Giving New Meaning To The Graveyard Shift

, , , , , , , | Working | March 26, 2018

This incident took place in 1973. I was employed at the time as an answering service operator in a small answering service located in the downtown area. I was also attending the local university, and this job fit in well, because I could work swing and graveyard shifts. This incident took place on a Sunday, early in the morning.

The answering service I worked at had two units in a small office building on the first floor: the answering service office, and behind it, the switchboard room. We had four PBX work stations, each station with 80 accounts. The switchboard room was situated at the back of the building and faced a narrow alley. Outside the switchboard room, at the end of the hallway, was a back door that led to the alley. On weekends and after hours — 6:00 pm to 8:00 am — this was the only way to enter or exit work.

On this Sunday, I was the day shift relief for the graveyard operator. I was working overtime that Sunday. Part of the “benefit” for working overtime on a Sunday was that the covered parking — only four spaces — in the alley was available.

I parked my car in the covered parking, and then walked over to the back door and knocked to let the graveyard operator know that I was there to relieve her.

I knocked for one minute. No answer. I moved away from the door and stepped to the left a few paces. There was a “transom” window set high in the back wall of the switchboard room, and it was open. So, I yelled out that I was back there, waiting to be let in.

No answer.

I went and got my car, and parked alongside the back wall. Then, I climbed onto the trunk, and then up onto the hood. I could just barely see into the switchboard room. There was no one inside. I yelled some more and then climbed back down and honked my car horn

Now I was very concerned. I drove over to the nearest payphone down the block (no cell phones in those days), as I had the phone number for the office manager. I explained what was going on. I told her I was going to call the police, and she said was going to contact the owner of the building to have someone respond with a key.

The police showed up. If I remember correctly, they had the fire department make entry into the building. Around the corner from the answering service office was the first floor bathroom. My coworker was found inside, passed out from an overdose, with her baby inside the stroller next to her.

Fortunately, she survived the overdose, but she was immediately fired. She was only 19 or 20 and had taken the job because she would be working graveyard, and could have her baby with her.

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