Let me tell you about a prostitute nicknamed “Yo” (for Yolanda). She’s a third-shift whore (and yes, they really do work in shifts) who was peeing on a sidewalk under a street lamp the first time I met her, her left leg slightly hiked as her right hand hooked the bottom of her skirt up to keep it dry (I mean damn near standing fully upright while she cut loose, really impressive stuff) and she didn’t miss a beat as she said, “Hey, officer. I haven’t seen you before! Why, you must be new around here.”
She was right, I hadn’t worked that district before, but after seeing that, I felt like anything but “new.” Seeing a hooker peeing on a sidewalk from a standing position…that’ll age you prematurely, ladies and gents.
To me, she has always been the gold standard of both poor decision-making and emaciation; she looks like Gollum and the Crypt Keeper had a baby, with fewer teeth but a perpetual smile. Had she been lying down on the sidewalk instead of peeing on it, I would have instantly and justifiably presumed she was dead, and had been so for some time. Cocaine and low self-esteem beat movie make-up any day of the week. And again, micturition like that is just something you don’t see during the light of day.
Like any relationship though, I have to admit, those first few nights on shift are actually kind of magical.
You see things you’re unaccustomed to, like red lights cycling at empty intersections that are normally overrun, and parking lots of restaurants and stores you can’t see the pavement of during daylight hours are now empty, aside from the occasional orphan shopping cart and inevitable fast-food sack that for reasons rarely explained sits firmly in the face of gale-force winds. It’s a ghost town; every night is the Rapture, and in the back of your mind you just know you’ve missed the ride upward and are stuck with the rest of the heathens for God knows how long.
Eventually, of course, you will also realize one of the only perks to this opaque world: The ability to actually get places pretty damn quickly because there is no traffic. Period.
To work, from work, going from call to call…it’s like you’re driving a rocket ship (particularly if you’re Yasiel Puig), and it spoils you.
Statistically speaking you are going to have to drive again during daylight hours, and not only will you be pissed off because you physically and mentally feel like absolute crap from sleep deprivation, but there are all these damn cars all over the place getting in your way. The nerve! What took 12 minutes of driving at night takes 35 minutes during daytime hours, and someone owes you for this…but take it from me, folks: They will never pay.
Despite the desolation though, much like any good horror movie set you are not alone at night.
You have company that can generally be divided into two subsets of categories: Other service—oriented employees like yourself, and criminals. (And no, I’m not referring to all the railroad folks I run across at these hours, too.)
This is not so good for the third-shift waitresses, cooks, nurses and cleaning crews around town (crews that seem to get a disproportionate amount of punishment from the criminal element for some reason), but it’s great for the cops. It’s like shooting pension reforms in a barrel. If you’re out past 3 a.m., you’re probably a criminal (or in strong contention for becoming one).
The third-shift waiters and waitresses, though…there is something special about them I couldn’t put my finger on until just a few years ago: Their apathy, cynicism, and personal habits are nearly as powerful as ours.