Thursday, September 10, 2009
"Gonna be some sweet sounds,comin' down,on the NIGHT SHIFT"
I had been in the US Navy for about a year and half,when I started working at the Naval Hospital in Charleston SC,in 1984. I was a Navy Corpsman, with the Navy Medical Corps. I had been working at the Naval Weapons Station Branch Clinic,and was transferred from there because I did not quite fit in with that setting.The Command Master Chief had placed me there because I was married,had a family,and tried to do me a favor by sending me to work at the NWSBC,because the hours and duty would both be better for my situation. It was said,after I got there,that if I did carouse around with Chief Charlie and his little "mafia" he controlled there,I would be out on my ass in no time....I lasted longer than I thought,but I was eventually transferred from the NWSBClinic to the Hospital because I did not carouse around with Chief Charlie and his little "in crowd." The Chief also said he would make sure that "my ass was assigned to a grunt unit in the Marines."This was considered to be the lowest "shit detail" possible. Navy Corpsman are assined out to Marine units,because the Marine Corps has no Medical Corps of its own,and the Marine Corps is actually a branch of the Dept. of the Navy.So they send Corpsman out to their units as "Battlefield Medics." The old Chief made good on that promise,and I did wind up with the grunts when I left Charleston.There's no telling what that drunk,fat ,yellow eyed,asshole told his superiors to get me there,but I was not welcome from day one there.I was set up to fail.I was from the south,they were from the north.I did not realize that northerners had such a problem with southerners,I didnt know that stereotypes were as dangerous as they were,I was still,only about 18 or 19 years old. I think what scared them was that I quickly showed that I was much smarter than what they believed about southerners.I was set up to fail.So...I was sent to the hospital to work on the wards---something that was considered to be another "shit detail." One thing about the Navy I experienced in the mid 1980's was this odd pecking order of what was good duty and bad duty. I thought it was an all inclusive,all important,we're-all-on-the-same-team mentality.I was wrong. But again,I was young. Soon after,I was driving to the Hospital for my first NIGHT SHIFT, of my life.I had worked until the wee hours of the morning,but never a full night.As I said I lived off base,and I was driving to the Navy Hospital,which was actually much closer than the Weapons Station Clinic from our townhouse,anyway so this could be a better deal.The schedule was a week of nights,a week of evenings,a week of mornings---a "rotating shift" All of the rumors followed me,all and only everything negative. I was "more married to my wife and not the Navy",I didnt know my job" I lived too close to home" blah blah. There wasnt many hours that went by that I didnt catch hell for me being married during that whole time,one way or another,and then my wife gave them all they needed to say "they told me so," By running off with a Marine when I was overseas when I was with the Marines after this little part of the story.In a bigger way,that was more of a favor than I realized at the time.But I didnt deserve it,my wife at this time didnt deserve it,until of course when she started pulling her little stunts. As I drove to the hospital,it being spring in Charleston,I remember the window was rolled down in the car,and the smell of saltwater and honeysuckle was very strong. I remember thinking that I didnt want to be on night shift forever,that though I am a "nighthawk" I loved spending nights my way, and not at work. Little did I know,that this night was sowing the seeds of my future.I would be relegated and shoved off to the night shift up until this very day.For 25 years of my working life,over half that time has been on night shift. A song came over the radio,called the "Night Shift" I dont know if its the Commodores who does the song,but its done by a black RnB group. "Gonna be some sweet sounds,comin' down,on the "Night Shift." I hoped this was a good omen. But hospital ward work was tedious,and again, it was considered to be "shit detail,"I was set up to fail. They knew all about me before I got there. Damned if they(My superiors at my new assignment at the hospital) didnt know I'd pissed the old Senior Chief off,already!! Again,my being married and lived off base, was a problem. I was reminded of it daily.It was called to the floor,daily.It was "see here,if only you werent married..."Daily. If is was such a goddamned problem,why even let me in in the first place? My marriage was not OK like their marriages were. My marriage was vilified,others marriages in the Navy was lionized.My marriage was a hinderance,theirs was a testament to the power of love in a tough career lifestyle. Now even at that time I realized,my wife and children did not deserve this. My BIGGEST PROBLEM was the fact that I could see this,and TOLD THEM my thoughts about their criticisms. Maybe I shoudve just kept my mouth shut.Another thing that has followed me throughout my life,is that I am expected to just stand idly by, when someone fucks with me for any reason,then acts surprised or mad if i retaliate. If I defend myself,I'm a "bully." If I dont defend myself,I'm a "wimp" I do not get middle ground,and never the benefit of the doubt that I am expected, and demanded of, to give others. That night,I remember thinking,yet somehow---in some strange way---this would be a big part of my future.Once an employer knows youve done night shift,thats where you'll end up as long you stay there,they'll get you to do night shift. but over the years,night shift has become less and less available.In part II,I''l explain it some more.