Why do I work nights?

When I first got hired by the USPS it was to work a day time schedule, and they were vague as to what my hours would be. The guy who hired me was also incorrect about what my job duties would be. I was told that it was office type work, with “Light” typing. The job was actually as a keypunch operator and I had to type quickly for so many hours that my hands hurt. I was lucky that I had taken a typing class in high school, and that I had wasted so many hours with my lousy guitar playing. I had to type ridiculously fast just to pass the 90 day probationary period. They hire twice as many people as they think that they will need because half do not type fast enough. You can imagine how much stress I was under during those 90 days, having quit a job to take this one and having nothing planned for if I failed.

How did I end up at the USPS? During my high school years, I had no idea what I wanted to do for a job. I was working during my last few years of school, part time, so I knew that I did not enjoy work. I just took whatever job that was willing to pay me. I got lucky when the father of one of my friends got me a job working on Wall Street, for the Paine Weber financial firm. This was my first good job. That was my goal, to get a “Good” job. A job that I could work at for the rest of my life. A job with a clear career path. I screwed up this opportunity because I was too young. Looking back, I should have moved into the city and gone to night school. The commute back and forth on the train from where I lived was time consuming, and all of the other commuters looked so miserable that they were not who I wanted to be when I grew up.

After I quit that job, to pursue my artistic vision and bohemian lifestyle, I bounced around for a few more years before getting another “Good” job, working for a defense plant, Sperry. I worked there for about 10 years, but the plant closed down. It was a “Good” job while it lasted. I sold the next 10 years of my life to a bank, the Bank of Tokyo, but that “Good” job also became “No Good” when the bank was absorbed by a bigger bank. The USPS seemed like a “Good” place to sell my hours to. My sister was already employed by them and seemed happy enough, and there was no risk of the USPS closing down or being absorbed by another firm. Well, no risk of that was apparent in 1997. Now, I am not so sure.

My first year with the USPS was insane because I was a “Flexible” employee, waiting to become “Regular”. This meant that I had no fixed schedule. I did not know what my starting time or days off were going to be, they changed daily. I worked under these conditions only because I knew there was the reward of becoming “Regular” and the torture would end. When I took the job, I did not consider that I would be working for a company that operated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I never expected to be working on Sunday, because I knew that the mail does not get delivered. It never occurred to me that someone would have to be working to get that mail ready to be delivered, and now I was that guy. When I did become “Regular” my hours and days off were set, until management decided to change them, which they often do.


I only know that I am contracted to sell the USPS a forty hour week of my life, but I do not know when those hours will be or even where they will be. In my 16 year career, I have worked in 3 different buildings and with all sorts of different starting times and days off. None of those schedules were pleasant or family friendly.

Near the end of 2000 the job I had originally been hired to perform was abolished and I had to make a choice. Work the overnight shift, or quit the USPS. I curled up in a fetal position and cried. I did not want to work nights, but I also still thought the USPS was a good idea.

Some nights, I am not so sure that I made the right choice, but it is way too late in the game now.

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