The Perks Of Being A Night Owl
I'm glad I'm not starting my career in broadcasting at this point. Now, you might think this will be some kind of rant about the state of my industry today, and frankly there is a lot I could rant about. But no, the reason I wouldn't want to start out today is an element that is, by in large, missing for those entering the field.
The graveyard shift. We called it “overnights” as that was the time you were on the radio, typically Midnight to 6AM. Generally, it was the longest on air shift of the day, most of the other DJ's worked four or five hours on the air.
When I worked overnights, more often than not I was the only person in the building, and being an introvert that was right up my alley. The exception to that was when I worked for stations that had all night AM and FM operations and there was another DJ on the other station, but they were busy running their show so we didn't run in to each other very much. And when we did, we had a commonality working in the middle of the night that bound us together, I think, better than typical daytime office relationships.
But there was a relationship that I had working graveyards that is hard to quantify. The kinship among third shifters, or those who work the graveyard shift or night shifts, can be unique and strong. This camaraderie is often built on shared experiences, challenges, and the understanding of the unconventional lifestyle that comes with working during non-traditional hours.
Third shifters often rely on each other more, developing a sense of teamwork and interdependence to handle tasks and overcome challenges.
Night shifts can bring about unique situations and experiences that daytime workers may not encounter. Dealing with the quietness or increased workload during the night, handling unexpected situations, or finding ways to stay alert and engaged can create shared stories and bonding moments.
The kinship among third shifters provides a sense of belonging and identity. They recognize that they are part of a unique group that operates outside of societal norms, and this shared identity can foster a strong bond and mutual understanding.
I had the opportunity to be the voice out there people could hear who were struggling through the night. Maybe they were lonely. Maybe they were facing health issues. Maybe they were depressed. They just needed to hear that someone was there.
Almost every night, I would have callers to the station. Sometimes they were requests for songs, but more often it was someone who needed someone to talk to. Even though I was working at the Top 40 station and playing the hits of the day, the callers I had a chance to visit with covered all age groups. The kids were mostly asleep.
They were others working through the night that just needed reassurance that they were not going it alone. There were those who couldn't sleep due to insomnia and needed to pass the time.
And there were those who were so lonely, so distraught, that they wondered if the should continue. Those were intense calls, and often ran the gamut of the entire shift. I don't know if I did any good, but I was always happy when they would call again the next night and they were feeling a little more upbeat.
All that while playing the latest Bee Gees or Fleetwood Mac song. I loved the overnight shift, and miss it very much. No, it didn't carry the glory (or pay) of the primetime “drive” shifts, but it was a comfortable place for me.
I miss it, and these days when I come in to start the morning shift, I always try to thank those third shifters who worked through the night. When I was in the hospital a few years ago, I had such deep appreciation for those who were there to provide comfort to me through the night.
If you want some other insights to the joy of working through the night, this blog has some wonderful comments.
These days, most radio studios are empty overnight carrying syndicated or pre-recorded programming. I'm feel bad that up and coming broadcasters will miss this unique opportunity to bond with this truly receptive and grateful audience.