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Fort Wayne after midnight

It's never too late when you're working 24/7

By Gloria Diaz

Fort Wayne Reader

2004-08-14


There you are, snuggled up in bed after an uneventful evening of watching TV after an uneventful day at your 9-5 job.

Except you can’t sleep. You want to, but can’t. Nor can you imagine doing anything productive.

As you toss and turn, others are just clocking in to their jobs, preparing for a night of work. Fort Wayne isn’t known as the city that never sleeps, but a handful of businesses operate 24/7, and that means people are hard at work making sure the emergency room is ready for your mishap, the grocery store has plenty of munchies stocked for your midnight snack, you can copy that presentation for work, even if it is 2 a.m., and that you can go downtown for a burger and actually eat it in the restaurant, not the driver’s seat of your car.

Chris Sterling is Kinko’s local go-to guy. Sterling says the Kinko’s gig is his first graveyard shift job. The company trained him on a number of tasks and machines and according to Sterling, “they showed you how to do everything. That’s probably why I’m working graveyard. It’s not an easy position to fill.”

The things people request late at night or early in the morning are rather mundane: regular folks wanting some quiet computer time; business people dropping off stuff; lots of bands; church program people who come in late Saturday night or very early Sunday morning; and people wanting to send international faxes. As the song goes, it’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and the business day may end for us shortly before sunset, but in some parts of the world, it’s just getting started. There are also lots of college and high school kids wanting to get that report finished.

Probably the most interesting job came from Showgirl. The establishment wanted a 40-foot banner with 8x11 inch pictures of showgirls on it. With most of the girls not clothed, it’s not the kind of job you’d want to take in during business hours. Also, late at night, most people are asleep and the rush of the business day is avoided.

Sterling adds some of the bigger jobs at night involve litigation -- thousands of pages have to be copied and collated in the exact order. As someone who used to do that kind of job, I can tell you it’s a task that is best handled without any interruptions.

“You can’t miss anything, because it could cause problems,” says Sterling. “I don’t get too many of them.”

Businesses open all night sometimes face people who are there to make trouble, or who have no place else to go. Sterling says when he worked at a Kinko’s in Denver, he had a lot of problems with homeless coming in, but that isn’t the case in Fort Wayne.

One north side grocery store worker does have to deal with problem cases: drunks and people who try to return things they don’t have receipts for.

“The ones that harass us and give us problems are the drunks,” says the employee, who can’t be identified either by her name or the store she works for according to company policy.

“Some of them will get vulgar,” she adds.

Not all people who shop for groceries late at night are troublesome, though. The employee says some people enjoy being able to shop leisurely. Usually it’s mainly food items or alcohol they purchase.

“One lady who comes in every single day buys bacon, jelly beans or a newspaper,” says the employee. Another regular is an older man who comes in and buys three bottles of tea for his wife every day.

And maybe because of the late hours and the relative quiet, third shift at this particular store is laid back.

“We have no structure,” says the employee, of the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. shift. Things get done, but without a lot of rules.

Pam Reese is one of those lucky third shift workers who actually enjoys the hours and can sleep during the day. She realizes it’s not the same for everyone. “Some people can’t sleep during the day,” says Reese. “Most people don’t get enough sleep while working third.”

Reese though, has filled in during the day when needed, but says she prefers nights.

She’s spent 30 years as an R.N., most of it working nights. And working in the emergency room during the night hours means she sees a variety of people and situations. More people tend to come in after midnight, after dealing with whatever ailment they’ve developed during the day. Reese thinks that’s because people go through their daily routine, and that helps to take their minds off whatever is bothering them. But when they wind down for the day, that’s when they can’t stop thinking about the pain.

The action revolves around certain days of the week and moon phases, believe it or not. Summer brings motorcycle and bike accidents. Major holidays mean suicide attempts. And even the nursing home crowd gets in on the act, but not from alcohol-related incidents.

“They (nursing home residents) get up when they aren’t supposed to and break their hip,” says Reese.

Fresh out of nurse’s training, Reese saw something she didn’t tell her about in school. Some teenagers were brought into Parkview because of drug abuse. They were put on Reese’s wing, which was on the second floor.

”At that time, they put them down there ... next to the nurses station. One of the patients had broken a window and was out there (on the roof) running around.” They eventually got the teenagers corralled, but after that incident, Reese did wonder what exactly she had gotten herself into.

As with the grocery store, Reese says management is more laid-back during the late night hours.

“We still work hard,” she asserts. “There’s not as many interruptions.”

She and her co-workers had formed a group, “The Nite Mares,” who would play baseball and softball when they weren’t working. And Reese confesses to watching E.R. and enjoying it.

”Some of the things that happen on there, happen here (at Parkview) “ she says.

For late night snack attacks, Powers Hamburgers is probably the only restaurant downtown that you can actually walk into and sit down. There are other fast-food establishments, but their dining rooms close while their drive-thrus remain open. For sit down service, Powers is the place.

Tony Buttaro has worked at Powers on Harrison street for nearly two years. His tasks include a lot of prep work for the breakfast hours, making sure the ingredients for “garbage” are in the can (pardon the pun). Buttaro says working third really isn’t that hard, but Friday and Saturday nights, “it gets really crazy in here.” When I first called Buttaro to do this story, he literally had no time to talk. It ended up being a 14-hour day for him.

Regular customers pop in from the Oyster Bar and Nipsco, usually when they get off work. And despite the late hour, and perhaps more than just a couple drinks, Buttaro says he hasn’t had any problems with rowdy drunks.

“They’re all quiet,” says Buttaro, of late night customers. Even when it’s standing room only on the weekends, people don’t fight over places to sit.

“We have no problems over here,” says Buttaro.

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