At four in the morning in Ann Arbor, after the bars have all shut their doors and dorm room lights go off one by one, it’s easy to assume that all have settled down for the night.

Design by Katie Cummings
Jake Fromm/Daily
Dameon Holmes prepares bagels for delivery.
Sam Wolson/Daily
Jeremy Raiford, a campus DPS officer.
Marissa McClain/Daily
Cafeteria workers at the Hill Dining Center prepare for breakfast.
Torehan Sharman/Daily
Dave Steiner on the graveyard shift, cleaning the Union.

But amid the darkness, a few solitary lights remain: The florescent lamps of a third floor office in the Michigan Union; the headlights of a white commercial van driving down Washtenaw Avenue, making its way toward the Medical Campus; the pilot light of a large industrial stove in the kitchen of the Hill Dining Center; one flashlight finding its way through the dark basement of the South Quad Residence Hall during a security check; another one identifying the face of a worried driver pulled to the side of the road.

These are the lights of Ann Arbor’s 4 a.m. workforce — the graveyard shift, the midnight mavens. Though their efforts often go unnoticed, they’re the ones who keep campus running when no one else is looking.

These are their stories — the backwards sleep cycle, the compromised social life, the sacrifices made to work a second job to pay one’s way through school. This is the life of the 4 a.m. workforce.

Bagel Delivery Man — by Hannah Wagner

The Westgate Shopping Center, about 3 miles west of the University’s Central Campus, looks dead at 11 p.m. The parking lot is void of cars and eerily quiet. The storefronts of T.J. Maxx, the public library and Nicola’s books are dark, empty and locked. Another tenant, Barry Bagels, is no exception. Inside the unlit bagel store sits a few rows of tidy tables and chairs and a metal rack neatly stocked with bags of chips. The neon sign on the front window is no longer glowing — the power is switched off.

At first glance, the darkness of the early morning hour hides any sign of life. But inside, three employees are hard at work.

Washtenaw Community College student Dameon Holmes, a fulltime bagel delivery man for Barry Bagels — a retail and wholesale bagel store with locations in Ann Arbor and Ohio — is sorting bagels for delivery with Lamar Hopkins, a student at Concordia University, and Jeff Schwerin, the wholesale manager who has worked at Barry Bagels for 17 years.

The three have a long night ahead of them — they work from 11 p.m. until 7 a.m., delivering nearly 7,000 bagels throughout Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities.

They arrive at the store just as the baking crew finishes its nightly production of 546 dozen bagels. Now the bagels have to be separated into groups by destination.

In all, the sorting process takes about four hours and the men work quietly and efficiently. Every so often someone will make an inside joke and the whole crew will emit a hushed chuckle, but then quickly return to work. Despite the quiet, they seem awake and concentrated on their efforts.

After Holmes bags the bagels for his 25-stop delivery route, he loads them into the back of one of the three white vans parked out back and begins his two and a half hour expedition. Holmes delivers bagels to all Ann Arbor locations — University buildings, Alpha Chi Omega sorority, the three downtown Espresso Royale locations and other local cafes. The two others deliver outside the downtown Ann Arbor area.

First stop: the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. Holmes pulls into the circle drive in front of the hospital, turns his hazard lights on and grabs four bags from the trunk. He leaves the van running and hurries through the glass front doors.

After scanning an ID card on a digital reader, Holmes turns a few corners and hops on an elevator. Exiting into a waiting room, Holmes rounds a few more corners and leaves the bags on a long, empty counter.

“The hospital is so quiet at three or four in the morning,” Holmes says. “You’re half awake and you think you’re seeing things. You just try to get in and out.”

Though Holmes says the hospital is by far his most unpleasant stop, he considers many of the others on his route to be just as isolating because they require him to venture into some of the most remote areas of residence hall basements.

Holmes tries to maintain an efficient schedule in an attempt to shorten his nights and avoid long stretches in the empty basements.

“I have a routine where I get in at a certain time and out at a certain time,” he says. “You get on a certain schedule.”

Holmes supplies bagels for all the University residence hall cafeterias, and inside the Mary Markley Residence Hall he encounters his first human interaction since he departed the bagel shop’s parking lot hours earlier.

Setting his bags on a cold cement floor, Holmes surrounds them with red crates to alert the collectors of their location and prevent them from being mistaken as trash. While he does this, a woman peeks out of a set of double doors to say hello.

