Tonight’s Refreshment – JUST CHILL

A 100-gun salvo, the clanging of city bells, and the killing of the fatted calf! Yep, it’s time to celebrate the Night Report’s newest feature, one for which you’ve surely been thirsting.

I’m not going to say I’m a beverage connoisseur, but I’ve been around. I’m promiscuous, nearly indiscriminate in my beverage choices. I’m game for nearly anything, and so it is with that enthusiasm that I present this inaugural beverage review.

Included with each review of the drink itself will be discussion of the can or bottle’s marketing copy.

Tonight’s choice: JUST CHILL

Flavor: Jamaican Citrus

Alleged effect: calm + focus

My typical choice, as a night shift worker, is a strongly-caffeinated beverage. However, recent changes at work have induced a level of anxiety that I’ve noticed are adversely augmented by that caffeine. So, in answer to a wish I didn’t know I’d made, here comes JUST CHILL with its promise to provide both calm and focus. Was it possible? Can a canned beverage with some unknown, copyrighted ingredient called Suntheanine truly reduce the persistent low-level anxiety which seems fundamental to my existence? Could it simultaneously hone my focus on the night’s responsibilities? The $3.95 seemed a small barrier for entry into this exciting experiment.

First taste: how is this Jamaican? It tastes vaguely of citrus. It’s sweet, but not too sweet, and the lemongrass flavor is nice. But wait, which ingredient comes from Jamaica? Or is the idea of relaxation and chill simply part of our stereotypes of that country? I checked the can again – nope, no endorsement from Ziggy Marley. The Wailers, too, are noticeably absent.

The can is green, and Jamaica’s flag has green on it. Maybe that’s an association? Plus, I guess it made me think about marijuana, and as we all know, Jamaica = weed, right? This contains no marijuana, by the way. Just L-Theanine, or Suntheanine, the ingredient most responsible for its alleged effects. I checked Wikipedia to learn more about theanine, but I bailed as soon as I saw words like “amino acid,” “glutamate,” and “pharmacological.” I didn’t barely pass chemistry to learn about it now for some half-ass drink review.

As for the effects, I can’t say I experienced a noticeable change in my mood or attentive abilities. Though I did have my shit together long enough to write this review, so I suppose that says something.

Marketing copy: “you’re a smooth operator. you know you’re at your best when you’re calm and focused, not jacked-up and jittery.”

I don’t know about smooth operation of any sort, but it’s hard to disagree with the second sentence.

“JUST CHILL is a calming drink designed to enhance your flow. our blend of functional ingredients, including Suntheanine, has been designed to support your lifestyle of staying calm and confident while you do your thing.”

What is my thing? Do I have a thing? A night job where I talk drunks into acting less like drunks? I should have more things. And toward what am I flowing? Inevitable decline and death? Or am I flowing away from something? My childhood dreams? Family and friends? Do I even have a lifestyle? A life? I’m pretty confident I lack the confidence to make necessary changes. Change itself makes me feel pretty anxious.

Man, this is definitely NOT CHILL. Perhaps I’m just not their target demographic.

That lemongrass leaf extract was nice though.


Score: 2.5 out of 5

I want to make something clear to beverage producers – I can be bought. Promotional opportunities are available, and with even a meager gift, I can easily imagine myself dabbling in biased reviews.

The Eye of the Storm

I clock in, already aware of the two separate wedding groups staying at the motel this weekend. The evening desk clerk informs me, with only a smidgen of masochistic glee, that there is a bachelorette party as well. He insists they appeared sober and reasonable at check-in, but that does little to diminish my concern. Far too many guests gain transformative abilities after the appearance of  night, alcohol, and in the bachelorettes’ case, phallic-shaped novelty items. In my brief year and a few months at the motel, I could already construct a sizable life raft from the number of penis balloons abandoned post-party. (Imagine the United States Coast Guard reeling in a ship-wrecked crew floating atop such a colorful raft, with its ejaculatory streamers bobbing in the waves. Toward the front of the crew, the emaciated captain, crying in half agony and half joy at being saved, waves at his bewildered rescuers, trying to say through his parched lips, “It’s all we had, it’s all we had. My god, get me off this penile vessel.” Apologies, but I have to entertain myself on these stressful weekends.)

