The laid back Key West lifestyle is a rare and precious commodity, reserved for those with special attributes. I'm not sure if that attribute is genetic, inasmuch as some people are laid back by nature, and I'm guessing there are a few of them in Kiev right now idly watching the Molotov cocktails fly. Perhaps wealth has something to do with it; life in Key West, adapting an English saying about life itself, is like a turd sandwich: the more bread you have, the less shit you eat. But that's always true isn't it? So here's the thing: how is it I get to have time off in the middle of a weekday to dirt at the beach and watch kayakers paddle by on their meager vacation time?
It's because I work at night of course! I appreciate my topsy turvy schedule more than ever since I spent the last Dix months working days. I used to sit in the dispatch center looking out at the sunshine, and then I only got to leave the building as the sun went down. It was almost like a game: could I get out into the fresh air before it got dark. I usually lost. Then I got back on night shift and my life fell back into the proper order of things. Dropping off the Vespa for a tune up became a simple matter of tiding in, taking the bus home and still I had time to work out at home before leaving for work! And Jiri, my trusted Czech mechanic, still had time to exchange a few pleasantries with me. We share a shy misplaced nostalgia for the good bits about our different yet similar European childhoods- and motorcycles.
I even like the ride in at night. I had a short overtime shift and riding the Bonneville through the night on the road propped between the shining moonlit waters is the best way to start and end a shift. And getting 43 miles to each gallon isn't so bad either.
There is something in my own genetic make up that allows me yo switch sleep patterns depending on my work schedule and when I sleep I pass out. If I ever suffer from insomnia there is a direct cause, a worry nagging at my mind. My wife who is a light sleeper is envious of my sleep habits. My dog is happy to have me back on nights. She did not like my day shift schedule one bit and she is at last getting used to me coming home at a civilized hour, around 6:40am.
We get to walk together on day shift, watching people coming to and going from work, people wobbling by on rental bicycles enjoying a slice of paradise under a winter sun.
The city is packed too, the highway a constant stream of Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee, Québec, and Ontario tags. I take an extra ten minutes in the evening to allow for a relaxed commute as the stream of visitors rolls slowly across the bridges over the teal sun speckled waters looking for paradise. And it's there all tight, every stereotypical button pushed. Palms? Check! Salt water? Check! Sailboat? Check!
I don't mind working my way through the night, I enjoy it, being awake when they are abed. My home is my refuge during the day, my neighbors at work, my dog snoring, the sun shining, stories of ice storms on the iPad filtered by people who talk of an endless winter.
The thing is I love it here even in the summer when the people around me complain of the heat. I ride through the night sweating, and sometimes I freeze when I arrive at work, the air conditioning cranking dementedly in an effort to keep the radio, telephone and computer equipment cool. It's crazy but the computers will overheat, banks of flashing green lights, fans whirring, unless we keep them cool. I love the heat, not sitting in a chair all night because if the air breaks we sit and sweat while the emergency units blows cold air on our blinking green lights in their little room. But I love stepping out in the morning and feeling the heat. I live it like so many people like the hard bar stools and gloomy lights and expensive drinks that are the allure for so many to Key West. Me? It's the heat and endless sun. Outside Don's Place a tricycle that will keep its rider upright no matter what. Ideal you'd think.
You can live and hold fine three jobs, live as one of the fifty percent without health insurance because buying insurance cuts into the beer allocation and besides when you're young you don't get sick. Do you? Deliver sandwiches by scooter, work as a beer back, janitor some store and crash on a couch. Key West is paradise, riding in the February sun.
I overheard two young girls talking about college. This place, one said to the other, would be beyond awesome if there was a school here. They pedaled off to explore paradise. I watched a buff pair of carefully plucked eyebrows saunter out of the gym on Truman, and his gaze caught the headline in the newspaper box:
Remains found in woods ID'd
The skeletal remains found Sunday in a wooded area off College Road on Stock Island were identified Wednesday as those of 53-year-old William Brian Norton of Naples.
Monroe County Medical Examiner Dr. E. Hunt Scheuerman used dental records after sheriff's office detectives reached Norton's family, who then put him in contact with one of Norton's former dentists.
Yes, I said to myself as we set off for Boca Chica Beach to read the full story in my own paper, fully paid for, at the water's edge. That's exactly what night shift in paradise is: beyond awesome.