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Overnight in the empty place

Megan Trone

The following log was written by Megan as she started to work overnight in a residential school. These overnights were done as part of team preparation, before youth came in to the program. It is a fine reflection of the experience of overnight work in a residence and we offer it here because there is so little information on working overnights in our field. It is out hope that it might stimulate others to offer their experiences of working overnights. ó Eds .

Night One
Itís now 12:42 on my first overnight shift. Iím starting to feel like I could sleep for about 12 hours. My partner and I did a bunch of stuff around the school and that seemed to make the time go by faster. I think these nights could drag on and on when the kids actually get here because we wonít be able to make as much noise as we have been making. I also fell off the bunk bed (I was trying it out)Ö that kinda hurt and made me grumpy for a bit. Right now weíre taking a bit of a break; Iím doing some things on the computer while my partner is reading the staff communication log.

Now I feel like time is just standing stillÖ

Itís hard to anticipate what things will be like once we start getting kids in here. Iím nervous and scared, but Iím also really excited to see what kind of students weíre going to get here. Iím also happy that I brought chocolate tonight. I think the sugar will give me a boost for a bit anyway.
So an hour has past now and I feel like I just got my second wind. We just put up some clocks, and the time just flew by. I like that feeling. Maybe the next 7 or so hours will go this fast. I hope so anyway.

My partner just came upstairs and told me that I made all the white things in the laundry pink. I think I need to pay more attention to what Iím doing. Iím an idiot. Well we fixed that problem. Note to self: donít put in red towels with white aprons.

I think being on nights alone would be tough Ė and I get really nervous that weíre going to have to stay here alone one day. Its 3:30 now and Iím starting to think Iím going crazy. I was trying to stomp on a flying mosquito and we couldnít stop laughing at thatÖ weíre still kinda laughing about it. Being with someone else is really helping me stay awake. I think Iím at the point right now that if I donít laugh at something then Iíd probably just pass out.

This place is creepy at night. Iíve stayed here before during training, but Iíve always been sleeping. Iíve never noticed the strange noises from the kitchen area. Iíve never felt uncomfortable here before and now I do. Just walking out to my car to get my sweaterÖ I felt scared that something was going to run out at me.

Itís just strange being here so late and awake because Iím used to so much going on during the day when Iím working, and now on nights, thereís nothing going on, except us trying to stay awake by laughing and making coffee every 35 minutes.

Three and a half hours to goÖ. I feel like Iíve been here for a damn decade.

I just realized something. The only times that Iíve ever had to stay awake all night is when Iíve been studying, or having to write a paper, or having to do research. I think that just sitting at the computer helps me stay awake. Iíve done a bit of research tonight just for fun, and Iíve also typed out things just to have them typed out instead of writing things out. I donít know why I bothered writing that down.

5 amÖ. Am I done yet? If I were home right now I could be sleeping. I keep thinking about everyone else right now whoís sleeping. Damn those people who get to sleep tonight. Urgh.
6:30 am Öan hour and a half left. For some strange reason I feel like I could go for another 12 hours now. Iím thinking about how tough tonightís shiftís gonna be. I donít think itíll be as easy as this last one felt. I just hope Iím able to sleep when I get home todayÖ.

Well I made it though my very first night shift ever. I feel a bit tired and really delusional. I learned that things that we thought were funny in the middle of our shift really werenít funny at allÖ and I shouldnít tell stories to the day workers because they just donít get what Iím talking about. But if laughing at what was probably nothing kept me awake, thatís all that matters.

Night Two
Tonight is night number 2. The ride home this morning was scaryÖ I was just so tired that I actually thought I was going to have to pull over and sleep for a while. Anyway, I made it home safely and I slept forever. It was nice.

Itís now 10 pm on my second night Ö itís been alright so far. Iím just waiting to feel sleepy and wish that I was near my bed. Iíve played guitar for most of the time that Iíve been here. Itís been nice.

3 amÖ Iím just about ready to drop. Iím just sitting here listening to the clock and itís kinda driving me nuts. Iím feeling really uncomfortable and scared here again tonight. I just donít like looking out the window and not being able to see whatís out there. I donít like the dark. Itís creepy out there. Thereís strange noises again like last night and now thereís more that I didnít notice before and Iím hyper-vigilant to every little thing. The downstairs area always sounds like someoneís walking around down there. I donít like it.

I donít think Iím going to be able to stay up all night. Tonightís not like last night. Last night I was more alert, and I laughed a lot, tonight I just want to crawl in a hole.

I think that depriving myself of sleep really is making me go insane. Iím paranoid that thereís someone in the yard looking in the windows at us. Thatís crazy. I think we need blinds in here or something. Every time I walk past the big window in here I catch a glimpse of a little bit of another staffís car and it totally freaks me out.

Now itís 3:15. Could time go by any slower? I feel like time is crawling now and that time is against me, going slower and slower just to piss me off. Iím going to make some more coffee. I canít stand this any more.

The second night sucks.

