Soundtrack to the Night Shift

City life at night time

4 pm: I finish my internship and catch the tram home in time for Pointless. I make dinner and a tea. I watch the news and I play a game on my laptop. I make a note of the uni work I need to complete, a job for after tomorrow’s breakfast. Tomorrow is Thursday and a proper day off; I will spend it writing, editing and relaxing. But for now it’s already 8pm, so I descend the stairs to my ground level bedroom. I read, then turn on an episode of the Sleep With Me podcast which sends me off…

11 pm: My alarm rings, and I put on a comfortable pair of jeans and my sneakers with the dirty laces. It’s warm tonight, but come winter I will layer with my favourite jumper and a windproof jacket. I open the garage door, turn on my bike lights and put my headphones on. Tonight, I listen to Julia Jacklin’s new album, Crushing, which strikes that delicate balance between night time atmosphere and emotionally-stimulating lyricism that I crave on my night rides. Last week I listened to Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy’s solo release Together At Last, a collection of stark acoustic renditions of Tweedy’s songs. These albums, full of sparse but complex instrumentation, keep me company as I ride down the backstreets of Melbourne’s suburban north. The cars are few and far between at this time of night, and my quiet music allows me to keep track of any wayward vehicles. As I meet the Capital City Trail, Julia starts singing about a dying relative and any feeling of self-pity evaporates into the night.

12 am: I arrive at work, where I restock the shelves of a supermarket. The store has just closed – the last customers were shooed out by a weary security guard–and I put on my headphones and press play on my latest podcast discovery. I have stumbled upon a podcast called The Hit Parade, presented by Chris Molanphy, a music critic and ‘chart historian.’ Each episode dives into a particular moment on the American popular music chart the Billboard Hot 100, and tonight we are journeying to 1986 and the rise of Bon Jovi. It’s pure heaven for a music and trivia nerd like myself, delving into the history and circumstances that propelled a certain band to number one. It’s in-depth, long-form podcasts like this that get me through these late nights putting jars of instant coffee next to other jars of instant coffee.

2:30 am: I have just returned from my 15-minute break, where I ate deformed cookies as ABC News 24 gurgled in the background. Tonight, like all Wednesday nights, an episode of Josh Earl’s Don’t You Know Who I Am podcast is released, which I listen to next. The show consists of Earl asking personal questions of his four comedian guests and plays a lot like an episode of Would I Lie To You? Funny people telling funny stories. I chuckle madly to myself as I push a cereal-filled crate down Aisle 1. This freedom to work quietly and independently is what I love about this job. Driven out of hospitality by the unstable conditions and illegal pay, night-fill is easy and low-maintenance, and despite the unsociable hours, I am able to balance studying a Masters degree, completing an internship and maintain a fairly active (if frugal) social life. Podcasts are the sugar in my break room instant coffee.

5 am: The ride home from work is 20 minutes at this time of night. Podcasts are reserved for work; comfort albums are for the ride home. Tonight, I listen to Frank Ocean’s Blond(e), an album that I return to when I feel reflective or ponderous. These night rides home often bring out these feelings. The journey takes me past the bakeries on Nicholson Street, spilling their bakery smells into the air. Sometimes a tram trundles past, carrying one or two weary travellers home. By the time I cross the Merri the sun is often rising, although now we are heading into winter the moon has remained up. I round the corner into my street as Frank sings in a pitched voice about every night fucking the day up, and dodge the trucks that assemble outside the industrial cleaners. I wheel the bike into the garage, pad quietly up the stairs, and make myself a chai. Rituals like this, listening to music, and reading my book, allow me to craft some kind of normalcy in my interrupted life. Tonight, I’ve struck the balance.

Photo by Mat Kedzia from Pexels

Hal Parker Langley is a student, writer, shelf-stacker, broadcaster and intern. He is a big fan of naps.

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