True Confessions of a Night Shift R.A.

I’ve written an article for Flux Forum, a blog dedicated to those “encountering adulthood.” It details my experience as a Desk Assistant in a university dorm! Check it out!

Photo courtesy of MjZ Photography / Flickr.
Photo courtesy of MjZ Photography / Flickr.

I’m a freshman at the University of Georgia, studying Journalism, and at the beginning of the year I started working in University Housing as a desk assistant. Honestly, I’m super lucky; it’s pretty much the cushiest job on campus. I get to sit at a desk and watch Netflix until I have to respond to a phone call or assist a student that approaches me. It’s a pretty sweet deal, I have to admit.

When I first started, I was so worried I wouldn’t be able to properly assist these kids. But once I got into the swing of things, I remembered: all these kids are lost, just like me. We’re all simply swimming in a sea of confusion and grabbing for any line we can find. I rarely have rude students approach my desk, and they are always understanding if I cannot directly answer their question and have to defer them somewhere else. I wouldn’t say I love my job—honestly, who loves their job?—but I recognize how fortunate I am to have it.

Last semester I worked a bunch of graveyard shifts—being the newbie, it was sort of my punishment of initiation. I worked a hellish shift of 10pm to 5am, every Friday night. Thankfully, this didn’t impede on my nonexistent social life, but it did open my eyes to a few things about my classmates, primarily, a few strange things. Working those hours allowed me to see the worst of people when they drunkenly stumble through the doorway.

My favorite thing is watching an intoxicated student try to find their I.D. and input their PIN code to open the lobby door. It sounds awful, but I’m honestly not allowed to help them! So why not enjoy the show? Through this experience I’ve collected a few little stories about my residents and their goings-on at the wee hours of the morning. Here are some of my favorites:

  • While working a nine P.M. to midnight, I heard two men in seemingly deep conversation. I wasn’t purposely trying to listen in, but under the murmurs suddenly I overhear: “Dude, are tampons gay?”
  • And I quote from my Facebook, these being my thoughts in a sleepy haze:

It is 10:21pm and the lobby smells like a grilled-cheese sandwich. It is 10:21pm and I now desperately want a grilled-cheese sandwich.

  • Working as a DA, A Short Dialogue:
    Me: Look, I just got a call from a girl in [blank] Hall, and she said she smelled a “weird smell” on her floor.
    RA: …okay, did she say what it smelled like?
    Me: I have no idea, it just smelled “wrong.” It’s on the second floor, on the short side.
    RA: how long has she been in the dorm?
    Me: She just got there and smelled it, I think.
    RA: A weird smell.
    Me: …yes. It smells weird up there.
    RA: Is she gonna come meet me and tell me where it is?
    Me: …she told me it was on the short side of the second floor. Near 201.
    RA: This weird smell.
    Me: …yeah. I just told her I’d send someone.
    RA: *sigh* okay, I’ll go check it out.

All in front of my boss, just hearing me say “weird smell” over and over. (Just in case you were curious, the “smell” was marijuana, which I am amazed that by college someone doesn’t know what that smells like enough to not rat out their hall-mate.)

  • A haiku of 3am:

You smell of booze and Monster.

You will have a heart attack,

But not on my shift.

  • I’ve discovered I cannot understand English after four in the morning, so I had to profusely apologize to every person I helped because they had to repeat themselves countless times for me to give them the proper assistance.
  • I had a kid ask me to check him out a temporary key, as he’d forgotten his in his room. Of course this was no problem, but when I asked him for his student ID card so I could verify his room number, he yanked it out of his pocket and tossed it on the desk four inches in front of me. While my hand was clearly out. We had an awkward-but-intense staring match upon this act, as I figured a kid of this age would have learned to show some respect to people in the service industry. I was so tempted to give him the wrong key, but alas, I simply wanted his face away from my desk.

I know it sounds like I despise my job, but it’s honestly the most entertaining on campus. It’s not difficult, I can be academically productive, and I get to meet a slew of interesting people. My boss is amazing, and the majority of my coworkers are fabulous (we don’t need to get into the few who lack my affections.) Working for the university is a very unique experience I would definitely recommend to anyone, as it’s a less stressful way to build a resume and the closest employment you’ll find. Out of all the jobs I’ve had it’s undoubtedly the best, even if some mornings I have to wake up at 5:30AM. If nothing else I get some interesting stories to tell.

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