Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Shadow People

Recently I awoke in the middle of the night. The view out my window was forlorn, dark and damp. It suddenly occurred to me that there is an army of "night people" whose jobs require them to work when the rest of us sleep. I call these folks the Shadow People.

There are many Shadow People performing tasks unseen to the rest of us.

Our health and safety depends on Shadow People for 24 hours each day. Firemen work a rotating shift, sleeping and eating at the fire station. There are 911 dispatchers, sheriff's officers and local police available during the night. Hospitals and other medical facilities require night shift workers. Emergencies must be attended. Anyone who has ever spent a night in the hospital is aware that nurses wake sleeping patients for medication and to check vital signs. In addition, hospitals have meals to prepare for the following day and maintenance matters to complete.

Transportation continues all day, every day. If you have flown a red-eye flight, you have seen the flight attendants and crews who help you arrive at your destination no matter what the hour. Airports require baggage handlers and ticket agents as well as cleaners who tend the facility when few are present. Ready to move us around on land are cab and bus drivers who go about hauling passengers to their destinations. Railroad trains run around the clock, requiring crews to perform their jobs. Over the road truckers often drive into and through the night, seeking rest and refreshment at truck stops which stay open to meet their needs.

The majority of radio and television stations are on the air 24 hours a day. Stations have engineering personnel present in the wee hours in case of weather or other unforeseen problems. Many newspapers are printed either late in the evening or during the night so that the latest news can be on our doorstep the following morning.

Any commercial store that is open 24 hours a day -- discount, convenience or drug stores -- require stocking, usually during night hours. Crews have to replace items sold during the busier daytime hours. Bakeries often have to start bread rising or pastries baking as early as 3:00 a.m. How else can those morning donuts be fresh?

In large metropolitan areas, produce vendors converge at distribution points during pre-dawn hours to unload and sell their wares. This includes farm fresh produce, live flowers and, in some areas along the coasts, seafood. Trucks arrive and depart like bees around a hive to move produce for our consumption at home and at restaurants.

Shipment of merchandise continues all night with companies like Fed Ex and UPS receiving and sorting goods for distribution the following day. Postal sorting centers also work during nighttime to organize the tons of incoming mail and speed it along its way.

Anyone who has worked evening hours or "third shift" has likely thought of themselves as being the only person who has had to endure living on a clock different and apart from everyone else. But the truth is there is a legion of Shadow People which stays up all night so the world functions a little smoother during the day.

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