12 Hour Shift

My very first job was in a farmer’s market in high school. I was 14 and my mom had talked the manager into hiring me and paying me under the table. I think I made $5.75/hr which seemed fine enough when I was working 6 days a week in the summer.

The job was hot, requiring a strong back. I did a lot of driving, lifting, stacking, cutting, welding, cashiering, and much more. By the time I left, I was an opening manager which was is sort of like an Assistant Manager in most stores. I worked that job for about 4 years.

I often look back on that job fondly. I worked the early shift, which meant I typically unloaded the truck after my boss picked up the produce from the big central farmer’s market. Typically, my shifts started at 05:30 with the first couple of hours consisting of unloading produce from the truck, stacking it in the cooler, and then stocking the floor.

The work was quiet and methodical. I was one of the few kids working there willing to show up so early (i.e. 5am) so I often worked with a couple of Mexican guys. I didn’t speak Spanish well, but we made due with hand signs, gesturing, and a few commonly shared phrases. We’d work side by side, in quiet unison.

One of the guys I worked with was named Chapa. Or at least that was what he liked to be called. He taught me to drive a fork lift and how to weld. Despite our language barrier, he was an excellent teacher. He introduced me to Lengua (beef tongue) and Molleja (chicken gizzard) as taco fillings, which remain favorite flavors of mine to this day.

I still remember the last thing he said to me on my last day - “See you tomorrow.” It was what he always said to me. I’m not sure he understood that I wasn’t coming back.

What I loved most about that job was it was done when I left. I often worked doubles, which meant my two shifts were 05:30-14:30 and then 15:30-20:30 (close). I’d do that four days a week in the summer - usually Thursday through Sunday which were our busiest days.

When I left, those three days I had off were mine. I didn’t think at all about work. There were no lingering designs to finish, todo lists that needed to be managed, emails to write, or code to review. I came home on Sunday, and then Monday through Wednesday were mine.


Recently, I watched 12 Hour Shift. I can’t remember why I thought of it. I remember seeing a trailer on the Apple TV Trailer app and being intrigued. I finally sat down to watch it the other day. While the content and story are horrifying, something about how Angela Bettis’s character shows her irritation with the work day resonated with me. She’s a nurse and working shift work. She’s doing horrifying things throughout her shift but just generally seems fed up with the mundanity of it all.

At the end, she walks out and takes a short nap. She heads back in to greet the next shift, seemingly cleansed of the horror she was a part of in the previous day.

I miss being able to walk away from a day and letting it just be done. Maybe that’s something I could still do in my work, but the curse of “knowledge work” is that, at least for me, I’m never really done. I can’t shut off my brain - in fact it does some of its best work when I’m not explicitly working.

Posted on: 2022-03-17
Tagged as: thoughts