I’ve never worked regular hours

1 Jan


Trying to buy milk at 5am is quite a challenge. All the service stations go into lock-down and you have to use the ‘Night Pay’ window which is an anti-social metal slot designed to prevent robberies. I usually indulge in a bit of a diet at this time of the year mainly due to my birthday in three weeks (37 – yikes!) so I really need to buy skim milk.

There are two workers at the service station I choose. I ask for skim milk and am told they don’t stock it. They stock Paul’s so I can choose from 2% or no-fat. I ask for no -fat and the girl points out that the 2% tastes just like real milk without the fat and the other one is really watery. I asked for the watery one and am met with a look of disapproval. I am too tired to explain that because I want to drink it I prefer it to be watery and that I already have 2% at work for my coffee. I slip my coins into the slot and he lifts his side and puts the milk in a metal container which I can access from my side too. I was wondering how he was going to fit it through that little slot. I was picturing him opening the sliding doors quickly, leaving it on the ground and then ducking back inside. Everything about me says ‘robber’ because I am after all not wearing any makeup and my children assure me I look scary at this time of the day. “Mum, you look like a monster,” my son helpfully pointed out one morning.

“It’s just like America, isn’t it,” a man joined me at the window to buy cigarettes.

“No, if it were America we’d be allowed in but they’d have guns and so would we.” He chuckled.


“Are you working,” I asked.

“Just starting,” he confirmed.

“Me too.”

Clutching my skim milk I scampered back to the car and continued the drive to work.

I’ve never worked regular hours. All my jobs have required early morning or late night shifts. My first step towards my chosen profession of radio was volunteering to do the breakfast shift at my local community radio station. My first paid job in radio was a late night show. Then breakfast again which lasted almost a decade and required me to wake up at 3.30am.

“At least you have the rest of the day free,” my 9-5 colleagues would comment.

“Except I’m in a coma and feel constantly jet lagged.”

“Oh,” they’d look at me skeptically, as though I was exaggerating. Don’t they know that by about 3pm I’ll be feeling like someone has microwaved my brain. Naps just made it worse.

In my current job they have something charmingly referred to as a ‘split shift’ where you work four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon so you are faced with the choice of staying at work like a loser waiting for your next shift to begin or going home for 1-2 hours before turning around and heading back to work. In the morning everyone is pretty energetic but by the afternoon all the office doors are closed and socialising is kept to a minimum. A lot of carbs are consumed in the form of noodles, chocolate and biscuits and we’re too tired to even wash our coffee mugs. It’s pretty sad.

Sometimes I watch movies and imagine myself working regular hours in a job where I have to wear special clothes. In most of my jobs I could have turned up in a track suit and no-one would have batted an eyelid. Often I’ve been tempted to turn up in my PJs…at least the pants because they are so comfy and it would be great when I power napped at my desk during a ‘double shift’ which is a horrible as it sounds but great on pay day.

Structuring your meals is also a challenge when you work irregular hours. My husband has been doing shift work for the past four years after decades of 9-5 jobs. I’d pack his food for the day or night depending on the shift he was working and he’d always eat his dinner for breakfast and end the day with cereal.

My colleagues and I are split into two groups – there are those of us who eat as soon as we wake up and those us who hold out until at least the sun is up. Those who eat breakfast before 6am have a problem later in the day where they want lunch at 9am and usually end up eating either two lunches or two dinners. Those of us who hold out usually manage a more regular eating pattern and a milky coffee first thing is an excellent stalling mechanism. But we all hit that wall somewhere between 3 and 4pm where fatigue segues into sugar cravings and MUST BE RESISTED, or not. Have you tried Ben and Jerry’s Peanut Brittle ice-cream yet? They sell it at the video shop near my house.

The closest I have come to a normal life is when I’m off work and strangely enough I have trouble getting to sleep and trouble waking up. For some reason I find it easier to wake up at 4am rather than 6am. When I sleep normally with no alarm and no schedule I wake up naturally at around 7.15 but this leaves only 45 minutes to get three children ready for school and various activities, pack lunches, shower, brush teeth…it’s just not enough time and I prefer not to start the day yelling at my children.

So spare a thought for shift workers or those who are working while you are tucked into bed. There are plenty of them keeping the wheels churning and when you’re at work going about your day they’re trying to stay awake to enjoy at least part of their day, eating lunch at 9am or napping in awkward places in awkward positions.

La Dolce Vita,

Jo Abi

One Response to “I’ve never worked regular hours”

  1. .com April 8, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

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