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.