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LJ Idol week 6: Not of your world

There is a shadow world that exists alongside every day existence.  You see the people who live there and interact with them on a nearly daily basis, though they aren’t always given anyone’s full attention.  I am one of the shadow people and we manage, all the while knowing the world isn’t structured for us. 

See, not “everybody’s working for the weekend”.  I haven’t caught “a case of the Mondays” in over a decade.  It’s the dirty secret of the people who live in the shadow world – not everyone works Monday through Friday from 9a – 5p, or even close.  Some people work hours that are nothing like that at all.

We learn to adapt.  On Sunday nights when everyone else is bemoaning the end of the weekend we nod along.  And if someone points out that I have Monday off I’ve learned not to snap back that my one day off is instead of, not in addition to, the two they just had.  Well, most of the time I don’t snap.

But the world assumes that everyone goes to the office on weekdays, gets home for dinner by 7, and has the weekends free.  I keep reading that I should go to bed by 11p for optimum health.  Half the time I’m not home from work by then.  Or what about the single dieting tip that can help you drop ten pounds – don’t eat after 8p?  Forget it, I had dinner at 5:30p and won’t be asleep until at least 1a - by 10:30p I need a snack, even if it will make me fat.  As a runner I take every workout schedule I’ve ever seen and automatically shift everything by at least one day, and likely by time until it somewhat matches my actual life.  Evening classes at the local college aren’t an option, and I’ve missed more barbeques and birthday parties than I can count.

Lots of us live in this shadow world, especially in the glamorous worlds of retail, food service, and entertainment.  My work is one of many ‘normal life’ leisure time options and I’m starting my day just as you get home.  Those of us who work in the shadow world aren’t often engaged in conversation while we’re on the job, or even always called by name.  We’re just there, making life go as smoothly as we can for the ‘regular’ folks.

Now the shadow world isn’t all bad.  Weekday matinee movies are cheaper, and less crowded with people who don’t understand the concept of turning their cell phones off.  Going to the mall is way easier at 1:30 on Tuesday afternoon than any time on the weekend, and when I get to the gym mid-morning the machines are all empty.

Still living in the shadow world isn’t easy.  This year I’ve been so busy helping build a show to bring holiday cheer to all of our patrons that I somehow missed finding any holiday cheer of my own.  Right now Christmas seems like a chore, and while I’m lucky enough to get the 25th off I’ll be working all day on the 24th and 26th.  I know the 25th isn’t the be-all end-all for everyone, but for too many people in the shadow world it’s just another day to be sacrificed to the career gods, no matter what their beliefs.

So what can you do for the people in the shadow world; what should you do?  Most of us in the shadows chose this life, some more willingly than others.  We’re always here - working the 24 hour drive thrus, the frighteningly early Black Friday holiday sales, the shows that will end at 10:30p on Christmas Eve so families will be able to create a happy memory.  Just, say hello, address us by name when you can, and say thank you all the time.  A few extra smiles can add up to a lot of coping.  Seeing people truly enjoy what I’m working on makes it easier to tell friends ‘so sorry I can’t come to your game night.’  After all I’ve got work – over here in the shadow world.

***This is my entry for
[info]therealljidol this week.  As always, lots of other great things are being written over there, stop by if you can.***

Wow. I think there is a lot of food for thought here. Honestly, I am caught up in the M-F rat race and so, yeah I suppose I don't think about the people not on that type of schedule frequently enough. I think you calling it the "shadow world" is really interesting... and I suppose it is pretty apt. :-(

Thanks for writing this and reminding us of the people that do sacrifice so that the rest of us can grab a taco at midnight or a show on a holiday.

I was afraid calling it the "shadow world" would be horrifyingly pretentious, but it really is what it feels like sometimes.

Mostly I enjoy living on different time, and I'm certainly used to it, but this topic came up as I'm contemplating two shows each on Dec 24, 26, and 31, and it really feels as though the holidays are happening around me instead of with me this year.

I'm glad I could bring a different perspective to your world.

I worked second and third shifts (and always weekends!) for years after college. I used to love going to the movies in the midafternoon on weekdays. And when we owned the game store? Forget having a social life! So I know totally where you're coming from here. It definitely feels like living in another world.