Burdened but informed of the potential troubles, I begin my first rounds of the property. It’s a bright night, the moon glowing in a halo of light. It takes a second glance to realize it, but it’s a full moon. Only on this job, during this shift, could I find such a thing so grotesque. Dean Martin may have sang, “When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that’s amore,” but I’m muttering, not singing. And it’s not amore, it’s dread.

The first wedding group returns from the ceremony, sloshed and jubilant, but it’s only eleven, so I keep my distance. I’m close enough to hear the makings of a plan, a loose coalition of the most tenacious partiers forming a strategy to storm the nearest bar. The Loudest Man, the one in the baseball cap who passed out in a chair in front of his room last night, leads the charge. If volume, indiscriminate yelling, and an inability to call it quits despite desperate pleas from one’s liver were leadership qualities, this man would be the Patton of the Coors and Jack Daniels Theaters of War. It’s not pretty, but he leads his blitzed blitzkreig to the nearest bar.

A moment later, a large white van pulls along the front of the motel. Its double doors open to absorb the bachelorettes, their mists of perfume and meticulously-composed hair barely inside before the doors close and it speeds away. For now, I see no phallic paraphernalia.

And with that, it’s quiet. The first thunder and gusts of revelry have passed. I find myself in that familiar zone of the night watchman on weekend patrol–the eye of the storm. I know they must return sooner or later, and in how exacerbated a condition, I can only speculate. And speculate I do. Neurotically. Uselessly. Will they bring friends they’ve made along the way? Will one or more need to be carried? Will the Loudest Man bang on strangers’ doors for unimaginable thrills? Will his friend, the Hawaiian Shirt Man attempt to urinate in the middle of the parking lot, only feet from his own private bathroom? Will they say they’re “not being that loud?” Will they shout they’re “not being that loud?” These, and so many other questions, fill the eye of the storm.

I sit at a table near the edge of the parking lot, allowing me the best view of the rooms and returning guests. Music from the bar a block away echoes between the buildings, reaching me where I sit with my Kindle. (Before this job, and even for the first few months, I was a strident devotee of traditional books, frowning at the suggestion of eBooks. I sat outside in the dark long enough to realize my holier-than-thou stance was just keeping me from reading.)

I continue reading a few chapters of Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle, but I grow restless. To be honest, I grow distracted. While there is plenty of free time on the job, it doesn’t always feel so free. The free time on a Monday night with plenty of vacancies is of a different nature than that during the eye of a storm. I can move around in the  former, can settle into it to a certain degree. The latter contains an energy that stymies any such comfort. The challenging thing is, sometimes, the other side of the storm never arrives. I wait, I hunt down every suspicious sound, I watch passing taxis and anticipate a turn that doesn’t come, and I tell the front desk clerk to text me at the first sign of trouble. All that anticipation and waiting keeps me busy, and soon enough, my shift ends with nothing substantial to report.

I’ve become better at relaxing during these moments, but it’s still difficult to focus on reading longer works. As a result, and because of the medium itself, much of my Kindle reading is more like browsing. The “Try a Sample” button on the Amazon store is a frequent target. I’ve read the first ten pages of hundreds of books. In these tenuous lulls, a handful of pages seems more approachable than a novel, and with much less at stake considering my fractured attention.

And tonight, that sample comes from Bring Me the Rhinoceros: And Other Zen Koans that Will Save Your Life, by John Tarrant. I didn’t go seeking enlightenment, at least, not that I recall. But, it’s the Daily Deal, so maybe I will. Imagine: only 1.99 for 192 pages of anecdotes that will provoke enlightenment. What a bargain!

So, as I wait for the Loudest Man, who, at any moment, around some corner of the motel, will ignite his voice from deep within in his beer-dappled chest and send it exploding out of his slack jaw, I learn that “inside unpredictability [I] will find not chaos, but beauty.”

The 1.99 begins to look a little steep.

But then: “Koans lead you to see life as funny rather than tragic.” That, given time, I can get behind. I certainly want to see life in such a way.

