Night Of The Working Dead

| Arizona, USA | Working | January 15, 2013

(I’m calling into a very busy local restaurant to place a large pick up order. It takes a few rings, which is not unusual considering their volume, but when the line picks up instead of the usual greeting I hear a very strange sounding and confused voice.)

Employee: “One, twooo, threee… four, fiiive… um… seven?”

(Trails off and is silent for a moment.)

Me: “Uh… hello?”

Employee: “Hello? Helloooo? Uh… thank you for calling… calling [business name]. How can I help you?”

(I recognize her as the girl who usually handles our orders. In the past, her performance has always been exemplary and she’s always a total sweetheart.)

Me: “Are you okay? What was that just now?”

Employee: “What? I… I’m not sure. What was I saying?”

Me: “You just answered the phone and started counting out loud.”

Employee: “Huh? Really? Wow, I’m sorry. I’ve been working a second job at [another very busy restaurant] and I haven’t been getting any sleep lately. I guess my brain wasn’t working so I was just making sounds. I’m… I’m so tired…”

Me: “Oh my goodness, you don’t sound very good. How much sleep are you getting?”

Employee: “I don’t know. I have to get up at 4 am to come here and open, and then I go to my other job at [busy Asian food place nearby] and close there, so I get home around midnight at the end of the day.”

Me: “Wow, that’s rough! It’s no problem… I’d be out of it too if I slept less than four hours a night.”

Employee: “Mmmmmmm, I think I could manage on four hours. But even though I’m so tired all I can think about is going to bed, I’m so stressed out I feel really sick and can’t sleep. If I drift off for a little bit, I jolt awake feeling all freaked out. I think I get around an hour, maybe less. I have to cover up the clock.”

(She takes my order with some difficulty, and I feel really bad for her. Later on when I go in to pick it up, I ask if the employee is around. I find her in the dining area, staring off into space. She is as pale as death and looks like a complete zombie.)

Me: “Hey, how are you doing?”

(The employee stares at me for several moments, swaying slightly from side to side, looking like she is struggling to form a response.)

Employee: “Hi welcome to… thank you for calling…”

(She breaks off and her face suddenly goes blank in mid-sentence before going back into zombie mode. I wave my hand in front of her face.)

Me: “Hello? Are you alright?”

(I check her; she is ice cold and apparently unconscious. One of the other customers sitting nearby scoffs.)

Other Customer: “Don’t bother asking her for help, that girl is a complete moron. She’s probably strung out on drugs or something. Just look at her!”

(One of the managers quickly comes over, acting nervous.)

Manager: “Sorry, she’s not on duty right now. We sent her on break to drink some coffee. Did you need help with something?”

Me: “Ma’am, I’m worried about your employee. I’m not a doctor, but I think she’s suffering from some serious sleep deprivation. She needs some time off to recover.”

Manager: “Yeah, she microwaved a soup with the metal spoon still in it earlier today and she just stared at it. She’s started acting like this ever since she took another job a few weeks ago. She used to do a great job, but I don’t think she can handle it. I’m probably going to send her home.”

Me: “Uh, I’m not sure she’s in any state to get home by herself. Look at her: I think she blacked out a moment ago.”

Manager: “What?! Oh no!”

(After a little shaking, the employee comes to and whimpers and cries a little bit. She has to be helped to her feet by two other employees and helped to the back. They call her emergency contact number and one of her family members comes in to drive her home. After I pay and leave, I walk into the other restaurant nearby and tell the manager there what happened and that she would need the evening off. Unlike the other manager, he acts like a real jerk about it. About a week later I come back to the cafe and see the girl working there, looking back to her old self. She thanked me and told me that it had been an absolute nightmare, but because myself and a few other concerned regulars talked to her boss, she was given a week off to recover. Her other job called her to let her know she was fired, but it came as a huge relief. She was able to spend the whole week relaxing in bed!)

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