It’s the most physically demanding, mentally challenging and exhausting kind of social work there is. While the greatest occupational hazards of a lot of my colleagues are the occasional paper cut or the draining hum of overhead florescent lighting, I managed to stab my foot with a rusty roofing nail last week. It was stupid. I’ll admit it. Instead of looking up at the boarded windows of the abandoned school building, I should have been paying attention to the solid ground beneath my feet. The result was a quarter inch incision through my sneaker that quickly provided a sloppy red pool of blood, permanently staining the insole of my Adidas. I was breaking them in for the upcoming kickball season, one of the few things I do to enjoy myself.

It got me thinking about self-care and the all too social worky terms of boundaries and self-awareness. Our hours can suck. We finish up late and all too often we start early, getting called into a morning meeting after being out all night crawling through post-Katrina wreckage, searching for society’s cast-offs.

I’m feeling a certain kinship lately with the air traffic control community. Their exhausting, dynamic and objectionable schedule is the latest headache for the FAA administration as they’ve found their attendant duties have been met with the unfortunate human need for sleep. After almost 13 years tending bar, I feel like I’ve whipped my circadian rhythms into a minor physiological nuisance. However, the mastery of my personal physiological nuances fails to overcome a festering resentment for those whose work schedule is as predictable as a clock and when the hands meet 5 and 12 they whither into their own personal Margaritaville heavens outside the office. We don’t get that. Instead, my real life begins at the rather lonely hour of 2 AM. If I’m finishing up some end of the day stuff, it is not unusual to pilot my scooter into my driveway around 3. It’s not all bad. My commute is a breeze.

What would happen if one wasn’t able to fully recuperate before or after work? Do planes crash? Do feet get stabbed? I don’t know but two years crawling around abandoned buildings has taught me one thing: it’s best to be vigilant, and vigilance is a delicate mental and physical state.

Somewhere right now there is an air traffic controller pulling a graveyard after an 8 hour turn around smiling. He knows how I feel.

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