Workplace Adventures: Overnight Shift

Late Night Doughnuts

At least there were donuts. I suppose that’s one upside of working the overnight shift.

I got to the store and clocked in. Then I checked the bulletin board. There was a new schedule posted. It looked pretty normal, except for Saturday. That night, I was scheduled to work from 3am to 10am. I went to the assistant manager and asked her about it.

“Did you make a mistake with my schedule?” I asked.

“I didn’t.”

“You have me scheduled to work from 3am to 10am.”

“That’s correct.”

“Why? The store’s only open from 10 to 9.”

“We need to gear the store up for Christmas, so I figured we’d come in overnight and do it all at once.”

I tried to talk her out of the overnight shift, but she wouldn’t relent. So the following Saturday night, I went to bed early. Very early. Like 7pm. I couldn’t sleep, though, so I got up and drank some chamomile tea. I went back to bed and lay there for a couple of hours. Finally, I got into a nice deep sleep, only to be rudely awakened at 2:30. Then again at 2:39. I dragged myself out of bed, through on my clothes, and headed into the kitchen. There I had some coffee waiting for me. Thank God for coffeepot timers. I poured the lifebrew into a thermos and got in the car.

My work was just a couple of miles away, and there was no traffic to speak of. I got to the store right at three. I was the first one there. The rest of my coworkers, including the assistant manager, all straggled in over the next ten minutes. At least that was one upside of working overnight. No one seemed to care much about formalities.

We got into the store. Everyone looked like hell. Everyone except me. I felt like hell, but my colleagues kept telling me that I was bouncing off the walls. All of them decided to stay up late, instead of going to bed obscenely early. Around 4:00, they were paying the price. As the most lucid member of the staff, they elected me to go down to the 24-hour Krispy Kreme for some donuts and coffee. I was glad to get away from the Christmas decorations and all of the glitter floating through the air.

When I got back, the assistant manager had set up a boombox at the cash stand. At maximum volume, it barely echoed in the corners of the sales floor.

“I tried to get the sound system to play a CD,” she said, “but it only plays the discs that corporate sends us.”

“I’m not surprised,” I replied. “They probably use some kind of proprietary system to keep us from playing random CDs.”

We got back to work, this time in earnest, making a grand old mess as we went along. As much as I hated the overnight shift, I could understand why we would want to put the Christmas decorations out when there were no customers around.

It was a long damn night. We had to change almost every damn display in the store, and even with the Krispy Kreme and non-corporate music, we were all just barely functioning. Even as the most well rested person on staff, I was still falling asleep by the timer the sun rose. By the time my shift ended at 10, I was about to fall asleep again. However, instead of going straight to bed, I decided to meet up with my sister. We went out and had a nice pancake breakfast on Sunday morning. It was a good way to end a very long night. Then I went home and went to bed.

Steve Lovelace

Steve Lovelace is a writer and graphic artist. After graduating Michigan State University in 2004, he taught Spanish in Samoa before moving to Dallas, Texas. He blogs regularly at

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4 Responses

  1. January 25, 2013

    […] months of this, I gave it up, went down to the mall, and got a job schlepping around furniture and Christmas ornaments while listening to canned music. It wasn’t an improvement, but it wasn’t a demotion […]

  2. August 1, 2016

    […] My least favorite thing about working retail was the canned music. At the first store I worked at, they played the same music every two hours. Every two hours. The same thing on a loop, several times during a shift. Every couple months or so, we would get a new disc from Corporate. The novelty lasted for a day or two. Then, once I memorized the new music loop, it became torture once more. To this day, whenever I hear one of the songs they played at that store, I have the urge to cover my ears. I can’t stand any tune that played at that store during that time, even the handful of songs that I liked before I worked there. But as bad as the regular music was, the Christmas music was far worse. Like the regular music in the store, it was on a two-hour loop, But unlike the regular music in the store, they did not have enough songs to fill up the CD. So they get several versions of everything. That meant, and I counted, five versions of “Jingle Bells”, three renditions of “Frosty the Snowman” and four versions each of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”. So if I worked an eight-hour shift, which I often did at Christmastime, I could hear “Jingle Bells” as many as 20 times. To add to that, they started playing the Christmas music before Halloween. So I had several months out of the year where he was nothing but “Jingle Bells” playing. I kept myself sane, or perhaps drove myself nuts, thinking of all the decent Christmas songs they could have played instead. There are enough Christmas songs in the world to fill a two-hour loop, and a little variation would bring some holiday cheer to overworked sales clerks. […]

  3. August 2, 2016

    […] they store clerks can’t go out of town to see their family, but now they have to trudge to work with their bellies still full of turkey. If they get to eat turkey at all. And sure, some people […]

  4. February 17, 2017

    […] worked at a home decor store back in college. It wasn’t my dream job, but it paid the bills. It was a small store with a dozen […]

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