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mid shift
by todd w bush

I work mid-shift. Not exactly “Call me Ishmael” I know, but it’s the best description of someone who works mids in the Air Force. No where in the world is the statement “your job is who you are” more apropos than working the night shift in a 24/7 shop in the military.

Your world is dominated not by who you are, what you believe, your interests, your hobbies, or even your loves. Instead, your entire existence is predicated on the twelve hours you spend in a windowless room, waiting for the once-an-hour phone call or for the hope-it-doesn’t-happen-but-it-would-give-us-something-to-do dire emergency. As soon as your shift starts at 1800, you start counting down until 0600 the next morning. Normal brain functions cease and during this stretch some of society’s strangest acts, most outlandish theories, and most brilliant philosophical discussions take place.

I’ve worked at three different jobs within my career field. Every one has required me to work shift work. And of course, every job in shift work required me to work mids. No other type of job gives one the view into the outer limits of human psychological endurance. Young airmen straight out of tech school will spend twelve hours reading, high lighting, and studying their CDC’s and when 0600 rolls around they have the cross-eyed Jerry’s kid smile of Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade. Otherwise normal people will stare intently at a Twinkie for half an hour before finally asking if they can have it, then promptly smear it all over their face. When asked why they did it, the mid-shifter will invariably respond, “Just cause.” And only on mids can one member of a crew call out into the silence “Hey, did you guys know that on average 100 people a year die from choking on a ball point pen?” and then that lead to a two-hour discussion of the positive and negative aspects of Ocean Spray Grape Cranberry Juice.

Mid shift workers tend to be modern society’s answer to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and the rest of the ancient world’s most brilliant philosophers. No where else can one get a discourse on the reasons behind placing the buttons on opposite sides of women’s and men’s clothing as well as the pros and cons of each; a litany of opinions on such burning topics as “why do people heat coffee and then put ice in it?” and “if evolution is true, why do humans still have butt hair?”; and of course the most hotly debated matter in the long history of mid shift wonderment: “when does tomorrow begin?”. The questions surrounding this topic are endless. Does it start at midnight, or when mids gets off work? Does it start when mids wakes up the following afternoon, or when they arrive to work the next day? Of all the queries sent up for discussion, this one might illustrate the depth and insanity associated with the genius of those nighthawks slaving away while others drown in their slumber.

It is a strange, wonderful, and at the same time, frightening world, the world of mid shift. No where else does one have the opportunity to literally find “the end of the internet.” On no other job can playing poker with toothpicks be the “time-passer” of choice. It creates a bond of brother and sisterhood among those who work it that can never be broken, and that can be seen a mile away (mainly thanks to the lack of sun and the abundance of pasty skin). Mid shifters learn the greatest places to find a meal at 0300, that no one does their laundry at midnight on Tuesdays, and that going out on the town with a “8-5’er” is tantamount to rooting for the Soviets in the “Miracle on Ice” game.

We are a society of owls, loyal to the moon, 24-hour shopettes, and E.Q., and swearing on midnight chow. We know that portable DVD players are one of the ten best inventions of the last 100 years and that Tuesday Morning Football is right in our wheelhouse. We also know that German TV really changes after 2300 and that our friends in the states are basically on the same schedule. We are the few, the tired… we are mids.


Todd's background includes military service, a stint at a movie theater, and getting turned down for a date by Sandra Bullock. All things that make him totally unqualified to be a writer. However, now that he's getting married in November, that might just do it.

more about todd w bush


vacationing with paddy-b
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topic: humor
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topic: humor
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robert melos
10.12.04 @ 1:05a

The night shifts were always my favorite in life. I just function better at night. Switching over to day or early evening has always screwed up my whole system, physically and mentally.

If I were military I'd salute you. A great insight piece, by the way.

tracey kelley
10.12.04 @ 1:01p

Otherwise normal people will stare intently at a Twinkie for half an hour before finally asking if they can have it, then promptly smear it all over their face.

Oh, now, this is funny.

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