Unfortunately, the sample ends before I even get to the first koan. The final line in the introduction is, “When  you unpack all your motives and other people’s motives and get to the bottom of things, you find love.” I pause to consider this, to allow my mind and heart to expand. With a few deep breaths, I imagine a widening circumference, the boundary of my empathy and understanding growing to include even the most challenging human beings. Perhaps the Loudest Man is normally really shy, or barely making ends meet, or his father’s lung cancer was deemed inoperable. We all want to be heard, to think we mattered to someone. Maybe he just really, really wants to be heard.

I hear something near the staircase leading down to the lobby. I hear it again. As the man tops the stairs, I actually see the sound being created as I hear it a third time, a lip-rattling belch from the mouth of a lanky, mullet-sporting guest. He sways while slowly moving toward me. I stand up when I realize he doesn’t see me or the table where I sit, and his head bobs backward in surprise. He sways left, then with a nod and a slow-motion wave, says, “Buenas noches,” his Midwestern accent heavily slurred.

“Have a good night,” I say.  I know which room he’s in, and he’s far from it. I watch as he proceeds to knock on the wrong door. As I bolt from my chair, I remember–dear god, that’s the room of the Loudest Man. They are here for the same wedding, so I presume they know each other, but these two together could create a serious chemical reaction.

As soon as I reach the door, Mullet Man closes it behind him. I only had time to glance inside the room, and it was dark. Did I miss the Loudest Man’s return? That seems impossible. To miss him would deny his fundamental nature. The night is unpredictable, that’s for sure, but maybe the koan’s right. To see that guy surprise me with a quiet, and indeed “buena noche,” would be very beautiful indeed.

I fold a pile of laundered pool towels and skim leaves from the water. It’s nearly four a.m., and not a single guest has returned how I expected. The bachelorettes spilled out of an Uber, but quietly walked to their rooms. Another guest guffawed with laughter near the lobby, but was quickly shushed by his friend. Self-policing guests? Careful folks, you’ll put me out of a job.

When the four and five a.m. joggers start making their rounds, I can’t believe my luck. Were the koans my charm? The eye of the storm passed, and with it, my shift. I stared it down, and it was the first to blink. Tonight was certainly no tragedy. And whatever people’s motives, love or simply a need to burp, it was pretty funny.

As I consider the end of this Night Report, I acknowledge its anticlimactic nature. While I’m sure it’s not what the reader may want, it’s sure as shit the way I like it to end. Perhaps there’s a lesson in expectations somewhere here. I started the night with the worst, and you, the reader, were led to expect the same. The full moon, the bachelorettes, the wedding parties, all contrasted with the calm eye of a storm and the meditative zen koans. Despite the all-fizzle and no-bang, I’m content.

“What is the main point of this holy teaching?” Emperor Wu of Lian asked the great master Bodhidharma.

“Vast emptiness, nothing holy,” said Bodhidharma.

The eye of the storm, vastly empty. As it should be.

A Gift Guide for the Night Shift Worker

Just in time for the procrastinating Christmas shopper, here’s a list of items essential to anyone working the night shift. I acquired many of these quickly, thanks to the recommendation of my night manager. With twenty years on the same schedule, he was a trusted source. In fact, if anyone working third shift doesn’t already have the first four to six items on the list, it’s probably their first week.

