nightshift

Three Guys Who Stay Up All Night, Every Night

Forget your New Year’s Eve party — we talked to a deejay, a night patrol cop and a graveyard-shift clerk at 7-Eleven to find out what it’s like to live your whole life at night

A lot of us are staying up past our bedtime tonight, but what’s going on out there the rest of the year? What happens when you consistently spend your waking hours in darkness? Basically, how does the all-night lifestyle affect a man when his clock is out of sync with most everyone else’s? Let’s ask these three people of the night…

Henok, 7-Eleven cashier

I moved here five years ago from Ethiopia. It’s tough, but it’s good. I used to work two jobs here — I’d work the 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. shift, and then the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. I did that for almost three years. I had to cut back to one shift because my back hurt, but maybe I’ll go back to two shifts again in the next couple months.

Working nights pays more, so I work the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift six days a week. Other than that, there’s nothing I like about it. Just the money, that’s it! And it’s slower at nights. The daytime is busier, and you have to start the fridge, there’s just too much stuff to do.

After work, I go home, chill and watch TV. I usually go to bed around 10 a.m., wake up at 6, then watch TV and take a shower. The sleep you get at nighttime compared to the daytime is way different, though — I get one night of sleep on my day off — and even two or three hours of nighttime sleep feels like a whole week’s sleep. It’s really deep, and it really feels good when you wake up. I don’t know what the difference is, but every time I wake up in the daytime, I feel like I wanna go back to sleep. If I wake up in the middle of the day when I’m supposed to be asleep, I can’t go back to sleep. It’s tough.

The only time it gets crazy is with the junkies, especially after 2 o’clock. I close the beer, and they want to buy a beer. I have to kick people out sometimes. You basically tell them to leave, and you’ve gotta be aggressive. If they’re drunk and you know they want to fight someone, then you’ve got to call the cops. But if you call the cops and you tell them this person is homeless or he’s drunk, they’re not gonna come. They know he’s just gonna leave. Because most people, when you grab the phone, they leave right away. I’ve never been robbed here, but my friend, who works at another store, got robbed a couple times.

If I go back to daytime shifts, there’s just more stuff to do, and you work with the manager or somebody. If you work night time, you’re on your own, it’s more laid back, there aren’t too many things to do. I can watch a movie on my phone, or the History Channel — something just to keep me awake.

Sgt. Jeff Brandt, Oceanside Police Department night patrol officer

I’ve worked here for 25 years. I stared in July 1993. For the past three years I’ve worked from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Before that, I’d work nights on and off for pretty much my whole career except for about five years. In the beginning, you didn’t really have a choice, you just went where they put you. Now with my seniority, I can pick whatever shift I want to work, so I pick the night watch.

I love it. I guess you just deal with different people. You could see people at their absolute worst, that’s for sure — it’s sad. Or you see people that get into hard times, like money situations, and they get desperate. Sometimes the victims of these crimes, they don’t deserve what happened to them. But you get weird people coming out at night. Most of your normal people, they have normal jobs — I don’t know what’s normal in society anymore — but the normal people, they get up in the morning, they go to work, they do their thing, then they go home in the evening, they do whatever they do at home and then, sometimes they end up calling us at night because they can’t get along with their spouse or things like that. But then you have the criminal element that actually comes out at night because they work under the cover of darkness.

The types of crimes at night are noticeably different. You get more commercial burglary type stuff at night; a lot of the drug addicts come out more at night. Methamphetamines — the people that are all cranked up on speed normally are out at night.

After work, I’m usually in bed by 3:30 or 4 o’clock in the morning, then probably up by anywhere from 9:30 to 10:30. Sleeping, for the most part, is how you set it up. I’ll use blackout shades in my room and different noise distractions like fans and humidifiers for white noise. It’s gotten interesting lately because in September my wife retired, so before she would always get up at like 5:30 in the morning and she’d be gone by 6:15. I’d wake up every now and then and talk to her before she’d leave and I’d go back to sleep. We’re kind of figuring each other out right now, but when you work nights, I don’t think anybody ever figures your schedule out. Even my mom and dad will be like, “When do you work?” I tell them, “You’ve been asking about my schedule the last three years!” Neighbors, too.

The thing that would surprise most people about the night is that there is a population out there, mostly homeless people, that people would never believe existed. I mean they come out at night, and people don’t realize the magnitude. They’re trying to dig through dumpsters and doing whatever they can do to find stuff. It’s pretty weird, and it can be a little scary.

