Friday, 27 April 2012


It's 03:23am and my eyeballs feel like there's a cheese and onion crisp behind each eyelid.  My legs are aching and fidgety and are trying to tell me they should be horizontal at this ungodly hour, not dangling off the edge of a swivel chair.  I've got that weird feeling that I always get around this time when I'm working a night shift, it's as though I'm no longer real but a pale, insubstantial phantom with fuzzy thought processes.
This is the fourth night shift in a row and I'm feeling the pain.

Everybody is out on jobs so I'm alone in the police station, sitting in the back office behind the front desk.  Their is a CCTV monitor screen on the wall above me showing a downward angle view of the front counter so I can see if anyone comes in and go to see what they want.  The image on the screen may as well be a photograph as nothing has moved on the picture for the last two hours.

The last person to disturb the screens image was a small young woman with messy hair who came in looking frantic and clutching an audio tape.
Who the hell listens to audio tapes these days?
She told me she had been listening to a talk show on a local radio station when the DJ had addressed her directly and told her that he was going to open up her head and get inside. She had taped the last 30 minutes of the show and begged me to listen to it and prove that she was not mad.

I listened to the tape while sending an email to Social Services giving her details and obviously fragile state of mind although I'm fairly sure they would know about this lost soul already.  Then I went back out to the desk where she sat waiting on the uncomfortable metal bench that is bolted to the floor.  I tell her that there has been no mention of her name n the tape and ask her if she is on medication and if so has she been taking the prescribed doses. She starts to cry and accuses me of being part of the conspiracy that she imagines is surrounding her and leaves the station.
I have notified the relevant people regarding her welfare and they will check on her but I still feel impotent, as though I could have done more but she is just one of the many people like this that I have encountered in this job.

Later on a couple of officers hand over several brown paper evidence bags containing clothes taken from the body of a dead man.  His neighbour had rung complaining about a smell coming from his flat and the officers found him dead on his kitchen floor. The attending doctor was happy that it was natural causes, nothing suspicious so the system took over and everything was bagged and tagged.
The poor old lad probably had no idea that he would wind up in the mortuary tonight and the clothes on his back would end up on the floor next to me as I reduce the drama of his death to a few keystrokes while drinking black coffee out of a Judge Dredd mug.
Then his clothes would end up amongst the piles of property in the stores, placed between several seized cannabis bushes and a confiscated crossbow.

I've heard that working night shifts is bad for the heart and a lot of shift workers die before their time, their bodies pushed too far by being forced to function all night fuelled by junk food.
Never mind, my relief comes on duty at 07:00, maybe I'll eat a Snickers to keep me going.


Pat Hatt said...

LMAO oh I laughed at you being part of the conspiracy. It is sad more can't be done for such people though. Still I never knew you were in on such things, that night shift is just a cover right? haha...Not sure I could do night shifts, that has to be rough, as I get bored and feel like that come 10-11pm.

Anonymous said...

I didn't know you were a cop! I guess what I wrote today is something you deal with on a regular basis. You are now one of my hero's!
Kudo's. Sorry about the night shift that has to suck!
Stay awake and focused my friend!

Anita said...

This is so much fun!

dirtycowgirl said...

So...ummm....can I have my plants back please ?

Margaret said...

One of the classes I teach is Writing for Criminal Justice; it's basically just a writing class and tries to teach research methods and how to write clearly and thoughtfully. As part of that class, I have come to read quite a bit of criminal justice research and have come to decide that if I were ruler of the world I would do two things: I would make strenghten mental health services and make them much more easily available and I would make strengthen programs that try and help people with drug problems, which is pretty much related to me first idea.

Heaven. said...


Sarah said...

If only being a police officer was as fun as the movie 'The Other Guys'... you'd be living the dream.

Janie Junebug said...

You are part of the conspiracy, aren't you? I loved working the night shift, but I did it all the time so my mind and body adjusted to it. Margaret, where do you teach writing?


YeamieWaffles said...

This story was intensely interesting Tony but I won't lie that it left me feeling very sorry for her, mental health issues really do suck. It sounds to be like your job can be interesting quite often though.

SkippyMom said...