  1. The Dohm Sound MachineDohm Sound MachineAny device producing white noise is beneficial to the day sleeper, but the best is the “The Official Sound Conditioner of the National Sleep Foundation.” Its volume is adjustable and can be rather loud,  but as The New York Times Magazine explains in their own recommendation of the Dohm, “white noise has the curious, counterintuitive effect of making a room louder in order to cultivate a womblike sense of quietude.” Remember all that sleep in the womb? Me neither. That’s because we were sleeping like fetuses, which is even better than sleeping like a baby.
    It’s tough trying to sleep when the rest of the world goes about its business, from construction workers in your apartment complex, to even the most well-meaning roommate or partner. My girlfriend often asks if something she did woke me, and my answer is almost always, “What? Hold on, let me turn off the sound thingy – I can’t hear you.” It also helps her on my nights off, when I’m the one up and making noise. The Dohm is an essential addition to your bedroom, an acoustic blanket atop all the other bedding, swaddling and snuggling your mind.
  2. Earplugs – Even the excellent Dohm can’t drown out a pneumatic drill grinding away outside your window. I don’t have a particular brand to suggest, but when you’re desperate, anything is welcome.
  3. Sleep Mask – This was my first night-shift related purchase. The day before I started, I picked one up at a nearby Walgreens. While I don’t recall the brand, I do have one piece of advice: don’t be cheap about it. You spend a third of your life sleeping, and good sleep is crucial to physical and mental well-being. Don’t buy a flimsy, plastic sleep mask like those provided on an airplane. Invest in a lightweight, comfortable, padded, adjustable mask. Mine feels a bit like velvet and smells of lavender. I know that sounds fancy schmancy, and it should. When it comes to getting restful sleep, pampering will pay dividends.
  4. Blackout Curtains – The bedroom should be a cave. It should be cool, dark, and with conditioned acoustics. I tried to get by without blackout curtains before learning that skin also absorbs sunlight. Simply shielding the eyes is insufficient. Ultraviolet rays penetrate uncovered skin and, short-cutting the scientific explanation, basically tell your body it’s time to wake up. The night shift is inherently unnatural for the human body, so the more one can trick it or create the conditions mimicking normality, the better. Oh, and many of these curtains are designed to minimize noise and extreme temperatures as well.
  5. MelatoninMelatoninThe night shifter labors in defiance of the Earth’s very rotation. Human behavior, before the invention of the light bulb and the development of 24/7 capitalism, paired inextricably with environmental cues. No sun? Very little labor.  Sun coming up? Time to get after it. Fortunately, we also have technology to help our bodies meet the demands of the new 24/7 reality. I have always found it easier to stay up than get to sleep, and that is as true now as it was my first shift. While I sometimes feel a slight sluggishness, not as bad as a hangover, after taking melatonin supplements, I still highly endorse them. I’m sure experiments with a smaller dosage could minimize that problem. Lastly, they don’t work exactly like a sleeping pill, so I recommend taking them nearly an hour before you’d like to sleep.
  6. Coffee – About that whole, “I have always found it easier to stay up than get to sleep” comment above…well, I’m sure that’s due to copious coffee intake. I hesitated to even include this because it’s so obvious. I will specify, however, that I try to drink more cold-brewed coffee due to its reduced acidity. I figure if I continue drinking as much as I do, I’ll take whatever esophageal relief I can get. The Toddy Cold Brew Coffee Maker is my pick if you’re making it at home.
  7. Books – I took the job thinking I would have plenty of time to write. That’s true. Unfortunately, my discipline and motivation rarely match the vast reservoirs of time. In my defense, I have read more this year than the last several years combined. I could yield to the trend of a year-end best-of list, but I’ll briefly say my favorite reads this year were “A Childhood: The Biography of a Place” by Harry Crews, “The Three-Body Problem” by Liu Cixin, “Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation” by Michael Pollan, and “Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America” by Jill Leovy. A coworker and I also started a short story club, where we alternate choosing and discussing one per week. Favorite authors have included David Means, Stephen Crane, Joyce Carol Oates, Don Delillo, James Baldwin, and Robert Coover.
  8. HeadlampHeadlamp I owe this idea to my girlfriend. Despite attempts to organize our home so that she would not need to enter the bedroom while I’m sleeping, sometimes there’s no avoiding it. Instead of turning on a light and possibly disturbing me, she purchased a headlamp. Be sure to grab one that also includes a red LED bulb, as it produces a light that is much easier on the eyes. I’ve used it while she was sleeping, and I even used it while cooking and waiting for maintenance to replace the suddenly-burnt out light bulbs in my kitchen. While this is not a true necessity, it can be quite helpful. How many gift guides are composed of necessities, anyway?
  9. Vitamin D pills – There are days when I never see the sun. If I go to bed before the sun rises and not leave until after sunset, I operate completely in the dark. To compensate for the lack of sunlight, vitamin D can actually be a necessity. Via Wikipedia: “Very few foods contain vitamin D; synthesis of vitamin D (specifically cholecalciferol) in the skin is the major natural source of the vitamin. Dermal synthesis of vitamin D from cholesterol is dependent on sun exposure.” Be sure to look for a bottle specifying vitamin D3  (the aforementioned cholecalciferol).
  10. Foghat’s 1976 album, “Night Shift” – The title track is an obvious standout, despite what I would call a lack of understanding in the second verse:

    Feel the fire
    I’m hooked to a live wire
    And I can’t let go
    I got a feeling that I can’t mistake
    Sun rises and I’m still awake

    I’m pretty sure they mixed up the experience of working a night shift with the experience of taking cocaine. But hey, I’m no music critic.

