On the night shift with Jason Comely
In college, I interned for a theater company called the New York Neo-Futurists, and after I graduated, I continued to organize their box office volunteers for a few years. This is about the closest I’ve gotten to working a night shift job. Their show ran every Friday and Saturday night at 10:30 p.m., which, as an intern, meant starting anywhere between 6 and 9 and ending sometime after midnight.
This was in the East Village, though, and at 21, sometime after midnight in Manhattan might as well have been midday.
Around 5 to 10% of Americans are working between 11 and 3 a.m., according to BLS statistics. Firefighters, healthcare workers, truck drivers, air traffic controllers, bakers, bartenders, cops, content creators, and lowly non-profit theater interns alike find themselves working in the dead of night. The deep dark night—not just for reading newsletters and hydrating your body!
Those on the night shift experience the world through a different lens. Their schedules are flipped upside down; they often sleep during the day, commute down empty streets, and eat lunch under the moonlight. No one understands late night vibes quite like them.
Over the past year and change, I’ve published six subscriber specials—short Q&As with milestone subscribers to celebrate the Night Water community. But after hitting 500 subscribers, I wanted to switch things up a little and expand these Q&As beyond the serendipity of new subscribers.
Luckily, reader Jason Comely provided the perfect spark of inspiration in his response to the 500th subscriber survey, noting that he would love Night Water to feature more guest writers with night shift jobs. I felt that, as the pre-eminent late night newsletter, Night Water needed to heed this call.
Since Jason works the night shift himself, I couldn’t think of anyone better to kick off “On the night shift,” a brand new series of Night Water Q&As about the lives and vibes of night shift workers.
Who are you and what do you do on the night shift?
I’m Jason Comely and I provide overnight support for an emergency homeless shelter in Southern Ontario. My primary duties include maintaining order, keeping clients safe, doing intakes and referrals, and providing clothes and bedding.
How long have you been working the night shift? Why did you start?
I’ve worked the night shift on and off for about 12 years, once for an 8-year stretch. I started doing night shift to get my foot in the door—most job seekers won’t consider a job that requires doing night shift—so I used that to my strategic advantage. But then I adjusted to nocturnal living and I prefer it now.
What does your daily routine look like?
I wake up at 4–5 in the afternoon and make a dark chocolate smoothie. Then before my 12-hour shift starts, I’ll scan my emails looking for the latest Night Water newsletter, do 30 minutes of Bible and Book of Mormon study, a 40-minute meditation, and some Tai Chi.
Do you have any tricks or habits that help you get through the night?
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (we don’t use the term “Mormon” anymore), I don’t drink coffee, tea, or partake in any caffeinated products. I rely on proper sleep and dark chocolate to keep me alert during the night shift. At the shelter, we deal with drug overdoses, conflict, injury, and death on a fairly regular basis, so adrenaline and stress also help keep me awake!
Do you see nighttime differently now than before you worked the night shift?
Nowadays, 10 p.m. is the gateway to many possibilities. The night is still young and full of promise. But from a day person perspective, it’s time to shut down. Also, during the night the streets are active with nocturnal creatures like raccoons, skunks, rabbits, foxes, and even coyotes. I know where many of these animals forage and will sometimes leave them food when I go out for night runs.
What’s the biggest misconception friends and family have about the night shift?
My friends and family understand my schedule and are considerate, but people in general forget that a sizable segment of the population works nights. We are an invisible minority, and I find this ignorance reflected in many productivity and calorie-counting apps that frame things in terms of daytime and typical meal times.
What is your ideal night shift vibe?
Bill Evans Trio or maybe Deepchord. The horn of a lonely train in the distance. My cats chilling with me on the sofa.
If you’re a night shift worker or know one who might be interested in answering some questions for Night Water, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.