Most people work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. These are what I refer to as “human hours.” I work 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. These hours get their name from the people who are doomed to work them: factory employees and serial rapists. If there is one thing I’ve learned working the factory rapist shift, it’s that night news is seldom good news, save for the occasional reports of vampires getting hit by cars. On most nights, I sit by the police scanner waiting for something interesting to happen so I can make a phone call: “Hello. Is this Cynthia McDaniel? There’s a couple people listed under that name in the phone book, so let me ask you this: Have any of your children been murdered tonight?” In these situations, my decades of experience at being an insensitive jerk allow me to remain impervious to the impassioned sobs of widows, amputees, orphans or whoever else I’ve been instructed to shamelessly harass in the name of journalism.
The only downside to working at night is that other humans aren’t around during the day to help me when disaster strikes. Yesterday, I was opening a can when my can opener broke, putting me on a collision course with starvation. I only had two chances for survival: I could drive all the way across town to a store and buy a new can opener, or I could walk into the next room and rummage through my tool box. I returned the kitchen with a hammer, a screwdriver and a plan that teetered on the thin line between brilliant and suicidal. I placed the metal tip of the screwdriver against the can and struck the tool’s handle with a mighty blow from the hammer. A slight dent appeared in the top of the can, but the food still remained separated from my by a seemingly impenetrable tin force field. I must be doing something wrong, I thought, since the top of the can was surly designed to be chiseled off in the event of catastrophic can opener failure. My solution was to swing harder. Gradually, I could see the can giving way under my determined blows. The dent in the top grew ever larger, until finally, in a dramatic spray of tomato matter that covered the walls and my person, I created a small but glorious hole in the can. I finished the job with a pair of scissors, which I used to slice apart the can with all the skill a surgeon would use if he happened to be operating on a badly mangled cylindrical patient made of tin.
Such incidents have led me to the conclusion that maybe I’m not thriving on the night shift after all. If I hadn’t reached that conclusion on my own, I could have found out by turning on the TV when I get off work. The commercials on basic cable advertise exactly three types of businesses after : call-in sex lines, online colleges, and personal injury attorneys. The message is clear: If you just got off work, you’re a lonely man who needs to better his position in life through continuing education or frivolous lawsuits. Luckily, I sustained more than a few injuries in my cunning duel with a can of diced tomatoes yesterday. I think I’ll sue the can opener company for making a faulty product and God for inventing fruit. Sure, he told Adam and Eve not to eat it, but what about the rest of us? A warning label would me helpful.
Given the current newsroom situation, I’ll probably be a night reporter for at least the next few months and an incompetent cook for the rest of my natural life. I still don’t have a working can opener, however, so I’d be surprised if my natural life extended much beyond the next couple of hours.