CAPSTONE: The Graveyard Shift

By Nadya Alvarado —

The old beige Lincoln Town Car was due for a car wash. The dirty unmatched rims, a small dim sign on the roof that said TAXI and the slanted white and black sign that said Classic Car Service, it was all part of this chauffeur’s daily routine at 2 am. No steam rose from the 7/11 coffee cup sitting on the half broken cup holder, while salsa, I believe it was Victor Manuelle, was playing on the radio.

“This is what saves my life every night,” said Guillermo Parody, 30, while tasting his 2 hour previously brewed double espresso.

Click here to see “Dangers of Night Job”

With the help of caffeine and his favorite green ripped seat cushion, Guillermo drives to pick up the same fare at 2 am and takes them to Journal Square. Once in Journal Square, he drives slowly and very aware of his surroundings to see if he can pick up another fare on his way back to Bergenline, where he does most of his money. This is his every night drive to Journal Square and has been for two years. As owner of ten cars taxi service, the night shift has taken his whole life and given it a whole 360 degrees turn.

“I never get to see my daughters, it’s very frustrating to know they are asleep when I get home and they are in school when I get up,” said Guillermo.

Guillermo live in Jersey City, but drives up to North Bergen everyday to work his shift of 6pm to 6am.

“My wife hates me sometimes because she says I do nothing but sleep all day,” he says while waiting for the light to turn green, “but I get home so tired that I have to sleep.”

Childcare is sometimes easy for those with the graveyard shift. While one partner is at work the other cares for their children. It doesn’t always work in such a good way. For example, in the case of Guillermo, he almost never sees his family.

“I force myself to stay awake some mornings to take my family to eat breakfast. Let me tell you, it’s one of the hardest things I have to do sometimes,” he says laughing, “but I do it because I love them and don’t want to lose them.”

Many people that work this third shift don’t have a partner to care for their children, while they are at work. For some, family is a very huge help for them.

Those who have a good support system, have the privilege to attend college and go to work. This is the case for Denise Pertuz. She is a single mother and has the help of her mother during the night so she can go to work.

“Thank God I have my mother to help me out,” said Denise Pertuz, Jersey City, and Counselor for the Hudson County Family Services.

Denise’s 10 year old son, Alex goes to school from 8am to 2:30pm. While he is in school, she goes to school, for her masters in law. After school he stays home with Denise’s mother while she goes to work.

“I don’t know what I would have done without my mother. She is a great help,” said Denise looking out her office window, which led to the building’s parking lot.

Besides Guillermo, Denise also works the horrible night shift. Denise is 5”6, thin, with a sweet face. She doesn’t drive, but she takes the bus then cab to get to work. Monday to Friday, Denise puts her life in danger to support her family.

Her coffee mug, that says #1 MOM, sat on her small brown desk with old stickers on the side of it. Her desk had files and files of cases she had been working on during the week. The office her desk and two wooden chairs sat, was filled with posters of how parenting and good communication with your children is essential in all households.

“I really don’t mind working this shift. I know I am here to help others and there are a lot of people that don’t have time during the day to come and seek help, so we stay open 24 hours,” said Denise while a sense of pride shined on her face.

Besides working the night shift and trying to stay awake, Guillermo worries about the dangers there are for all taxi drivers. Also, being the owner of his cab company, he fears for the safety of his other drivers. Driving a cab all night is dangerous in any area, if you really think about it. The dangers these drivers expose themselves are limitless.

“The other night I drove to Journal Square and some young couple tried to run without paying. I am a little over weight as you can see, so I decided to call the cops,” he explained, “but nothing could be done. I lost a $30 fare.”

Just like Guillermo there are many others that expose themselves to different dangers by working the late night shift. While the rest of society sleeps, thousands of cab drivers across America are making their rounds. Like pilots and police officers, cross country truckers and custodial crews, and many counselors, nurses and doctors perform duties at a time most others are at rest. While this may be great for those who sleep during the night, those who are awake at night will be running health problems in the future.

Who would want to work night to sleep during the day? Well, this is what Rafal had to do when working at Houlihan’s

“I hate working the night shift,” said Rafal Roqoza, 25, from Jersey City.

“No, it sucked,” he replied when asked if he liked his job.

Rafal, is a bartender who, enjoys the atmosphere, but hates the hours. Rafal may start his shift at 4 pm and may finish around 4am.

“The people I work with are awesome,” he smiled, “you meet different people all the time, especially hot women.”

Rafal does this during the night to wake up early in the morning and head o school. Lucky for him he lives right near school, in Jersey City.

“Thank God I live in Jersey City near school, cuz then I would have one hell of a time trying to get to school with no sleep on me,” he added while relaxing on his black comfy chair in his school newspaper’s office.

There are still many people that lead busy lives during the day. There are soccer moms driving to school in mini vans filled with wild hyper kids, while other women speed walk in their sneakers and business suits, trying to catch the train in Journal Square. Come 6pm and we see men rushing into their cars to get home and eat supper with their families and rest after a long tired some day of work.

While they work during the day and sleep during the night, the other percent of people that don’t work the mornings are sleeping.

The graveyard shift is considered one of the most hated shifts of all time. Many have no choice, but to work that shift due to other responsibilities during the day. The night shift may pay more than the regular 9am to 5pm shift, but comes with more consequences.

One of these consequences is health problems. As Guillermo mentioned, he is a little bit over weight. This is a huge problem for him due to the unhealthy way he eats. His front seat of the taxi has napkins from Blimpie’s, Dunkin Donuts, and potato chips bags crumbled up underneath his seat. Guillermo’s lack of a healthy appetite is affecting his health. He has gained weight over the last few years and seating behind the wheel without any exercise has not helped him make any progress.

“I try to go home and eat, but it gets so busy that I have to wait till I am done with rush hour and then I get something to eat at McDonald’s, it’s my favorite,” said Guillermo after asking me to join him for a McChicken from the dollar menu.

“A reasonable percentage of Americans work a night shift, and a majority of them have health issues related to it,” said Sunil Rama, medical director of the Kaiser Sleep lab. “It’s been linked to arteriosclerosis, headaches, insomnia and excessive sleepiness.”

According to MedicineNet.com, “People working the night shift may consume large amounts of caffeine-laden beverages to stay awake, then, if they are parents, they may be forced to stay awake during the day in order to drive their children to and from school and other activities.” Recent studies have shown that people who do not get sufficient sleep are more prone to being overweight.

“Another thing I loved about working the night shift at Houlihan’s was the awesome food I would eat all day. I would just eat all day,” said Rafal, “I did gain weight, though.

The Graveyard Shift may and may not be a dangerous shift to work, it just all depends on the routine the person creates for themselves. A constant healthy routine will keep your body functioning perfectly and won’t break your diet. For all of the other dangers outside your body, I recommend self defense classes.