Working the Night Shift

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While the rest of us sleep, they toil … and keep Oklahoma fed, safe, healthy, hydrated, protected and operational. Defying circadian rhythms common to most in the daylight world, thousands of Oklahomans make their livings on the night shift. Being a night owl helps, but why these workers labor in the wee hours of the morning are as varied as their jobs. Some prefer the family benefits, atmosphere or extra pay often accompanying night work. Others enjoy that they can spend daylight hours outside instead of cooped up at a workplace. Regardless, as one worker says, the night shift is “a whole different beast.” Here are nine of their stories.

Stephanie Wagner

Photo by Chris Humphrey Photographer

Firefighter – Owasso

As driver and operator for Fire Station No. 2, Wagner supervises all fire suppression and rescue equipment. “The driver is the caretaker of the crew.” Before joining the Owasso force seven years ago, Wagner was a Tulsa paramedic. “I often saw how much [firefighters] enjoyed their jobs … and I wanted to be part of that environment.” Working overnight has had family benefits, too. “My children have learned to depend on both parents, not just one.”

Susan Whisenhunt Luster

Photo by Charlie Rosenthal

Nurse – Tulsa

In the float pool at Oklahoma State University Medical Center, Whisenhunt Luster enjoys wearing many hats in “different areas with different experiences each night. Nights are less chaotic, so … I can do more patient care and spend less time organizing their time because [daytime] patients go for testing, dialysis, evaluations or physical therapy.” She began working nights so that her children, now late teens, could avoid going to day care. Plus, “I’ve always been a night owl.”

Diamond Dampf

Photo by Mary Beth Ede

Bail bondsman – Tulsa

Dampf delivers the documentation necessary to get Tulsans out of jail in the wee hours of the morning at her mother’s business, Affordable Bail Bonds. The work requires professionalism and is quite demanding, but Dampf understands the perception varies from the reality of the job. “Most people are shocked when they hear I’m a bondsman. Often times, people imagine a bondman’s office as a dark, smokey office with a big guy kicked back at a desk. I don’t fit that description, nor does my office.”

Mark Walkoviak

Photos by Charlie Rosenthal

Grocery manager – Tulsa

The slow pace of overnight customers actually speeds up work for Walkoviak because he always has something to do to get the Reasor’s grocery store at East 15th Street and Lewis Avenue ready for daytime business. “There is little or no downtime, so it doesn’t feel monotonous or mundane.” As a former bartender, he has seen many shenanigans, but “expecting the unexpected still doesn’t prepare you for what can happen overnight. I love off-the-wall encounters.”

Georgina Garcia

Photo by Charlie Rosenthal

Custodial manager – Bixby

Garcia, with Office Express Janitorial Service, keeps all eight of Bixby’s schools “shining so that they can be ready when classes start every day.” Garcia worked her way up through the company because of her dedication, thoroughness and ability to do floor work, “which is rare because that’s almost always performed by men.” Garcia notes that many perceive custodial work as easy, but “it’s not. It’s very detailed and people expect us to be perfect.”

Lamarr Bell

Photo by Brent Fuchs

Convenience store manager – Oklahoma City

Night work for OnCue at Interstate 35 and Southeast 15th Street fits Bell’s lifestyle because “you get your whole day to yourself out in the sunlight.” He also takes day classes at Oklahoma City Community College toward an associate’s degree in business and management. His duties mean “you stay busy the whole night, so the time goes by fast because we clean everything. We even wipe down the gas pumps from head to toe. Also, it’s more money.”

Holly Jones

Photo by Brent Fuchs

Paramedic – Oklahoma City

Overnight brings a combination of excitement and humility to Jones, in her ninth year with EMSA. “I love that I’m the first person who gets to help somebody … when they’re having the worst day of their life. This – just like firefighting, police work, any public service – is a thankless profession. It takes sacrifice and a servant’s heart.” Plus, she gets “an adrenaline rush with every shooting or stabbing. Night shift is a whole different beast.”

Andey DeLesDernier

Photo by Charlie Rosenthal

Club disc jockey – Tulsa

Shutting down night clubs and other performance venues has led DeLesDernier to a host of unusual encounters. “Oh, man, people get drunk and want to talk my ear off while I’m trying to get songs queued up. They can turn nasty really quick if you don’t give them the attention they’re seeking.” But those encounters are just part of a job she loves. “It’s so much fun to provide the soundtrack to someone’s night … and that’s when the best money is made.”

Brett Stewart

Photo by Jordan Garrett courtesy Merritt’s Bakery

Baker – Tulsa

Stewart has worked for 32 of the 38 years that his employer, Merritt’s Bakery, has operated. He relishes the night shift because “most of my hobbies – drone racing, golf, fly fishing – take place outdoors. I’d be sad if I couldn’t spend a little time in the sunshine each day.” Stewart is the production manager and head baker. “I’m fortunate that most of my bakers have been working with me for 10 or more years.”

Photo by Jordan Garrett courtesy Merritt’s Bakery

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