Holmes doesn’t see many people during his shift, but he says “everybody (I encounter) is friendly because you’re all on third shift,” he says. Third shift is another term for the midnight shift, which, at Barry Bagels, lasts from about 11 p.m. until 7 a.m.

As the early morning wears on, more of the deliveries are collected in person, and Holmes has a short chat with each recipient. The most personal interaction occurs at Washtenaw Dairy.

“The Washtenaw Dairy is sort of a throwback store. It’s my favorite place to deliver,” he says.

The sales manager there, Dave Halman, used to be a police officer and sympathizes with Holmes and other midnight shift workers because, Halman says, he has had many midnight rounds himself.

“I think there’s sort of a connection (between us) because he starts (his day) when I’m wrapping up. He’s been a cop so he knows what we go through,” Holmes says.

Though Holmes’ daily schedule is busy and serves as an obstacle to a normal social life and sleep cycle, he says he finds companionship with other third shift workers. His buddies at the store, various delivery recipients and late night radio keep him motivated, but it’s the routine that has made the work bearable.

“I’m a creature of habit,” he says. “I sleep for about two hours and then I go to class. It took a little while but it’s set now.”

Housing Security Guard — by Emad Ansari

For Jeremy Raiford, the drive home to Canton from Ann Arbor, where he works as a Housing Security officer in the University residence halls, is often bothersome. The sun shining in his eyes is an unwelcome sight at seven in the morning. It’s easy to despise the sun, he says, when you work during the night.

“You feel kind of like a vampire,” Raiford jokes. “It’s natural for your body to want to stay up when there’s sunlight streaming through the windows, so you have to take extra measures to block out the sunlight.”

A graduate of Grand Valley State University with a major in criminal justice, Raiford, 25, joined University Housing Security in the spring of 2008. Having initially aspired to become a lawyer, Raiford soon realized he wanted to work in the field rather than analyze criminal activity from behind a desk.

Most nights, Raiford patrols the residence hall he’s been assigned — making sure the building is secure and responding to emergencies on residential floors. However, some nights Raiford works Central Patrol, providing backup to other officers in the field.

He claims he can usually tell how busy the night is going to be based on the general mood of the students he sees during his patrols.

“If people are dressed to go out,” he says, “it can indicate you might get a few calls later in the night.”
Weaving a path through the dingy, maze-like basements of residence halls has become second nature to Raiford — especially in the South Quad residence hall, where he first received training.

“After a while,” he explains, “you can move through these places in the dark, even without a flashlight.”
There are a few faces among the maintenance and kitchen staffs he has come to recognize. “They become part of the scenery,” he says.

While the initial adjustment to the unusual schedule that accompanies night shifts is difficult, Raiford says the body self-corrects after a while. Though sometimes, he admits, the strange sleep pattern can create some difficult dilemmas.

“You have to decide between sleep and watching football,” Raiford, a lifelong Detroit Lions fan, says with a laugh. “You also get used to really weird food choices, like eating cereal with spaghetti or pizza for breakfast.”
Joking aside, Raiford says the job has put a strain on some of his relationships.

“Your friends will call you when they’re doing something and you find you can’t go because you have to get up at 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. to go to work.”

Weekends, too, often pose a conflict for Raiford because he works Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. His days off are Tuesday and Thursday. “It can be a little lonely at times,” Raiford admits. “That’s when things like Netflix, the Playstation and the television come in handy.”

For Raiford — who considers himself a relatively social person— the most interesting part of his job is the residents he encounters. Many stop to chat with patrolling housing security officers but others are reluctant, instantly tensing up at the sight of a police officer.

“A sort of hesitant nervousness comes about them because they don’t realize our job isn’t to prevent them from having fun,” Raiford says.

But he says he can understand the feeling. “I have been the person playing the music too loud at 3 a.m.,” he recalls.
Other times, he jokes, “I feel like a Tyrannosaurus Rex. People think if they keep quiet, I might not notice them.”
Raiford says he can relate to residents, especially freshmen adjusting to life in college.

“While they are making this transition, I’m also in a similar phase, making the step from college life into the workforce,” he says. “It hasn’t been that long since I was in college and I know what it was like back then.”

