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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This is disconcerting

I've been back at work on a temporary basis since the end of September. The schedule I'm working is called a "4x4": Four twelve-hour nights of work, followed by four days off. (The first day off doesn't really count because you spend most of it unconscious.)

If you sit down with a calendar and try to fit this eight-day schedule into a seven-day week you'll find something interesting and counter-intuitive: this schedule results in four calendar weeks in a row with four nights of work in them. followed by four calendar weeks in a row with three nights of work. Any work rotation that begins on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday will have four consecutive nights of work in it. Weeks that begin on Thursday will have three consecutive nights of work, plus one night (Sunday) spilling over into the next week. The next rotation will only contain Friday and Saturday in that same week, giving three non-consecutive nights of work for the week. The following week will have Sunday and Monday spilling over from the previous rotation, plus Saturday from the next rotation. The next week will have spill-over days of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, and the next rootation will begin on Sunday of the next week.

Any calendar week with four nights of work is worth 52 hours of pay - 40 hours "straight time", plus 8 hours at "time and a half", the equivalent of 12 hours of pay. Any calendar week with three days in it only pays 36 hours straight time. Additional days over the first four are worth 18 hours each - 12 hours at time-and a half.  Thus, for three days you get 36 hours pay; four days, 52; five days, 70, six days, 88, and the Holy Grail - seven sonsecutive days in one week - is worth 106 hours of pay, for a mere 84 hours of work.

After some annoyance with getting a new security badge (which didn't happen until the second day of my second rotation) I began signing up for as much overtime as I could get. In my first calendar week I worked just my four scheduled days. In my second week I worked my scheduled days plus one of overtime, for a 70 hour paycheck. In my third week I worked six consecutive days, my four scheduled plus an overtime day at the beginning and the end - but only five of those days were in one calendar week (for another 70 hour pay) and one was in the next calendar week. My fourth week - the most recent one - I had the one overtime day from the previous rotation, but was not able to get overtime for the day before our rotation. So I worked three scheduled days plus one of overtime, for a four day, 52 hour pay.

I had hoped to get back into the swing of things this calendar week, with one scheduled spillover day from the previous rotation (Sunday night), two nights of overtime (Monday and Tuesday), and then two more scheduled days (Friday and Saturday) for another five-day, 70 hour pay.

Unfortunately, my overtime was cancelled for both Monday and Tuesday nights, leaving me with a measly three-day, 36-hour pay.

OK. Fine. I've been running hard. I  could use a break, right?

As I said, usually your first day off when you're working twelve-hour nights is a wate - you wind up sleeping most of the day, or zombified. But usually you can snap back into what I call the "daywalking lifestyle" by your second day off. Or, at least, I used to be able to.

I slept yesterday from about 9:00 in the morning to about 1:45 in the afternoon. I was up, fatigued but conscious. Stayed at home. Paid a stack of bills. Back in bed by 3:00 AM. Up again just after 8:00 AM to verify that the message I had heard the night before about my overtime being cancelled hadn't changed. Stayed in bed until after 9:00. Gathered myself together, got a start on the day. Out of the house by noon to go grocery shopping. Back by 2:00. Unload the groceries, quick change of clothes, then out of the house just after 3:00 to get to WBRE for PA Live! to do the 90-second NEPA Blogs Blog of the Week segment. Do it, elect to hang out at the show until the end and get a slice of sweet potato pie. Find myself falling asleep as I wait.

I parked at Boscov's. Parking there is $2.00 for the first three hours, or free if you buy something worth $2.00. I picked up a buckwheat hot/cold pad for $1.99 and an viricidal spray for $0.29, got my ticket stamped, and headed home.

I drove home, noticing all the pretty girls from the Wilkes University track team jogging all over Wilkes-Barre. Pulled up to the house as Soundgarden's "Burden In My Hand" came on the radio. Decided to sit through the song in the car. Picked up the viricidal spray and began to read the instructions on the back.

...and realized I could not make it through a single sentence without experiencing hypnagogic hallucinations. Woolgathering, so to speak. My mind was making things up, words and phrases that simply weren't there, as I was falling asleep with each sentence.

I realized I had to get out of the car soon or I was going to wind up sleeping there.

I came in the house and had something to eat. Thought I woke up a bit. Then I went on Facebook and wrote this:

Having a very hard time adjusting to daywalking. I think I like working overtime not just because of the money, but because it gives me an excuse to be disoriented for a day or two. With four consecutive days off, I fear I might resume aa daywalkiiiinh schhhedduule
That last sentence was supposed to read "...I fear I might resume a daywalking schedule, only to have to suddenly switch back to night shift when I go back to work." Only, as you can see, I began to fall asleep as I was writing it, with my fingers lingering on each key too long.

After midnight tonight I began to rouse again. It's now close to 2:00 AM and I think I'll head to bed.

I'm wondering if I am no longer capable of easily transitioning between being awake at night and being awake during the day. At work I have no problem staying awake: the place is brightly lit and full of sounds, things to do and things to check - a very stimulating environment. I could run all night on pure adrenaline, but I realize I need some food in my system for the drive home.

So is my body stuck on night shift? Can I function properly during the day anymore? Or will I find myself falling asleep the moment I become under-stimulated?

2 comments:

Michelle D said...

I promise to hang in there as long as you do. Deal? Deal! I'll probably forget that I posted this in five minutes.

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Sounds like a real adjustment!!