The graveyard shift

Jenna Gerling

While the campus slumbers, a few dedicated students are hard at work

Josh Coles sips his coffee in order to stay awake for the night shift from midnight to 4 a.m. at the Tri-Towers front desk.

Photos by Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: Ron Soltys

He sits in his apartment on an old, worn blue loveseat with a dirty sheet covering the cushions. His ankles are crossed and propped up on a coffee table that is littered with old Miller Highlife cans and ashtrays. In his apartment, he waits to work the shift he’s been covering for more than a semester now at the Tri-Towers main desk, the one that starts at midnight and ends at 4 a.m.

Senior biological anthropology major Josh Coles rolls another cigarette with Balishag loose tobacco, carefully and methodically.

“On nights whenever I don’t work, I don’t even go to bed until like 4 a.m. anyways.”

Coles takes a deep drag from his cigarette, loose tobacco ignites and some leaves fall onto his lap. “I sleep for like five hours at a time and take lots of naps during the day. It’s not bad for me anyways, working the graveyard shift, because I don’t really sleep anyways. It doesn’t matter,” he said. “Actually, I’m hardly ever tired.”

Some people keep moving and working when the world is asleep; some Kent State students have had their social lives, sleeping schedules and academic lives altered in order to work their graveyard shifts.

Night owls

At Coles’ apartment, a ferret naps in its cage. Resting on top of the ferret pen lives a nocturnal hedgehog; it runs around in circles, stir-crazy from its plastic prison. On the opposite side of the room, a fat-tailed gecko creeps out from its ceramic cave and wakes to its warming lamp.

Much like his animals, Coles spends some of his time awake when most are sleeping, and sleeping when most are awake. But the nocturnal lifestyle seems to suit him.

“I don’t like working during the day shifts,” (Snubbing out the smoke and lit tobacco, he punches the butt into a black painted ashtray which sat on the arm of his chair). “At night there’s a lot less people, but it has a downside too because on weekends there’s a lot of drunk annoying people . At night there aren’t any jobs to do except sit around and give keys to people whenever they’re locked out.”

Aside from Coles’ side jobs — assigning temp keys, sorting mail and answering phones — he tries to keep alert during the earlier hours of the day by staying busy.

“At work, when I’m not doing my homework, I just turn the music up a bit, watch a movie, or draw on Microsoft Paint. It’s a rough shift because you rarely do have a second person there with you on night shifts.”

Coles rushes to put his coat on, laces up his shoes and mumbles, “I have to hurry.” The clock reads 11:57 p.m.

Tri-Towers main desk

After clocking in, Coles goes to the computer and begins taking phone calls from resident assistants, announcing their rounds. Coles answers “Okie dokie” to most of the calls before hanging up heavily.

Already, people approach the desk needing keys. Coles, who doesn’t try to hide his boredom, reacts without enthusiasm to everyone in need of his assistance.

One of the more important events at the Tri-Towers dormitories was when a camera was found in a soap dispenser in Koonce. Coles said he was there for some of that dramatic day, and the days after.

“A bunch of girls came down that were worried about it. I just remember a whole bunch of parents were calling and stuff,” he said, eyes glazed over from the glare of the computer screen. “They wanted a bunch of answers that we couldn’t give. They were just all worried about their daughters.

At the Tri-desk computers, dozens of Microsoft Word Paint pictures can be found. The desktop background on one of them is of a giant brown bun with sharp teeth and narrowed eyes. It stares down a representation of Earth. On top, it has “Burgerpocolypse” written in red wavy letters.

“I think I’m going to buy Scrabble some night instead of doing homework,” Coles laughs as he plays with the computer with the Kenny Chesney mouse pad.


At Eastway around 12:30 a.m., a few straggling students sit on the couches in the lounge, talking and laughing loudly. Newspapers and Styrofoam boxes accompanied by knocked-over red Coke cups litter tables, floors and couches.

Down the hall, keys can be heard jangling from junior political science major Bob Hare, a late night janitorial worker. Hare gets his lunch break at 2:30 a.m. during his 10:30 to 7 a.m. shifts.

At work, his dress is like Army garb: His shirt must be neatly tucked into his pants, badge appropriately hooked to his shirt and keys and other assorted objects needed for the job should be hooked to his belt. But Hare said he does this all for a reason.

“All year round — five days a week — I work nights, except for special occasions. I never work day shifts,” he says. “But I go to school for free.”

But the free schooling comes with a cost: From this job his grades have dropped.

“I was on the Dean’s list before I was on this job, but there weren’t enough hours in the day; that’s what it feels like every day — there’s never enough time,” Hare said. “I gotta work for eight and a half hours, I gotta sleep for eight hours, I gotta go to class for two hours, so that leaves five and a half hours to eat, shower, take care of the house and all of that other stuff. So, can’t study — it’s just a time kick.”

Last year Hare worked in the Library instead of Eastway, where the dirty secrets of the building were hidden in its basement instead of its closets.

“This all pre-exists me, but I know that in the basement of the Library, there’s a lot of notes written, graffiti on the walls down there where people write, ‘be here at such and such a time,’ and about two years ago, there were glory holes down there,” Hare said.

He said people would take drills down after the library was closed and drill through the stall doors. After a battle between drillers and maintenance, the decision was to finally weld two-inch steel plates on either side of the stalls.

Even though this happened before he was hired at the library, he was around for extensive detail cleaning of the restrooms in the summer.

“Not to get too graphic, but one of the projects was you had to clean the semen off the walls in the men’s room in the basement. Even after all the holes are covered up, people are doing that on the side of the wall.”

When Hare started the late shift at the library, he said for the first few weeks of working, caffeine was really helpful, but since he has been doing this job for over a year he is so used to the night he doesn’t need it.

“Between 4 and about 6 a.m. every night — it doesn’t matter how much sleep you got the day before, your body wants to shut down,” he said. “That is the point of no return for your body; 6 a.m. is when the sun comes out, and your body restarts because it’s the beginning of a new day. It’s terrible.”

Hattie Larlham Center for Children with Disabilities

Sophomore exploratory major Shawn Schobinger works the third shift at Hattie Larlham Center for Children with Disabilities in Mantua, to which she commutes four days a week.

“At first I was their Hattie Helper, where I’d do their laundry and help the Habilitation Assistants,” Schobinger said. “But then I found out the HA factor, actually taking care of the kids, wasn’t so bad, so then I became an HA.”

Schobinger said during her shift, she is responsible for changing the kids at 12, 2 and 4 a.m., and then sleep checks every half hour.

“The best part about the job is the kids, because when they’re awake, I like to play with them,” she said. “I talk to them and you can play with them and try to tickle them and make them laugh. I tickle them because when they laugh they’re funny.”

But she said she doesn’t think these are the only perks of the job. She said working the third shift is fine with her school schedule. Her grades have not suffered because of the job, because she is able to work the times around school and tests. But it is not so easy when it comes to her social life.

“My social life is difficult because I’m always sleeping,” she said. “I try to hang out with my friends as much as I can, but it’s hard because I have classes Tuesdays and Thursdays during the week, and the best time for me to work is on the weekends and that’s when we all go out.

“But besides the social aspect, it works out best for my schedule because I can have the rest of the day off. It sucks because I usually sleep until 11, but then I have the rest of the day to study or run my errands on my days off,” Schobinger said. “If I have stuff to do I try to get up at 11 so I don’t feel like I wasted my whole day.”

Contact features correspondent Jenna Gerling at [email protected].