There is something insidious about the morning rush. The invasion of headlights coming into view on the crest of a small hill on the edge of the highway, bring a battalion of early commuters arming themselves for the work day with gasoline, cigarettes, coffee, newspapers, energy drinks and lottery tickets. Constant chirping of the door alarm, the beeps and dings of the POS machine and gas pumps pervade the morning air that was so stiflingly quiet no more than an hour ago. With the change machine filled, the trash emptied, all the coffee pots on, the roller grill stocked and the counters clean, I stand behind the register fending off the onslaught. The last two hours of my shift end abruptly as if they were mere minutes. At around five, I resign to my post and abandon hope of completing the rest of the night’s tasks, desperately wishing I had back those hours I spent procrastinating in the beginning of my shift.
The rest of the world wakes when the sun starts to lighten the eastern horizon; I trek home across the parking lot and jump the gully into the housing complex, mentally preparing myself for the next battle- sleep. Even with the new airbed, the bustle of activity behind the counter, the mad cashier dance of exchanging change and pleasantries leaves me too wired to immediately retire. Even in my dreams, it seems, the sanctity of sleep escapes me.
Clown cars of customers cram my unconsciousness. “You can’t reach me here,” I try to remind my sleep self. Unfortunately, it’s too late, they’ve invaded my bedroom and impatiently wait for the jumbo dogs and polish sausages to cook. Hoards of commuters stand outside their cars with nozzles hooked to gas tanks, but no one is there to activate the pumps, so they just beep and beep and beep. Once, I found myself standing in the middle of my room with my arm raised at the ready, “pump one…” I muttered and woke myself up. I’ve even tried to ID the cat when he wanted in. These phantom episodes of customer service riddled my subconscious for weeks until they came to a particularly gruesome head…
Continued in Dark Days on the Dixie Highway: Diary of a Third Shift Zombie