by Josh Duboff
One thing that happens is that you stop speaking altogether. One Thursday afternoon, shifting between various gchats — all with friends bored in their cubicles at offices across the city — I realized that I hadn’t said a word out loud in close to 18 hours. So I said “test” out loud. For a split second, before the word came out, I was actually worried about whether or not I was still able to speak. After I found that I could, I then worried about the fact that I had been legitimately worried about this.
I had stopped shaving. I mostly dressed like “Jonah Hill at the beach” or “Kristen Stewart on laundry day.” I knew all the afternoon shift Whole Foods employees by name. While the rest of the world was hitting the “3 p.m. stretch” at work, I would be starting episodes of “Glee.” Entire afternoons were spent mulling trips to the gym or a coffee shop or a museum without ever moving from my couch. This is where I was at by the end of my life as a night blogger.
After two years of working in an office, in a “normal” job with “normal” hours at a Park Avenue consulting firm (totally disgusting, I know), I switched careers. My new “work day” began around 6 or 6:15 p.m. and would last until I was finished with my tenth post, which meant I generally finished up somewhere between 3 to 4 a.m.
As is so often the case, this blogging took place at the desk mere feet from my bed, meaning that as I would blog the night away — fueled primarily by almonds and Diet Coke — the end of the tunnel was always an arm’s length away. The modern isolation of your standard blogging job — the lack of non-virtual people around, the relentless Internet tunneling, the lack of sunshine or regular movement — was multiplied by the lack of even having digitally present coworkers, the darkness outside, the silence.
While the centerpiece of my conversations with friends-of-friends at bars had previously been the latest Lady Gaga music video or “that sketchy guy” standing near the bathroom or an anecdote about the subway/Korean food/Twitter, my night job quickly became the primary thing I talked about with acquaintances and strangers. People were just fascinated by this idea that I started work when everyone else was finishing for the day. What did I do with my days? When did I sleep? People would look at me in this pitying, almost disbelieving, way, as if when I said “I blog at night” I had actually said, “I am not able to digest chocolate.”
“Yeah, sometimes I feel like I am turning into the world’s most boring vampire,” I would respond, as if I had just thought of that line for the first time, and my roommate’s friend’s coworker or whoever it was would laugh politely. I would spare her riffs on the many other oddities of working at night… and there were, as anyone who has worked a night job before knows, countless others.
Since I couldn’t see any of my friends during the week, I started to feel on weekends like I was Katherine Heigl in the classic film 27 Dresses, in which she had to go to like 14 weddings in 14 horrendous outfits in one day or something. Some Saturdays I would schedule a brunch-drinks-dinner-drinks quadruple-header as some sort of completely misguided overcompensation for not interacting with humans during the week. There was also the havoc that working nights performed on my eating schedule (let’s just say that most of my eating during the week took place after 6 p.m.).
First dates had to be scheduled on Friday and Saturday nights, a stipulation that eliminated any semblance of “casual” about them. And there was the unrivaled shame of sleeping in until 1:30 p.m. on an odd Monday and then feeling so guilty about it that there was no choice but to just get back under the covers and sleep some more.
There were aspects of working nights that weren’t so bad. I got over my phobia of going to movies by myself. I could schedule doctor’s appointments at literally any hour I pleased. I had a built-in excuse for missing all sorts of weeknight social engagements that I previously would have had to begrudgingly attend. More significantly, I increasingly felt like I was part of this rare and special tribe. Working at night by myself when no one was on the Internet made me feel like a solo spaceship pilot, like every post about Sarah Palin or James Franco I churned out was going to ensure we stayed on course. I was careening through quiet forgotten Internet space, a vast calm all around me. And while all my friends were at work during the day — gchatting and fidgeting in their itchy button-downs — I was scarfing hummus and preparing for this noble take-off.
Now that I’m working during the daytime hours again, I feel like I have returned to the land of the living — back in the sea of hyper-stressed, closed-off New Yorkers. While I’m generally happy about this, I have to admit there are certain mornings where I catch myself feeling sort of wistful when the alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m., and feeling sort of ordinary on the subway at 8:25 a.m. I miss the Starbucks barista, Kevin, who would hand me my drink at 6 p.m. every night with the resigned look I imagine he reserved for people who order venti iced coffees past sunset.
I do not miss how I would feel on the way out of Starbucks, knowing that the day was over but also just beginning. I don’t miss the Chinese food. And I don’t miss spending 15 minutes at 2:45 a.m. trying to come up with a joke about Naomi Watts to conclude a blog post, only to settle for something King Kong-related that wouldn’t even really make sense when I re-read it the next morning… by which I mean the next afternoon, but then, anyway, it was nearly time to start blogging again.
Two months later, Josh Duboff is still having trouble falling asleep before 3 a.m.
Photo from Flickr by nicksarebi.