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It’s 4am. Do You Know Where Your Sanity Is?

Published November 4, 2010 - 9 Comments

OK, I’ll admit it.  The life of a network surveillance technician isn’t exactly glamorous.  We play a lot of “hurry up and wait”… waiting for something to go wrong, so we can pounce on it and get it resolved before it turns into a major problem.  I once heard someone describe our role as being similar to the fire department.  I can see the comparison… minus the heavy equipment and threat of personal harm, or worse.  About the most dangerous occupational hazard in my line of work is carpel tunnel, or my ass falling asleep in the chair.  There’s not a lot of glory to be had in network surveillance.  But trust me… you want me there.  I’m the eyes, ears, and sometimes the brain of the entire network.  Especially after hours when it’s my responsibility to decide whether something can wait until the morning, or if I need to start waking people up in the middle of the night.  Miss one little alarm, and maybe nothing happens… or maybe a thousand people wake up to no telephone or internet service.  Not a good way to start your day.

But generally things are pretty darn slow through the nights.  It’s a struggle sometimes to keep focused, especially near the 4am point.  There’s something about 4am that is different from any other time.  If I can make it past that point, I’m usually good for the next couple of hours.

Something else seems to happen near the 4am point.  Something that I’m sure only shift workers can fully appreciate.  There is a strange turn in conversation among co-workers.  The tiredness has begun to set in fully, and that part of the brain that is rarely accessed seems to come to life.  Everyone is suddenly a philosopher.  A deep thinker.  An idiot.

I don’t think that it’s intentional.  It just happens.  You can go for hours without speaking to the person next to you, and suddenly turn and ask “Where have all the bees gone?”  Yes.. it’s the 4am conversation.  Sometimes it starts a little early.  If it starts too early, then you know you’re in for a rough night.  You don’t want to have an extended 4am conversation.  That part of the brain shouldn’t be allowed to have control for too long.  It could be dangerous.  One of us might over-think ourselves to death.  It could happen!

Here are some true-life examples of some of the topics of 4am conversation… Picture a couple of grown men sitting there with their feet kicked up discussing these in (usually) complete seriousness…

  • Who invented numbers?  And why?
  • Where did the frogs go?  (similar to the bees, but completely different)
  • Why was Smurfette the only girl Smurf?
  • Ooh, Katy Perry is the voice of the 3D Smurf movie!
  • 3D movies suck.  No one will ever buy a 3D TV.  Who wants to wear glasses to watch TV?
  • Religion (oh there’s a good one)
  • What’s the best way to die?
  • Will Justin Bieber still be popular after he hits puberty?
  • Do Americans deserve what they get after the way they voted?
  • What the hell is a Tea Party, anyway?
  • Why do we have these stupid conversations?

12 hours is a long time to sit there, and it’s completely different when you’re on the night shift.  You might have slept for 10 hours before your shift, but it doesn’t seem to matter.  Inevitably 4am will come around, and chances are… the tiredness and crazy talk comes with it.

So take comfort in the fact that when you go to sleep at night, somewhere there is a team of highly dedicated network surveillance technicians watching over your utilities… And having a serious discussion as to what life must have been like for poor Smurfette being the only girl in town…