A Few People I’ve Seen through the Front Windows of the Motel

A beautiful, curly-haired brunette, vomiting ferociously while her tall, soul-patched and pony-tailed boyfriend dances in place to the electronic music playing on the cellphone he holds buoyantly above his head.

Jason Isbell, the fantastic musician previously of the Drive-by Truckers, in town for a gig.

The same guy, wearing a large puffer/Michelin Man coat for nine months, be it hot or cold, walking at an incredible pace while holding his cell phone downward at a 45-degree angle, with the screen at its brightest, and volume at its highest. It plays talk radio, maybe sports-related. The first few months, he was of average build. After disappearing for a few months, he’s returned gaunt, but otherwise identical in appearance and movement. His short, scraggly, red beard never grows, never goes away.

A topless lady in 51-degree weather, who salutes me as she marches past. I was unable to promptly recall the proper response from the Army Regulations Manual. Ma’am, if you see this, please know that I am sorry, and I hope your mission was successful.

Those that Shun the Light

It’s a few nights before Halloween, between two and three a.m., what my manager calls the witching hour. A large group of guests, already drunk, left in a cab hours ago, and I speculate obsessively and uselessly over how disorderly they’ll be upon returning. The bars closed at two, so they could be back any moment. While I hope they’re sobering up in a Whataburger or nodding off in a diner’s corner booth, I won’t jinx myself with wishful thinking.

On certain slow nights, this quiet waiting does not bring calm. Eeriness pervades, and the desk clerk and I speak of a weird energy in the air we are unable to define. The free time I love so much about the job cannot be enjoyed, but must be endured. There is only waiting, uncertainty. It feels like I’m back in Little League, playing right field. Nothing happens, nothing happens, nothing happens. I look down and notice the browning grass. I swipe away gnats, or the dawning realization that coach put me here because I’m the worst player on the team. I’m at least better than Dav –a sudden crack of the bat, and I’m scanning the skies for the potentially lip-busting object hurtling my way. This job is a lot like that. Sure, I’m not a kid any more, and I half-ass know what I’m doing, but now it’s never the same object. Maybe it’s a couple loudly fighting outside someone else’s room, or a drunken film crew celebrating a wrap, or simply a non-functioning air conditioner.

I walk the sidewalk in front of the motel, and I stand at the corner of the block, listening. Many night shift workers complain about developing supersonic hearing, a pronounced sensitivity to sounds while trying to sleep through the day. Things previously ignored or that blended with the white noise of the city’s daily routines now become unbearable. Trash trucks, a barking dog, and construction work are the bane of the daysleeper. It’s true during my job as well. Because I actively listen for any possible disturbances to guests, I have a difficult time ever turning it off. The smallest sounds – a car door, an unknown beep or creak, distant chatter – ring out so much more in a slumbering city. I err on the side of heightened sensitivity, imagining every guest to be the lightest sleeper.

The motel keys jangle in my pocket on the walk back to the housekeeping office. Industrial-size washers and dryers line one wall, extra towels and bedding on another, and cleaning supplies opposite that. Rollaways and housekeeping carts leave just enough space for me to edge in, where I sit at the desk facing the large window overlooking the back lot. I leave the door ajar so I can listen.

The a/c hums, and a standing fan oscillates on lowest setting. The floor is slanted, and all the chairs have wheels. If I don’t tuck one foot behind a wheel, I’ll slowly creep back toward the dryers. The coffee I made earlier is cold, but it gets the job done. It’s after three, and only a couple rooms still have lights shining through their blinds.

With less than two hours on my shift, I figure I can make decent progress on my library book. As soon as I open it to the bookmarked page, I hear something. I close the book and tune fully into the world around me, eyes and ears scanning for whatever’s hurtling my way.

