Jeff Sharlet scrolls through #nightshift pictures on Instragram:
There are the warehouse workers who snap themselves letting a wisp of marijuana smoke slip from between their lips, little Instagram rebellions. There are the soldiers and sailors pulling a night shift for no good reason other than orders, photographing themselves and their comrades on the verge of sleep or already under. Cops in noirish black and white, their pictures framed to show a bit of badge. And nurses. A lot of nurses. Close-up, arm’s length, forced smiles, dead eyes. Scroll through #nightshift, and you’ll see some saints among them and some whose hands you hope will be more alive in an emergency than their ashen faces.
The #nightshift hashtag is especially well populated by the armed professions and the healing ones. Sometimes they are almost one and the same, as in the case of @armedmedic3153, a.k.a. Marcelo Aguirre, a paramedic in Newark and suburban New Jersey. He owns an AR-15, a 9-millimeter and a shotgun, but the only thing he shoots on the night shift is his camera. He works nights so he can study days; he wants to be a doctor. Nights are good preparation for that: You get more serious cases. You learn on the job. A 12-hour course each night you’re on. Twenty-four hours if you take a double. After a while, the adrenaline that juices you when you’re new — when you’re still keeping a tally of the lives you’ve saved — disappears. You just do the job. “High speed and low drag,” Aguirre told me when I called. “Please ignore the siren,” he said. “We’re going to a call.” A stroke. Nothing to get excited about. Coffee sustains him. He stays clean. Some guys, he said, use Provigil, but that’s prescribed. “For shift-work disorder,” he said.