5 amÖ I think this is my favourite time of the morning. The sky is just becoming lighter again and it makes me feel a sense of accomplishment that Iíve actually made it through another night. I know the nightís not over yet, but it just feels like Iím closer to getting it done.

I love when I can start hearing the birds. They make me smileÖ

Itís 6:40! Wow! The night went by sooooo slow. I struggled quite a bit tonight trying to stay up Ö waiting for the sun to start shining so I could know that I finally made it.

I think that trying to stay awake at night is a job in itself. I feel like Iíve put in a days worth of hard work when I barely did anything. But I stayed awake. Thatís what I needed to do, and now Iím beat. Despite how much I slept during the day yesterday, last night was hard. Itíll take a while for my body to get used to doing this I thinkÖ when my days become my nights and my nights become my days.

I actually hallucinated tonight. I really thought that something was crawling up my arm. It was nothing, just my imagination. The first sober hallucination Iíve ever had. Strange.

Iím starting to not feel so uncomfortable here now that the sunís starting to come out. I think itís because I can now see that thereís no strange man staring in the window at me. It makes me feel safe now.

One hour left. Hurry up damnit.

Well itís time to go home. I think Iím going to stay here a bit longer because Iím afraid to drive.

Iím sleepy.

Third Night
Iím a zombie. I didnít get enough sleep today, and the drive home was terrible despite me staying here an extra half hour this morning. Iím tired and grumpy. This has turned into a bad weekÖ which has nothing to do with being here. I had some unfortunate news given to me tonight and now it looks like I have to head home tomorrow on my day off.

I donít really feel as uncomfortable and scared here as I have the nights before. I took a walk earlier in the night just to stay awake and blow off some steam. It helped me realize that there arenít people staring in the window at me and that there really arenít people walking around in the kitchen. So I have a lot less anxiety about being here awake at night. There are still strange noises, but I think Iím becoming used to them.

I was thinking that my next shift, which is Monday night, will probably be really different for me, and Iíll probably have to start writing an entire new log. We could have our first student here, and that will make the night totally different from the last three that Iíve experienced. Over the past three nights, if I become tired, I go outside, get some fresh air or just jump around and make noises, but Monday will be different. I wonít be able to go outside for walks, or make noise and laugh about stupid things because Iíll actually have to care for someone.

I wonder how long it will take my body to get used to this shift. So far my body hates me and refuses to sleep past 3 pm, even when I know I really need it. Before I started doing these shifts I would think to myself how easy this transition will be. Ya, thatís real easy!

Itís 5 am. Tonight flew by. I have a feeling though that the next 3 hours will drag on and on though because all I can think about is how much I miss my bed. Coffee is a magical thing.

The sky is starting to get lighter. I find when the sun actually does come up, my body thinks that itís day time, time to get going and do things. But my brain is trying to say shut up I need sleep now damnit. My body wins this fight most days though -- when I wake up I feel just as tired as I did when I went to bed, and I donít make sense when I talk. If I had a hole to crawl into when I get home every morning, I think it would be different because sunlight wouldnít be allowed in. It would be a sound-proof hole too, so I couldnít hear the neighborhood kids and the stupid ice cream trucks that come twice a day. That would be wonderful. I would defiantly sleep until 5 every night, like I really wish to be doing.

One hour left. The last 2 hours have gone by really slow and Iím really looking forward to sleeping for a bit. Iím happy that I have one night off. This seemed like a long stretch of days. I donít think I minded it all that much though. The ride home this morning shouldnít be as bad as yesterdayÖ I feel more alert than I did yesterday at this time.

Night Four
Well the one night off didnít really do much. I had a hard time staying awake like usual, and I actually ended up sleeping at around 2:30 am, so that screwed up the rest of my day. So I can just imagine that tonightís shift will be really hard unless I keep myself really busy. I actually have a bunch of things that I can work on tonight, and Iím really looking forward to getting them started. Staying by the computer all night will help me stay awake and more alert, so Iím happy that I feel like I have things to do.

Itís only 9:00 pm though, so Iíve been here for an hour. This night better start going faster.

Itís 4 am and the night is going by really fast. I donít feel as tired as I thought. Iím still really on edge though, and the slightest thing scares me, but I am awake and at this point, thatís what Iím aiming for.

Nights are kinda fun. As much as sometimes I hate that I need to be awake, I do actually enjoy the time spent here. Iíve gotten to know my co-workers in ways that I wouldnít have known them if I werenít spending 12 hours each night trying to keep myself up and them at the same time. Itís been a very enjoyable experience and I actually do look forward to coming in each night.

Things happen at night that wouldnít normally happen throughout the day. The night is a strange time. The fact that we are going on next to no sleep kicks in and weíre acting crazy and laughing uncontrollably about everything. Iím glad that Iíve had this chance to get to know these few people on an entirely different level than I would with my own friends.

I think this will still change once students start arriving, but for now we can remember how crazy we were in the middle of the night.

I feel like calling people who are sleeping right now just to wake them up. If Iím awake other people should be too.

Itís 7:00 amÖ Iím tired, hungry, and grumpy.

I just want my bed.