There’s not much more horrifying than the sound – initially unknown, but soon identified by the sight of antennae bobbing above the rim – of cockroach legs struggling for traction inside my empty coffee cup.

The ghostly chitters, like soft but subcutaneous scrapes, jolt me awake, and my body courses with something much stronger than caffeine.

The cup’s destiny as projectile flung across the room is so narrowly avoided, that this dimension is surely the only one in which porcelain shards don’t litter the floor.

I pull closed the door and quickly get some distance, while a last wave of chills slithers down my shoulders. I mention it to the front desk clerk, even bringing up the time a few weeks back, when one crawled out of my bag of sour cream and onion chips. “I’d only had one, got up to answer the phone, and when I came back, there he was crawling out of the damn bag.” He insists he’s never seen a cockroach here, but suggests writing a note to the housekeepers to stop leaving the lids off their donut boxes. A fine suggestion.

It’s my first Halloween at the motel, and management’s abundant decorations pale in comparison to the horror of these creepy crawlies. I’ll take the theatrical over the palpable any night. Give me strings of orange lights and glowing spiders hanging from handrails, the handfuls of plastic black spiders tossed generously around the property, and the old netting stretched like webs over the gate to the pool. Surprise me with glittery skulls in every nook and cranny.

Prop this guy on a chair in the lobby:

Skeleton Sam

Just don’t show me the head of a roach peeking through a pumpkin’s grin.

I spend the next hour reading about cockroaches.

They exhibit group-based decision-making. Headless roaches are capable of living for weeks. (the body can continue to function without its brain) Simple bodily functions continue without the brain. Even the head, antennae aflutter, thrives for hours after separation. Refrigerate it – god knows why – and it can last even longer.

I regret spending that hour reading about cockroaches.

I do, however, have something in common with them. Their scientific name derives from the Latin blatta, “an insect that shuns the light.” We are contemporaries, nocturnal rivals.

I walk it off, and try to clear my head. A cab slows down in front of the motel, stops, but no one exits. I wait. It’s probably the drunks from earlier, so incapacitated they’re having difficulty settling the fare. Finally, the back door inches open.

Their arms and legs struggle for traction escaping the cab, heads lolling around their shoulders and ghastly chatter spilling out of them. Even without brains, their bodies function long enough to hear my spiel. They crawl back in relative peace to their room, and I wait out the rest of the night.

An hour later I’m in bed, shunning the light and thinking of Halloween drunks,  skeletons, witches and werewolves – anything but those bobbing antennae so near to my lips.

Full Moon Madness

The word “lunatic” derives from the Latin lunaticus, meaning “of the moon.”

While no strong scientific evidence suggests a link between a full moon and human behavior,  strong anecdotal evidence suggests otherwise. Google “full moon night shift,” and here’s a sample of the results:

My job is light years away from that of a nurse, but I understand the reputation surrounding that particular lunar phase. In a way, my job as night watchman of the motel also requires me to take care of the infirm, albeit with inebriation the nearly-singular cause of illness. The similarities end there, for while nurses wish their patients well, I merely wish our guests well-behaved stays.

Not all of my full moon nights contain stories of lunacy and unusual mayhem, but my first left a lasting impression. Now, I can’t help but feel a wave of dread each time I see that luminous silver in full diameter, craterous and charged.

I only had a month of experience as the night watchman at that point, and it had been relatively without incident. As luck would have it, my manager dropped by to lessen what could have been much, much worse.

What follows is my first night report of any substance. The only edits are to provide any previously-lacking context.

March 5 2015 – Night Report – Josh – 9pm to 5 am

Tonight’s full moon brought some strangeness. The guests in 116 could not get their phone to work, but worse, they were stuck in their room. Neither the guests inside, nor Mitch and I outside, could get the door open. The knob would turn, but it didn’t seem to engage/retract the plunger. I called Dwayne, who was in the area, and he arrived in about fifteen minutes. Meanwhile, I checked with the guests, and they were in for the night and surprisingly understanding of the situation. Dwayne double-checked the door but realized we would need to remove the knob with a hammer.

