head into the locker room, already crowded with others trying to get items in their locker, put lunches in the refrigerator and attend to last minute details. Then to the time clock to punch in by scanning my badge. Sometimes it's frustrating. The earliest I can punch in is five minutes before. Yet if I am one minute late I am marked 'tardy' and once again have marks against any possible future raises or advancements. In fact, too many tardies are grounds for dismissal.

Naturally, the twenty other people in my unit are all trying to punch in at the same time too. The time clock doesn't always co-operate, sometimes you have to swipe your badge several times. In those last few minutes it can get really tense, Waiting to punch in and the people ahead of you keep trying to swipe their badge.
Then finally it's off to the floor.

It's always busy here, and shift change is especially chaotic. I find my dayshift counterpart. We work overlapping by half an hour to transition all that is happening as smoothly as possible. The phones ring, people interrupt, and the chaos can be crazy. Before I know it, dayshift is gone and I'm on my own.

No two nights are ever the same. Most are very hectic, and time flies. Our cafeteria closes at 7 p.m., so everyone rushes to get their dinner break in. Most nights, it's eleven p.m. before I know it and I'm rushing to finish up my duties before I leave.

Then it's a reverse treck to the parking garage and home. Another hot night in middle America.

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