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Floating at night

We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s like the difference between night and day.” The term is used to draw extreme contrast. How much different is our experience of nighttime and daytime? How does it affect how we live? How we work? How we interact with our environment?

Every known being with 2 or more cells has an internal clock, and us humans have one that’s important to many aspects of our life. Left to natural evolutionary means, we exhibit a bimodal sleep pattern: we sleep in multiple segments a night (usually from 8pm-2am and again from 2am-sunrise). Due to artificial lighting, work “shifts” and our ever stimulating surrounding, we have broken that mold.

Throughout my experience working in retail, and at Float on, I have worked every possible shift allotment. In this post, I’ll speak specifically about my experience at Float On – the contrasts, and the similarities.

Coming out of a float into the night

People are usually very surprised when I tell them that we are open 24 hours a day, or that we do indeed have people come in to float at 2am. Then, just to see their eyes get a little wider, I inform them that the 2am floats are twice as long as the 90-minute daytime floats. What kind of person floats at 2am? In my observation it’s the same cast of diverse characters that you would see any other time of the day. But there are some patterns I have noticed.  

For some, 2am is the only free time they have. There is a regular floater who is a nurse by trade. She will get up at 1am, be at Float On  by 2am, be done with her float by 4:45am, and then go directly to work.  Some people do it because nights are when we run longer floats. Some people are in town for a day or two and will take any time slot you give them.  

Slowly emerging out of a float tank at 4:45am has a special quality to it. You walk out into the lobby and it is nearly silent, with the light bustling of an employee wrapping up the overnights tasks.  The air is crisp, the town is barren. The sun is just barely beginning to poke it’s head out on the horizon (depending on the time of year), and you now have the fresh day to conquer with the power of a 2 ½ hour float gliding you along.

As an employee, the experience is a little different. They say 4am is the worst time, and on more than few instances it held true. Whether you are trying to convince a group of drunks to speak more quietly in the shop, kindly asking the irate homeless fellow to leave, or hollering at the local punk to stop spraying graffiti on the building across the street.  Beyond that, if you have the constitution and will  to work the graveyard shift, there is an immense tranquillity and calm in the air. You are left with twice as much time between each transition to complete duties, talk with just-out floaters, and just be.

During an overnight shift, efficient use of energy is key.  Finding your flow and staying in good communication with earlier shifts can do wonders for ease of work and task management. The main use of energy is stored in the last hour or two. Usually after 8 hours of work in the middle of the night, one feels ready to be done, just imagining what bed will be like. But in this case, when the last floaters are clearing out it is your time to shine.

Once the night turns into day, the flavor of the experience changes with it.  When the day gets revved up the phones start ringing, people visit the shop, orders arrive, gift cards get sold, tasks start generating. During the night shift, these regular business tasks are practically non-existent.

Whether it is 4am or 4pm, working in a float shop has a rather magical feeling to it that is beyond time and beyond label.  Knowing that mere feet away several people are existing in their own personal ocean and unencumbered by daily trivialities… there is something great happening here.

Floating during the day