Once removed, he tried needle-nose pliers, a screwdriver, and even deftly-targeted curse words to turn the latch and plunger, but to no avail. Eventually, we consulted Dean (the owner) and decided to use a crowbar as the last resort. The door opened to reveal the guest standing in his pajamas, calmly sipping a beer. Unfortunately, the door and door frame sustained damage. We changed the locks and made sure the door was working, and the guest was nice and patient throughout the process.

I spent the rest of the night managing the guests in 138, 140, and 145. At 12:30, I had to ask 140 to quiet down as they were drinking and talking loudly outside the room. 138 was relatively quieter, but there may have been some crossover partying between the rooms. Around 1:45 I reminded three of the women from 140 to not be loud as they guided one of their too-drunk friends to 145. At 2:20, another woman from 140 was escorted by friends to 145, but took a break outside 151 to vomit. Fortunately, she was quiet, and a light eater.

Around this time I also retrieved the broom and dustpan from outside 138, which Wilson informed me had been requested earlier in the night. They claimed popcorn had been spilled, but I would not be surprised if popcorn = lamp, and spilled = broken.

No other problems to report.

Addendum: Upon leaving this morning, I saw 138’s trash can sitting outside the door. It contained a grocery bag full of vomit, which I threw away.

As I read over that now, many months removed, it doesn’t sound all that strange or awful. Having since wrangled a gang of guitar-wielding hootenanny dipshits, unclogged a bathtub for a giant Norwegian man in a poorly-tied silk robe, and been at the receiving end of a coked-up birthday boy’s threats, I don’t see much lunacy in a few trapped guests and a party of wine-drunk, middle-aged women.

Taking the Job

Another Monday night with Sal and his Adderall. He snorted his in the bathroom; I followed the more traditional route. Whenever I take “a peach,” as he calls them, I know I’ll be handling most of the night’s auditing paperwork. I always agree with the barter, because even after eight months on the night shift, I’ll take whatever help I can get.

I leave him halfway through a synopsis of a movie he recently watched, starring “Pierce Bronson and Liam Nelson,” before he can butcher the title, too. Or forget it altogether.

“No Vacancy” glows neon red above the front door. The epicenter of drug and sex sales in the 80s, the motel now enjoys historical status in one of the many revitalized, gentrified areas of a rapidly-growing city. It sits on a main artery of commerce, surrounded by outrageously expensive antique stores and restaurants serving organic, locally-sourced food.

No Vacancy

Of course, by the time I arrive, most have their lights off, or the servers are putting chairs on tabletops and taking trips to the dumpster, milking the clock for one last smoke break.

Traffic thins. Drunk couples spill from nearby bars and ooze down the sidewalk, and I wait. Even on busy nights, I have plenty of time to patch together, yet again, the sequence of events that led me here.

Did I always dream of growing up to be the motel security guy in charge of telling the drunk guest from 134 not to urinate in the middle of the parking lot at three in the morning? Is taming the giant, inflatable-penis-carrying bachelorette party my ultimate destiny?

I still don’t have any answers, but it’s not for a lack of time to think about them. I was never good about setting goals, and I could never tell you, even as a kid, what I wanted to be when I grew up. Let this be a warning, if you don’t do that sort of thing, you may find yourself wrangling drunks and seeing how people act when they’re just looking for a place to, as a coworker said, “sleep, shit, and screw.”

Before this, I worked a nine-to-five, multi-tasking, fast-paced customer service nightmare of a job at a downtown print shop. After nearly seven years, my fatalism led me to believe I would die hunched over a Xerox. Occasionally, so fed up with the job, I would spend my lunch hour frantically searching Craigslist for openings. So many postings spoke of similar “multi-tasking, faced-paced environments,” that I wondered if any place existed where people single-tasked in a slow-paced environment. If not, the possibility of relief from long stretches of continuous soft rock or sports commentary on the manager-controlled radio station might suffice.

