Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Noct Up

Odd Encounter of the Week: The Nocturnal

Occupationally speaking, nothing creates more despair than reading a schedule that proclaims: "Sunday: 7pm-5am". Nothing, that is, except for the same phrase followed by: "Monday: 11:30pm-7:30am".

Alack and alas, this was my lot for the early days of this week. I was going nocturnal. I knew one person in college who went nocturnal on purpose. But only one. For a week, he stayed up all night watching movies and then shut his glazed eyes to grab some sleep during the day. When he went to class, I do not know. I ran into him one afternoon right after his experiment ended, and it was wierd. All he could say was "Hoot."

Unlike my owlish friend, work, not will, forced me into the school of hard nocs. We had a huge inventory count Sunday night during which an outside company called RGIS (pronounced like "Regis and Kelly" without the "and Kelly") descended upon the store and counted every single item we had. Nothing was exempt. Not even Nibbles, the stuffed Borders bunny. All 85 of him (currently on sale for $5.99!). RGIS brought 60 workers to the "Who Wants to be a Million Book Counter?" show going on in our store that night.

The primary reason I had to live the hard-noc life stood, or stumbled, in our store cafe. Borders had just begun its switch to Seattle's Best coffee. Seattle's Best, being a totalitarian regime which forces its employees to shave and wear uniforms, requires the cafe to physically conform to its standards. Accordingly, our old cafe model had to disappear. Large men with even larger sledgehammers arrived that night to perform this disappearing act.

These fellas have a great job. They destroy stuff with sledgehammers. What's more, they do not have to put it back together or clean up the mess. To celebrate their great fortune at landing such an occupation, they apparently go drinking before coming in to work. Many of them reeked of liquor that night which made it quite enjoyable to greet with a "How's it going?" or other such introductory question. I always received a happy, if incoherent, response.

The night's work was a hoot. The RGIS folks worked their way to a million, scanning every book with an electronic radar gun similar to those used at check-out lines. In Zen-like fashion I simultaneously heard one long beep and thousands of individual beeps all night. The drunken sledgehammers laid down the percussion line as the consistent sound of tool on cabinet pounded from the cafe. I kept time in my head, endlessly counting books to check the accuracy of the RGIS folks - 86, 87, 88, . . . . All the while, the store speakers mindlessly played a variety of newly released music, dropping the likes of Bob Dylan, Katherine McPhee, and Josh Grobin into the montage.

On and on through the night, we played our wage-labor symphony.

Boredom and the accompanying fatigue set in early - early being 11:00pm. This, loved ones, is futility. Yawning at 11:00pm and knowing that six hours of monotonous work still awaits. We tried everything to stay awake. We ordered pizza. We drank lukewarm Coca-Cola. We told noc-noc jokes. Nothing worked. Onward we counted books. It felt as if we were counting sheep.

Around 2:00am, the sledgehammers stopped, and the workers left, presumably to now go celebrate not only their great jobs but also their completed task. A little after 3:00am, the RGIS folks began to trickle out. They had reached the million mark but left with no prize money save for their wages. I stayed with boss until the bitter end, tidying up the store and preparing for the next day's opening. We noct off at 4:15am and locked the store. As I walked past the Animal books section, an owl peered at me from the cover of a book faced out on display.

Upon returning to my apartment at 4:30am, I immediately fell asleep, noct out by fatigue. The sun flooded through my window and woke me up at 6:30am, but I ignored it and rolled back to sleep. My night had just begun.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

As someone who has engaged in the activity of demolition for pay on one occasion, I concur it is a great occupation. Let's forget what we're doing with our lives, Ben, and get jobs in destruction, i mean demolition.

J & B Demolition - coming to a town near you. We wreck s***