If working nights works for a person, it’s great. But there’s a lot of people for whom it can’t. My wife could never work nights — she just doesn’t function that well at night. And then some people just have bad nighttime vision. It’s something you really have to want to do, I think. My schedule works for me. I kind of need my own time.

When I come in on weekdays, there’ll be all of the support and admin and detectives here at the station when I start my shift, and then you hit a time around 5:30 or 6 when pretty much all those people have gone home. Then it’s just your base of people that work on your shift — you’re kind of it for the rest of the night unless something goes horribly wrong and you need to call in more resources. I guess it’s just quieter in the station, not as much hustle and bustle.

Sean Muñoz, aka DJ Vertigo

I’ve been deejaying for 19 years. I’ve done it all: Clubs, radio, touring, I’ve been to pretty much every continent except Australia and Africa. For the past nine years, I’ve been the deejay for the Miami Marlins baseball team. My comfort zone is with the Marlins now, but I still get booked on the weekends, so I still go to the Bahamas and deejay or produce a concert. I have a full production company that I run, and we do programming for casinos, hotels and resorts. By now I’ve mastered being able to go to bed at 3, 4, 5 in the morning and still wake up at a reasonable time the following day, like 9 or 10, able to function. If I need to rejuvenate, I’ll take a power nap.

I’d say that not everybody is built for nighttime. I’ve always stayed up late — always, even as a kid. On school nights in middle school I remember we’d go to see a movie, then we’d buy some popcorn and act like we were waiting for the next movie, and jump the line and see another movie, so I’d be out till 12 or 1 o’clock. Then, in college, I was an architecture student, so I was up late night working on projects because they didn’t give you realistic timetables to make deadlines, so that kind of conditioned me.

The lifestyle can be very hard. I’ve gotten a handle on it now and gotten numb to it. Back in the day it was a little more challenging to have a normal life because you’re “up all night, sleep all day.” Even when you’re up late, actually getting to sleep can be tough. That’s because the energy that you get from the music, from the vibe and the energy of the crowd, you can’t replace that. That keeps me up, honestly.

In the past I would sleep a lot longer, but I’ve missed a lot of opportunities because of that. The nightlife industry, as fun as it is, is still a business and the people who are writing the checks, the shot callers, they’re not out until 4 or 5 in the morning — they’re in the office in the morning, conducting business. So when they call you in the morning to see if you’re available and you’re not getting back to them till 2, 3 or 4 in the afternoon, you think they’re gonna wait around for you? They’ve gotta handle their business, and they’re not gonna wait for my ass to wake up! I had to learn that the hard way. [During one job] I was working at a big club the night before and I just overslept. It wasn’t even by that much — I showed up 30 minutes late or so, but they weren’t having it, so it became apparent that in dealing with corporate America, I had to handle things differently.

It can also be difficult to not get caught up in the nightlife. Under cover of night, people kind of do whatever they want. It’s like a layer of protection, a little camouflage. I’ve been witness to all kinds of craziness — from fights to car accidents to people running naked through the streets and beyond. I would say that people have less inhibitions at nighttime, and they definitely get more dressed up, especially in South Florida — everybody’s ready to show what they’re working with and everybody’s shopping for someone. Obviously everybody has their little vices, but there’s a lot of dark stuff out at night. I’ve lost a couple people over the years, friends who didn’t have that control in moderation.

For a while, I was just so tired from going so hard — an earthquake could be happening and I’d stay crashed out. So I did a little research and asked a couple friends in the industry what they did. Taking vitamins is such a simple thing, but think about all the people you shake hands with and all the people you talk to. Everybody wants to be down with the deejay, right? And you’re in a small environment, whether it’s a lounge or a club or a mega club, the air is circulating and there’s germs, smoke, fog, cigarettes, farts and everything. Also, washing my hands and giving people the pound instead of a handshake — I’m not saying I’m Howie Mandel and a germaphobe or anything like that, but…

The other thing that really helped me master the whole sleeping thing is I became a dad. I have a 12-year-old daughter and sleeping in wasn’t an option. I really had to figure out a way to keep going — I would be out till 4 or 5 in the morning, and she would wake me up at 7 or 8 in the morning, literally pulling my eyelid open like, “Daddy, it’s time to wake up!”