Long Nights, Short Thoughts

I am currently on staff duty, and it being my first time in over a year in the exalted role of Staff Duty Officer (SDO), I am getting reacquainted with the task. For those not in the know, the SDO sits at a desk from 1600 (just before the close of business) until 0630 the next morning (the start of the nex business day) and waits for something bad to happen. When something bad happens, he wakes someone up and tells them to come in and take care of it. To break up the monotony, he conducts checks to make sure things aren’t burning down around him in the different areas inhabited by his unit.

In many ways, this reminds me of driving a newspaper truck for the Enterprise on weekends. The most obvious corrolation twixt the two is the long period of time without sleep and resulting effects. First, one gets tired but can’t sleep. Then, one consumes monstrous amounts of caffeine to stay awake through the evening. Finally, one tries to go to sleep the next morning, but is unable to do so due to the monstrous levels of caffeine coursing through his system. I have currently been awake for 22 hours. Three hours or so ago, I wanted to take a nap, but drank two 20 oz. Diet Cokes instead. Now, I have 4 hours left in my shift, but I can already tell that sleep will not be forthcoming. I am so wired right now that I conduct electricity.

There are certain advantages to staff duty over truck driving. For one thing, there was no DVD-viewing or internet access while tooling around Plymouth or Campello at the controls of a buhwheemuth (points for anyone who catches the reference). No, when driving a truck that wasn’t #16, #38, or one of the vans (7 years later I remember!) there was not even a radio to listen to, and one had to occupy their time in other ways. My favorite was the lottery game, wherein I pretended I had won the lottery and had to allocate the cash in a realistic manner. E.g.:

Megabucks was good for $2.6 million this week. That means I get about $1.3 million after taxes. First, I get a nice house in Scituate. That’s $300K right there (this was in 1998 that I was doing the imagining). Okay, I could also get a cottage in West Cork for $200K. That leaves me $800,000. Now I can purchase a classic Land Rover fully restored for $20,000…

That would go ad infinitum, with the purchases getting smaller and smaller and the math getting more and more difficult to keep straight. That’s a good 2-3 hours of time wasted while performing my newspaperly duties.

Another way to occupy the time driving in the middle of the night was to tell ghost stories. This worked best when someone was in the truck with you. I remember one time, I was on a deserted country road in Raynham (I’m not sure if they still exist, but they did back then) with a guy who was doing his 9 months of work for the Enterprise so he could “collect” for three months and get drunk every day; those were his words. We started trading ghost stories or just tales of freaky occurences not involving ghosts. We were about done with the route, so we stopped at the dead end of the road and started bundling individual papers for delivery to down routes open routes. He told me some freaky story about a crazy lady that lived down the block from him in a spooky house and watched TV all day every day, never leaving her abode. One night as a teenager, he and some buddies got a little snookered and snuck into this lady’s house to steal something, kind of counting coup on the spooky old woman. He said when they got into the house, there were large-lettered obscene phrases scrawled on all of the walls in red paint, trash strewn about, and the house stank of rotten meat. When they went in front of the TV, it was crushed inward and they surmised that the lady had been watching nothing for years. He told this story in a real and compelling way, although I’m sure it was bullshit, and I had gooseflesh all over. We were on a deserted road in Raynham in the dead of night and I was freaked out to say the least. He cracked the door slightly to let in some air when a dog started screeching like a fucking banshee from maybe 15 feet away. We both jumped 3 feet straight in the air and came close to evacuating our bowels onto the cold steel floor of the truck. I literally hit my head off the roof of the truck. My heart was beating so fast and hard that I couldn’t hear his nervous laughter on account of the pounding in my ears. Holy Jesus, I thought I would die. The point?

Nobody tells ghost stories on staff duty. That’s another advantage of being the SDO.

~ by kinshay on 2005-08-16.

No Responses Yet to “Long Nights, Short Thoughts”

  1. I just had a flashback to college and working the graveyard shift at the Caterpillar plant and the mind games I would play to stay awake. My favorite was to imagine I was able to change one single event in in my life. Once that event was altered then I would theorize how every subsequent event afterwards would be different. This game, Mountain Dew and Newport cigarettes pulled me through the shift.

    Years later I read Revolutionary Suicide by Huey P. Newton and found that he used similar mind tactics when locked down in solitary confinement. He would recount all the moments of his life in chronological order as far back as he could remember and then work forward. He claimed he got so good at it that he could start from from his first memory at three years old and go week by week until he reached the present.

  2. I was amazed at how often I could scare the shit out of meself in the outskirts of Taunton at 3am listening to Art Bell, ‘specially Ghost to Ghost!

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