The plus sides to the strange work schedule are many - I was the only person in the laundromat for a while this afternoon, for instance. But after a while the disconnect just starts to be exhausting.

I used to work midnights at a hotel front desk, and I can attest to this feeling of being alien or otherworldly. You really do live by a different structure entirely. Sometimes I miss that remove from the rest of humanity, you know?

Being the only person in a space that's usually filled with people is always odd - I unlock our performance space right now and walking around the theatre by myself is cool but weird.

I can understand missing being on the other side of things, I've just been here for so long I'm ready to join the exotic (to me) 9-5 world, and maybe have dinner with my boyfriend occasionally.

Oh, WOW but I know that world.

"Hey, Aleph, wanna do something after work sometime?"
"Sure! What are you doing next Tuesday morning?"
"Um. Sleeping. What are you doing Tuesday afternoon?"


Yup. Exactly.

Thankfully my boyfriend works more of a 10:30-7 schedule so at least we're both awake for an hour or so when I make it home from work, but connecting with anyone not working the same schedule you do is so much harder.

Working 7pm to 7am at the hospital I can completely relate and you described it perfectly.

Well written.

I did third shift one summer, and it was crazy making - especially when you try to flip back on the weekends. I admire the folks who work that shift. Thank you for what you do, and the kind words.

Well written. I can get so frustrated at times by the fact that things like magazines always seem to assume that their readers work 9-5 office jobs.

Magazine articles are the worst. I don't think I've ever seen one that even acknowledges other schedules. Thanks.

Hospitals function 24/7 and I worked many evening and night shifts in my career. I certainly can relate to both the pros and cons that you mentioned. Excellent take on the topic. Enjoyed it.

Yeah, I should have added health workers to my list of shadowland folks, especially given how much we still expect from the folks at hospitals at 2am. Thanks for your kind words.

This is something I think about sometimes when I go shopping outside the usual 9-5 work hours, but the thought usually slips away before long. I enjoyed reading your perspective on that world of keeping different hours.

It's funny, I've lived this life for so long that working 9-5 seems exotic to me. Thanks for reading!

I was just saying to my aesthetician yesterday that it really irks me how people expect their service providers (aestheticians, hair stylists, etc) to always be available. They are people with lives too.

I like how you describe the experience of working an opposite schedule (in an industry that renders you invisible) the shadow world.

Thank you for giving us a slice of your life. I think this should be published somewhere. It's interesting to read, and it's something people need to see.

And even with the best of intentions it can happen to us all, as I was grumpy at the grocery store at 10:30p last night when they only had one cashier on. Then I thought about it for a second and shook my head.

I think this time of year the feeling of being outside gets more pronounced.

Thanks so much for your kind words.

Very very true. I have worked shit hours too, and you really feel like you're on the flipside of the "regular" world. Good post.

It is amazing how much you can feel disconnected, and how quickly, when you're doing shift work.

Thanks for the kind words.

So very true -- unless someone has worked a non-first-shift job at some point, they simply can't ever quite comprehend the world doesn't move quite the same for those who do.

Exactly. It's the friends who look at me and say "it's Saturday, can't you just call in?" as though working the weekend is an option who I know just aren't ever going to get it.

Heh. I remember having a conversation with a friend once who insisted the majority of the world worked 9-5. Then I started listing professions, including my own at the time. You're right, more people work odd hours than not. I like being all 9-5 now but I do miss some of the perks of having my days free.

It's funny, putting this together made me wonder how much of the world really is on a 9-5 shift. I'm guessing it's closer to 50% than 100%, and yet somehow that is still the 'norm'.

I'm craving a 9-5 these days, but I know if I get it the culture shock of switching over would last a few months.

I am always awed by people from your world.

Partly because I would do everything to avoid joining it :-)

Heh, it certainly isn't for everyone.

My husband used to be a bakery manager and my nephew currently works in a service industry so I have an extra appreciation for people who do this kind of work. "Shadow world" describes it perfectly.

It's when schedules of loved ones are opposite that it's really hard. This didn't start to be such an issue for me until I started dating a wonderful guy who has weekends off. Heh.

I've lived in both worlds - sometimes at the same time. It's a very difficult life and you captured it well. :)

Thanks for your kind words. Living in both worlds at the same time has to be exhausting, I hope the rewards were high.