The skills and knowledge acquired with my bachelor’s degree in Electronic Communication had mostly atrophied, and my English minor—while arguably fostered by the periodic writing of mostly-unpublished short stories – were equally useless. There were close calls with other jobs, particularly a writing gig that entailed managing local companies’ social media presences. I would ghostwrite online copy for Facebook, or even engage reviewers on Yelp, assuming the identity of the client’s management. There was also the position of assistant editor at an erotic book publisher. One of their best sellers was about a forbidden romance between gay werewolves. If I was surprised to learn of the large numbers of polyamorous werewolves, I was completely stunned by the rapturous demand for material about their trysts and adventures. Perhaps I just don’t get out enough. Despite a promising future in the world of alternative paranormal romance, I did not put my ear to the erotic, howling wind of lusty lycanthropes.

Fortunately, in a manic Craigslist search, I finally found it: “Perfect Job for Night Owl Writers: Time Alone & Good Wages.”

It was a combination night auditor and night watchman position at a motel. I was surprised at how openly they acknowledged, even championed, the abundant downtime. I forwarded the email to my girlfriend with the message, “Dude, holy shit. Other than the not good pay, this is what I’m talking about.”

She was skeptical, worried mostly about the loss of time we’d have together and whether or not the reduced pay would threaten our already-precarious budget. Good points, both, but I was desperate. I quickly edited my résumé, wrote a cover letter, and followed the post’s instructions to stop by in person after 9 p.m.

Maybe it was the fact I still had a job to go to in the morning, one that paid the bills and had decent insurance. Or, maybe it was how quickly things moved from seeing the ad to sitting in the lobby filling out the application, or that the whole thing seemed like a lark, but I didn’t feel nervous. I’d recently finished a terrible story about lovers on the run from the cops that concluded in a motel, so I figured, at best, this could be a glimpse in to that world. I fell in to an immediate rapport with the two guys in the lobby, joking about the bleakness of Werner Herzog films. A section of the application asked about which books, films, and TV shows I enjoyed, and their lack of frowning disapproval was encouraging. I was asked to speak with the night manager, who was on duty.

Much of the interview, in retrospect, seemed to be a test of how well we could just, well, hang out. He discussed his interest in billiards, neurology, and divulged quite a bit of personal history and how he came to work at the motel. He had nineteen years of employment here, and he loved the amount of time it gave him to research his various interests, read, and simply think. Slow-paced? Check. And as for the tasks? The fundamental job of the night watch was to keep an eye on the property and guests. There were chores such as watering, laundering the pool towels, and fulfilling requests for things like extra pillows, but mostly I would watch and listen.

The final duty was to fill out the night report, documenting anything of interest for the incoming day staff and the owner. This could include unruly guests, maintenance issues I was unable to solve, or vagrants I had to escort from the property. It also served the larger interest of establishing a record of the egregiously awful, of guests who would never again be welcome.

After a week of additional interviews with the owner and day manager, as well as background checks to ensure my trustworthiness with the keys to the place, I was offered the position. My ambitionless inertia at the print shop was taken as a sign of stability, much appreciated at a family-owned motel where multi-year to near-decade tenures are the norm.

The restraint required to not break into song and dance when giving my two weeks was acknowledged in my own mental award ceremony of personal achievements. I was festooned with garlands, champagne-sprayed and hoisted heavenward. My family gutted a fatted calf.

The last few days of the job coincided with the first days of my overnight training. My manager insisted on a gentle transition, sensitive to the circadian chaos to come. My regular nine-to-five was about to become 9 p.m. to 5 a.m.

During my first trainings, I read the archived night reports. Most, fortunately, were brief: “The night was quiet. No problems to report.” Others, particularly one from a week prior, were lengthy and even mentioned summoning the police to the property. If made into a word tree, the words “loud” and “drunk” would be its thick trunk, with twisting branches of “smoking,” “talking,” and “arguing.” A pretty unpleasant tree.

I was told these cases, especially ones requiring the police, were rare and that I should just focus on establishing my new sleep schedule. Eight months later, and the idea of any firmly established sleep schedule, of some simple adjustment, has been replaced by the reality of struggling to manage shuteye in an inherently unnatural lifestyle.

I feel a slight twitching in my forehead. It reminds me of the Adderall, reminds me I need to check the audit paperwork, and to try and focus on numbers while Sal spits word after word, a scattered brain at 2X speed, on into the night.

Oct 12 2015 – Night Report – Josh – 9pm to 5am

A peaceful, quiet night. No problems.