The Graveyard Shift is a series chronicling how professionals with some of the strangest hours get their rest.
Elle Ferik works as a server at a busy, club-like restaurant in New York City that is frequented by celebrities and was named by Instagram as one of the most Instagrammed restaurants in the United States. Ferik works long hours and double shifts, sometimes staying there hours after the restaurant closes at 1 AM. She told Motherboard about the struggles of waitressing after dark, when she finds time to sleep, and how she can't wait to leave the job behind.
MOTHERBOARD: How long have you been waitressing?
Ferik: Seven years, one year at this restaurant.
What does a typical work week look like for you?
My work week starts Thursday and goes to Tuesday. I usually work from 3:30 PM to 1 or 2 AM but sometimes I get out at 3 AM.
How does this job affect your sleep?
In every way possible, because I have to be there late and sometimes have to work in the morning at 11 AM, and I will be so tired that I have to take a nap, then I'll be up late and have to work the next day at 3:30, and I could sleep until then, so it makes me nocturnal.
Do you have trouble sleeping? Do you have a routine before you go to sleep?
No, not really, I just pass out. It's really hard on your body. I take Xanax or smoke weed if I have trouble sleeping but I usually don't.
People that I date see me as a booty call because I can only hang out at weird hours.
Has having weird hours affected your social life?
Kind of, because normal people have different hours from me. I feel like I'd have a boyfriend if I didn't get off so late, but people that I date see me as a booty call because I can only hang out at weird hours.
Also my friends go out on the weekends but my weekend is technically Tuesday night, so that is my only day to have a night out and I have to try to get friends to come out with me then.
Do you think it's affected your dating life the most?
Yeah because most people I want to be with have normal jobs from 9-5 and there would be no time for me. It also makes me look like I'm immature or not successful because I'm not doing what I actually want to do and people don't take me seriously.
When you aren't working do you have to readjust to normal hours?
Yeah, and it takes me awhile and it is kind of depressing too because you have to force yourself not to do some things and you miss out on a lot. Like when I visit my family I have to sleep for a whole day to catch up and I miss a lot. Or I force myself to stay awake and I feel terrible.
Have you noticed different clientele at your work at night compared to day shifts?
During the day it's a lot of business people and during the night it's a lot of tacky, trashy people who go there for the picture and they don't want to spend money even though it's a very pricy restaurant. They try to get things for free.
What's the weirdest thing you've seen happen on a night shift?
I've seen two tables of people get in a giant fist fight. Once a couple started having sex in a booth before we closed.
What would you say the biggest way your job affects your life?
For me I have to have consistency to feel normal and the worst part of this job is that it's so inconsistent, and every day is so different, and it's frustrating and it makes it so that I can't do what I actually want to do.
What do you actually want to do? Are you hoping to leave the restaurant industry someday?
Yes, very soon. I want to be a writer and producer with my own production company. But for now, it's good money.
You'll Sleep When You're Dead is Motherboard's exploration of the future of sleep. Read more stories.