New York is the city that never sleeps. But this renowned insomnia would not be possible without the more than 200,000 men and women who work the nightshift – the fry cooks and coffee jockeys, train conductors and cab hacks, cops, docs, and fishmongers selling cod by the crate. Inverting the natural rhythm of life, they keep the city running as it slows but never stops.

In our book, NIGHTSHIFT NYC, we tell the stories of New York City nightshift workers. This ethnography of the night investigates familiar sites, such as diners, delis and taxis, as well as some unexpected corners of the night, such as a walking tour of homelessness in Manhattan and a fishing boat out of Brooklyn. We show how the nightshift is more than simply out of phase, it is another social space altogether, highly structured, inherently subversive, and shot through with inequalities of power. NIGHTSHIFT NYC presents the narratives of those who sleep too little and work too much, revealing the soul of a city hidden in the graveyard shift of 24-hour commerce when the sun goes down and the lights come up.

But there is more to the story than found its way into the pages of the book. Here you'll find more stories of the night in New York City and around the country. And we hope you will add your own stories and comments in the months to come. Stay tuned and check back often...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Guest Blog... Cory Cavin

From time to time we will have a guest offer their perspective on the nightshift. Tonight, it's Cory Cavin. He's an editor on the nightshift for VH1, but he can also be seen performing at the Upright Citizen's Brigade and other Improv Comedy venues around the city. Check out his blog at http://corycavin.tumblr.com.

Usually about 7:00pm I start gathering my things so I can head to work. The reverse commute is great because at worst I catch people coming home late from work which means an always vacant train ride for me. I usually feel pretty alert this time of day because any tiredness has worn off by early evening. I've always been a night owl, so having to be "on" in a 3rd shift environment is never a problem.

My job revolves around prime time television, watching the night's most popular TV shows with a team of 2 others – a co-producer and a talking head comedian. We concoct witty commentary about the shows’ most ridiculous and memorable moments, loading up zingers for the comedian to deliver in front of solid colored background. This becomes the backbone of a 3 minute internet package distributed to the e-masses sometime in the non-waking hours. So that when they arise to sip their morning coffee, they can see what they missed on a celebrity dancing show and what we’ve got to say about that guest judge with absolutely NO volume control. Who is that guy and what is his deal? Amiright?

The hours between wrapping the camera and actual internet distribution are the quietest and most intense hours. The rest of the team leaves and I sit in an office above Times Square, New York City trying to beat the clock so I can beat my normal out-time of 3:00 AM and get home at a “decent time”. It’s during that time that I edit the package together, making commentary meet content, introduce season finale footage to warnings of “Spoiler Alert!”. The occasional security guard walks by and either scares me to death with their unexpected presence or we exchange an anonymous hello. You would be surprised what your mind does around 2:30 AM with the noise of someone walking into your edit suite in a mostly empty 50-floor office building. I occasionally cross paths with other nighttime video editors on their way to the snack machine or bathroom (and they are met with the same muffled terrified gasp followed by a hurried, “Oh, hey…”). It’s always a surprise to see another human around at that hour (hence the small heart attacks that happen upon spotting one), and that is one of the most defining aspects of the job. Offices are often characterized by their social culture, the boring times in the day when one walks to the pantry and makes a lap around the cubicles to kill 10 minutes and get closer to 5 o’clock, or the cupcakes in the meeting room for Doris’ birthday where casual conversations about sports happen and office camaraderie, however forced, flourishes. These interactions are mostly stripped from my office nightshift experience. After my team leaves, 4 hours before my out time, I’m mostly alone, except maybe for the others on the floor who I may run into on a bathroom break. Who are assuming they’re alone and are just as startled as I am when they see me, uninhibited, talking aloud to myself in the hallway.

The following video was produced during an all night work marathon at CollegeHumor.com and best sums up my suspicions and fears of what lies in the office at night:

See more funny videos at CollegeHumor

1 comment:

Shumaluckbucky said...

Cory does a great job of explaining how his night time employment lends itself to a lot of lonliness and isolation - which is weird because he is one of the most social, easy to get along with guys on earth.

I think that's probably one of the most interesting things about the nightshift - the way something as simple as shifting your work hours can completely shift your life. And sometimes put you at odds with the persoan you actually are.