Gut Rumbles

October 16, 2003

shift work

I did a lot of shift work during my career, and most of it was the seven-day Southern Swing rotation. That probably is the worst schedule in the world to work because your internal time-clock stays fucked up no matter what shift you are on.

Start with a 3-11 shift on Wednesday and work that for seven days. Get off at 11:00 Tuesday night and be back at work at 11:00 Thursday night for seven days of 11-7 shifts. Get off the following Thursday morning at 7:00 and be back at work at 7:00 on Saturday morning for seven days of 7-3. Try that shit for several years of your life. It will make you old before your time.

I worked that schedule for a long time and became as accustomed to it as I could, although it always sucked. I had a wife and child to care for, and bills to pay. We needed the paycheck to keep the family unit afloat. I did what I had to do.

When I was promoted to a straight daylight job, the transition to regular hours fucked me up worse than shiftwork did. I had to learn to sleep on schedule and get up early every morning. That shit almost killed me.

Shift work is difficult to handle, but getting OFF shift work after you've done it for a long time is even worse. That's a severe readjustment to endure. I spent a year getting used to it.

I don't believe that I will do shift-work again. I could work the hours. That's no problem. I just don't want to do it. I don't have a wife and children to care for anymore. I have only ME to worry about now. I don't have a whole lot of obligation hanging over my head today.

That makes it easy to say "no" to things you don't want to do.


The worst I ever worked was 2-2-2-80..start off with an 8 hour day day you had an 8 hour day, 8 hours off, and an 8 hour day, 8 hour midwatch, 8 hours off, and an 8 hour day, an 8 hour evewatch...then 80 hours off....after two years of that, I could eat, sleep, or go to work ANYTIME...but it was one killer work schedule...

Posted by: Eric on October 16, 2003 03:41 PM

I still haven't gotten adjusted from being on a 12:00 - 9:00 PM shift, which I did for almost 4 years officially, another year unofficially because I had trouble changing. It has been nearly 5 years since then. If there is the slightest leeway, I still revert automatically.

Then again, when I was on the second part of double shifts in 8th and 9th grade, going to school at 11:00 AM or so and getting out somewhere near 5:00 PM, those were my two best post-elementary years ever for grades and liking school.

Posted by: Jay Solo on October 16, 2003 04:52 PM

I'd have to rate Nuc Prototype training in Idaho the worst, and we did a variation of Rob's Southern Swing.

You start on night-shift (8 PM to 8 AM) for 7 days, then 2 days off. Shift over to mid-shift (noon-midnight), then 1 day off. Shift over to day shift (8 AM- 8 PM), then get 5 days off. Lather, rinse, repeat. Yes, we were on 12 hour shifts as trainees. Oh yeah, add in 1 hour of bus travel time on each end..... We got bus rides out to the site because the Navy was loosing too many students to car accidents to and from. The instructors were on an eight hour shift (8-4,4-12,12-8) but still had the hour commute each way to deal with.

Shift work on the submarine was 6 on, 12 off so you had a 18 hour 'day', but you didn't stay awake on the same cycle from day to day. I got to the point I could fall asleep anytime I hit my bunk.

Posted by: Rick Tengdin on October 17, 2003 12:11 AM

I worked the same shift Rick mentioned, both at NRF and at Argonne National Lab. We finally got the shift rotation changed at the Lab.

We now work a 12 hour shift; 0700-1900 or 1900-0700. Start on Saturday four days of days, then two days off, come in Friday evening for three nights of mids, then two days off, back on Wednesday for three days of days, then the weekend off, back in Monday evening for four nights of mids, then eight days off. It is the best shift rotation I've ever worked. The eight days off is addictive.

I can't stand straight day shift. I had to do that 0800-1630 crap for one year, and I thought I would kill somebody before it was over. I've worked shift work in one form or another for 32 years now, and wouldn't have it any other way.

Posted by: Gene K on October 17, 2003 01:38 AM

I worked the same shift as ERIC when on shore duty and 1-1-1-32 at sea for a lot of wife kept a photo of me cuz thats the only time she'd see me with my eyes open. IT SUCKED bigtime but the kaki crusaders rubber stamped "that's the way we've always done it".

Posted by: squid on October 17, 2003 07:06 AM

In a two week period I work three 24 hour shifts and one 12 hour shift. When I am at work I don't sleep well because I can never get totally relaxed. On my days off my sleep schedule is rarely normal. I may conk out at 5pm, 2am or stay up all night. It's screwed up but I guess I have gotten used to it.

Last night I worked my 12 hour shift and was outside at 3:30am looking at the stars and giving directions to a lost truck driver. Now, I am so dang sleep I can hardly hold my eyes open but if I go to bed now this will just be a waisted day.

The days off are nice though. Very nice!

Posted by: medicmom on October 17, 2003 08:33 AM

Armed forces skeds are all over the map, especially in the flying game. USAF always "schedules" 12 hour "crew rest" between flight duties. Flight duty may be up to 16 hours crossing 5-6 time zones, after which you have forms to complete, debriefing, etc. Crew rest starts when you land.

Weird experiences that happened to me include:

(1) 3:30 a m briefing for a 2 hour combat mission launching at 5:30 turned into 14 hours in the cockpit of an F-4C. Multi, multi air refuelings, 2 "hot" (engines running) ground refuelings, grand tour of N and S Vietnam looking for targets that weren't weathered in. My po lil skinny ass ached for a friggin week after, not to mention the discomfort of those dam chute and seat straps in the groinal area that may have rendered me sterile. (never sired any kids that I know of after)

(2) Launch from Guam early a m on October 1st (start of gummint fiscal year). Land in Hawaii September 30 (end of gummint FY) afternoon. Not sure what genius scheduled this one, but after an hour or 2 "discussing" the situation as to WHICH MOTHERFUCKING YEAR, let alone WHICH MOTHERFUCKING MONTH, the MOTHERFUCKING FLIGHT took place with the gentlemen from maintenance, with whom any pilot who knows on which side his bread is buttered attempts to maintain most cordial, collegial relationships, I refused to sign the MOTHERFUCKING FORMS and left them to care for "my" airplane.

(3) Mid-60's, during S E A buildup, 40% manning in my unit, 11 months of time-and-a-half with no, none, zero, zip, nada days off, followed by 8-10 months of one day off per month, still time+1/2. Oh dark thirty show time every morning. ("early" shift 0400; "late" shift 0530.) Monthly flight hour limits waived to double regulation limits that WE had to apply for.

But those were the days, my friends. Those were the days. I'd gladly do it all again. NEVER felt more ALIVE! If they'd let this old fart strap an F-15 or F-22 to my ass, I'd be on it like flies on shit.

Posted by: Larry on October 17, 2003 10:26 AM

Two things to add.

The Guam to Hawaii thing above was the only time I can remember that I didn't treat maintenance folks with utmost courtesy and respect. Those guys have a damned hard job that 99.44% of them do with great expertise and good cheer.

One hour of high performance flying is supposed to be equivalent to 3 hours of hard labor or so they told us in flight physiology. It has its own rewards in exhileration that hard labor I've even enjoyed doesn't have, but your ass still drags when you're through with 2-3 1 1/2 - 2 hour flights or one 4-14 hour flight.

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