It’s been a long night. A long several nights. During the course of which I’ve been conducting an interesting health study on myself. Well not conducting really, just noting the effects of nightshift on my health. And it’s not good. Not good at all.
London Underground has night shifts on most lines. Our basic job is to put the last trains away at night and bring the first ones out in the morning. They could just separate that out into two shifts and use taxis to get staff in and out of depots but by keeping someone overnight there is an absolute gurantee that the first trains will run.
In between the last and first trains is an interesting period. If it is cold then night crews run de icing trains up and down the outdoor parts of their line. This week the temperature hasn’t dipped too low and maintenance crews have been working on some of our points so I’ve been spared doing that. Though I’m not sure if ‘spared’ is the right word as I’m then left to sit for three hours staring into space and waiting for morning.
Some drivers will use this time to sleep. We have a variety of small rooms around the combine where three soft seats are lined up together to form a tiny bed. It’s generally first come, first served so if you are the unfortunate who brings in the very last train you might find yourself sitting in a hard chair overnight. That or curl up on a train that’s not being worked on and try to nap there.
I’ve never been able to sleep while on nights. there’s not enough time to get a good sleep and waking up dopey in the morning is a recipe for disaster. So if I am not required for anything else I just lie and daydream for a few hours. I take a book with me but I’m usually too tired to take in anything that I read. I spend most of the week in a fairly vague state whether I’m at work or not.
The changes that nights can inflict on a person are phenomenal. I’m sure there’s an EU study in it somewhere. We work 7 nights in a row plus anything tacked on from the previous week if we were scheduled to work that. As I’m generally a bit sleepy when not driving I have found that I’m getting too tired to eat. I started tracking my calorie intake and output and it’s really not good. Most days I can’t seem to manage more than around 1000 calories. Today I’ve got as far as 710 and I’m full and I really don’t think I can have anything more. I may start selling my night turns to people desperate to lose weight fast as I’ve lost around half a stone this week so far. Of course, by not eating enough I’m only contributing to feeling tired but I can’t seem to find a way around it. I’m too tired to watch TV or read or even surf the net much so I’m sure as hell too tired to sit here and eat much. It has taken a phenomenally long time to write this with any degree of coherence. I initially meant this blog entry to be somewhat different but my brain is not working well enough to do more than stilted sentences and basic facts.
One thing I dislike is the social isolation. I get a ten minute real-life conversation with a manager when I book on at night but unless a customer asks me a question or the line controller calls me about something that’s it. I’ve spent the week struggling to stay awake when I get home in the morning so I can chat via messenger with poggs and passengeraction before they go out to work. I know you have to be a bit self sufficient in this job but it’s getting ridiculous. I really miss people.
The most alarming part of nightshift is when I sleep in the morning. I presume I am locked into some sort of endurance thing for worktime but when I get home that seems to collapse. Getting home and going to bed I turn incredibly cold. You would not believe the number of layers I have to have just to be warm enough to sleep. Not that I’m actually warm but warm enough. I’m now incredibly glad that I have an old hot water bottle kicking around because it helps a lot. The coldness seems to vanish when I wake up and I go back into endurance mode again.
I’m on my last night tonight and won’t be doing them for a while. Next week I’ll get the rest days I didn’t get this week so it will be a nice recovery period. During which I shall perhaps request some new uniform in a smaller size. Or eat. Lots.