The poor woman appears to have schizophrenia [which is in no way drug related or brought on by substance abuse.] It sounds like she needs professional help and to be on her meds. You did the right thing, bless you. I know how hard it must be because you WANT to do more. Heck even without it being nightshift I am sure you have one heck of a job. Kudos to you. :)

I never much minded the late shift if it was permanent and I could get in a routine, but if it was 4 on, 2 off and then back to days for 4 I was completely out of kilter.

And bring your own snacks and dinner. We don't need you going anywhere Tony. :)

Juliette said...

"My eyes feel like they've got cheese and onion crisps behind each eye lid" OH how I can FEEL that!
How sad for that poor lady to be living in such fear and paranoia. I think you need a snickers, you deserve one.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Pat: I do earlies, lates and nights mate.

Craziness: Technically I'm not, cops and civvies man the front desks on my force, I'm a civvy.

Anita: That's one way to look at it.

Cowgirl: Sorry, we burned them.

Margaret: A lot of the mental hospitals over here got closed in the 80's under the 'Care in the Community' scheme. This basically meant thousands of people where left to try and take care of themselves in the wide world. Horrible.


Sarah: Never seen it.

Janie: So true, the first two nights are the worst but you become nocturnal quickly enough.

Matthew: It's heartbreaking.

Skippy: Our shift patterns are all over the place, 7 on 3 off, 4 nights on 4 off.

Juliette: I had a Star Bar instead.

Miranda Hardy said...

My brother is a cop and worked nights, but now he's on days. I have heard some very interesting and crazy stories.

Sometimes, fact is better than fiction.

Keep up the good work.

Katsidhe said...

I've done nights, and that might explain a bit of my mental state.

Confiscated crossbow...I want it.

Al Penwasser said...

"I've heard that working night shifts is bad for the heart and a lot of shift workers die before their time,..."
Coulda been worse, though.
Coulda been that dude who was stinking up the joint.
Or that lady who couldn't afford a CD. Or an iPod.

Baur said...

Nice Snickers is an amazing late night snack

MRanthrope said...

Bummer when you see a pile of clothes/evidence and realize it was some poor dude's last night on Earth. =/

also, yeah I work until about 2-3am some nights and the jacked up sleeping patterns I've developed are proof, night shifts suck.

The Angry Lurker said...

Going back on the shifts next month and the 4 or 6 nights in a row as your body and mind feck you up is still not a highlight, good read Tony!

Anonymous said...

Your comment had me in stitches today! I wish I could hear someone say that line with your accent! I bet it sounds fabulous. I guess it's best if I don't hear someone say that. I'll just get jealous I don't have a cool accent.. Sigh

Workingdan said...

There is no way in hell that I could work those hours... especially sitting behind a desk. I'd have to be up moving around.

Everything is a conspiracy with some people, isn't it?

If those plants are taking up too much space, I can get rid of them for ya..

Nicki Elson said...

Maybe you should bring yogurt and an apple next time. And some saline.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I remember the days of working night shifts. Trust me, your job is much more stimulating than mine was. I had to down 6 cans of diet coke to keep me awake. It's amazing I'm still alive. ;)

Electric Addict said...

I work nights as a Taxi driver 3 days a week and I can tell you the body wasn't made to be a night prowler.

Jax said...

Wow, that's sad how people become prisoner's of their own mind. Imagine not being able to tell reality?

Brigitta Huegel said...

Dear Tony,
that must be hard, working night shifts - and then so many after the other. I remember when my father had to do them - these days we kids tiptoed through the house, though he never complained. I would be really confused by ever changing timetables - I even hate the change to summer/winter time :-)

Bart said...

night shift is where all the really messed up employees work/ or in most case just dog fuck and get paid the extra dollar incentive.

Tony Van Helsing said...

Miranda: Did he tell you any of his stories?

Katsidhe: you can't have it.

Al: Too right mate, I came off best here didn't I?

Baur: I ate it at 05:30 so it was more like breakfast.

MrAnthrope: suck they do.

Lurker: You know my pain.

Craziness: You can't beat Yorkshire accents.

Workingdan: They are all burnt up, but not in the way you would like.

Nicki: Saline sounds a good idea.

Stina: Days of working nights?

Electric: Night prowler, I like it.

Jax: Reality is how we perceive it.

Bart: I didn't fuck any dogs.

Baur said...

I don't think i'd be physically able to work night shifts