For anyone working an overnight shift, the phrase "catching some Z's" takes on a whole new meaning. It's no different for the "vampire staff" of Morning Edition. Here, sleep is coveted, and the more we get, the more we desperately crave.
We all have our own strategies for making sure we arrive at work ready to cover the day's news. Some of us sleep in shifts: We go straight home and collapse right onto our beds, wake up in the afternoon to take care of one or two errands, and then take one more power nap before going to work.
When I work the overnight, I try to do all my sleeping during the day so that I can go out and see my "mere mortal" friends at night. Since it's right before work, I can't quite enjoy happy hour at the local bar as much as they do, for obvious reasons.
The overnight staff does get time for a meal during our shift, but it's up to us to make sure it's nutritious. By the time we arrive at the office, our favorite deli is long closed for the night.
Some of my colleagues cook all their dinners for the week over the weekend and bring their dishes to the office in airtight containers. Others call up the late-night pizza place, which gets most of its business from college students. In the meantime, we're putting the pizza delivery guy's kids through college. And so the cycle begins anew.
At most offices, people probably gather around the water cooler and discuss their favorite TV shows, or make small talk about the weather. Since we rarely even see the sun, our small talk involves comparing the blackout curtains on our windows instead.
When new, young producers are broken in on the overnight shift, I watch as they drag themselves in day after day, until one day they stroll in with a newfound spring in their step. I can tell it's because they've finally made the all-important investment in blackout curtains.
As the night goes on, the coffeepot is refreshed over and over. The first batch is made around midnight when producers like me come in. That pot first starts to get stale just in time for the hosts to arrive three hours later.
Being an experienced journalist means being an experienced coffee maker. Our hosts sometimes provide the gourmet beans, from the top shelf of the supermarket aisle. We ride the caffeine rush to meet deadlines and get late-breaking stories on the air. The show begins, and about halfway through, someone makes a run to the nearby coffee shop as it opens and brings back a bounty. It's a relief to no longer need to make coffee for ourselves.
In the morning, the staff on the day-side shift comes in and takes the reins of the show from the overnight team. As those of us on the overnight take off, there's a certain pleasure in knowing that while our day is done, the rest of the city is just getting started.
As I walk down streets crowded with commuters, I almost feel sorry for the people going in the opposite direction.
I usually bring a music player, so I can release my mind from thoughts of the workday. But sometimes, I bring a portable radio so I can listen to what our show sounds like from your side of the speakers.
Lindsay Totty is a production assistant at Morning Edition.