I've just had a week off*
I was coming off my first set of night shifts in some time, I've been burning my annual leave allowance to avoid doing them and it's been a right trauma trying to reset my body-clock back to day shifts.
Winter is approaching, and with it my Seasonal Affective Disorder. During this week off I've been unable to be motivated about anything – I've been sleeping between nine and eleven hours a day and I've been alternating between not eating and binge eating. There are other symptoms, but you don't want to read me moaning.
So I've dusted down my SAD light and checked that the bulb still works – time to start blasting myself in the face with it.
I hate this time of year.
The problem is that you have to be careful not to let it affect your work – it's incredibly easy to start snapping at people, and that way leads to written complaints and warnings from those above me in the LAS pecking order.
It's been said that over half the complaints against our service are due to 'attitude', so as the nights draw in I try and be a bit more mindful of what I say and do and of the way I present myself.
Of course it doesn't always work; take the drunk who was asleep in the street. We were getting run ragged and this was the third person of the night who'd decided that going home wasn't for him, instead he'd just kip down in the middle of the pavement.
Be aware that it's only around seven in the evening.
So we parked next to him and I deployed the 'diagnostic boot'**. Essentially it's not a good idea to kneel down next to someone who is drunk, you never know if they are going to take a swing at you. If the person doesn't wake up to me shouting at them, I gently kick the sole of their shoe with my boot, not with the purpose of hurting them, but just to shake them awake.
Sure enough he woke up and I introduced myself and asked if he was alright.
I informed him that he couldn't sleep on the pavement, someone might trip over him.
I let him know that if he kept sleeping here we, or our colleagues, would keep being called to him as a 'unconscious male, caller refusing to approach'.
I asked him if he would like to go to hospital, it was less than 200 yards away.
'Fuck off!', he then spat a gobbet of drool at me.
'No', I replied through gritted teeth, 'You don't get to tell me to “fuck off” four times and then spit at me. If you don't 'fuck off' yourself I'll get the police down here to have you nicked. And they are a lot less pleasant than me – but I would guess you know that already'.
At this he got up and wandered home.
I am, after all, only human and I don't get paid to have drunks swearing and spitting at me.
The trick, is to not lose my temper when it's a cold and dark February evening and turn the 'diagnostic boot' into the 'your head is a football, you annoying twerp boot'.
*I'm typing this while manning ORG's stall at the Green Party conference. I really like being able to write things in advance – comes in handy for the twelve hour stretches.
** Before I start getting emails of complaint, I was told to do this at our 'self defence' course. I didn't have the heart to tell the course leader that we'd all been doing this for years.