But for Raiford, his role in the community extends beyond the conventional description of a patrolling officer.
“I try to make myself available for the students,” he explains. “On occasion, some will stop by my office and talk to me about life and how they’re coping with their newfound stresses.”

When the normally bustling corridors empty over school breaks, Raiford admits the job gets a little less interesting and the buildings start to feel “creepy.”

“But when there’s nobody around to hear you,” he laughs, “you can sing out loud without worrying about disturbing anyone.”

Department of Public Safety Officer — by Sutha Kanagasingam

Sometime after 2 a.m. on Friday night, when you think no one is looking, you roll through a stop sign at a seemingly abandoned intersection. Seconds later, the familiar blue and red lights flash in your car’s rear-view mirror and you grudgingly pull over to the side of the road.

A Department of Public Safety officer will then walk up to your window, shine a flashlight in your face and determine whether you can get by with just a warning, or if you’ll have to pay the $130 fine.

DPS Officer Anthony Ricco, who has worked with the department for seven years — six of them on the midnight shift — could very well be that person.

Midnight shifts at DPS are 10-hours long — from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m. every day. Several supervisors and officers, like Ricco, are on duty during this time, though Ricco could not exactly say how many because DPS doesn’t want the public to know the number of officers working at night.

DPS officers bid for shifts every four months, and the shifts are then assigned based on seniority. Surprisingly, some actually prefer the late hours.

“I like working at night,” Ricco says. “So I usually choose midnight shifts.”

Ricco says he has made some strong friendships while working the midnight shift. Because there are fewer people, he’s been able to establish closer bonds. The midnight shift also frees up time during his day to do things he normally wouldn’t be able to. “I get a lot of time during the day to do what I want to do. I get to see my wife more than if I worked regular hours,” he says.

On a typical workday, Ricco drives the 30 minutes from his home to “base,” the DPS headquarters on Kipke Drive. Once at the base, Ricco changes into his uniform and gets briefed by the midnight shift supervisor. Ricco then takes his 50-minute cumulative wellness break to work out at the gym. Officers on midnight duty can opt for one 50-minute cumulative wellness break or two 15-minute breaks and one 20-minute break.

“I do simple things, like running and lifting a few weights,” Ricco says. “Nothing Arnold Schwarzenegger-like.”

After working out Ricco loads his patrol car with equipment — defibrillator, digital camera, rifle, body armor and administrative papers — double checks the vehicle and begins patrolling his designated campus area. Ricco’s patrol area is different every night but varies between four zones, which DPS has specific names for — Austin (the area south of the University), Baker (Central Campus area), David (the area around Fuller Road and North Campus) and Charles (the medical campus).

Though Ricco likes the midnight shift, he says it does have its ups and downs.

“The first few hours are usually easier and bearable,” Ricco says. But, he continues, it can be hard sometime after 3 a.m., which the officers call the “bewitching hour.”

“If we’re not driving around, it will be really easy to nod off. It’s known as the hanging neck hours.” To help stay awake, officers typically stop to get coffee around this time.

Before the end of the shift, they return to base to fill out reports of the night’s activities and do other administrative duties.

The one notable difference between midnight shifts and regular day shifts, Ricco says, is the occurrence of alcohol related incidents. On Friday and Saturday nights DPS is usually busy with calls about intoxicated students in the dorms and buses, fights in parties and students stealing traffic signs. Traffic violations are also very common.

“Are they bad people? No. Are they piss drunk and doing silly things? Yes.”

He urged students to realize that DPS is a necessary evil because, he says, when intoxicated, some students are at risk of endangering themselves and those around them.

“I wish students can see that we don’t wander around hoping to catch every student for any silly action. It’s all under an officer’s discretion and if I see something that could potentially be dangerous, my conscience will not allow me to simply drive past it.”

Despite the fact that Ricco enjoys most parts of his job, there is one thing that gets to him — the changing sleeping patterns. “On my off days, I have to switch to real people time and that is sometimes tiring.”

But Ricco says he can see himself continuing to work the midnight shift in the future. “I feel dedicated to the campus community and keeping campus safe while people are asleep is important.”

Cafeteria Cook — by Addie Shrodes

Cafeteria workers at the Hill Dining Center rise hours before the sun on a recent January morning to prepare breakfast for students on the Hill. The cafeteria is quiet and dark at 5:30 a.m., but cooks arrive just after 6 a.m. to begin unloading carts of bulk supplies like muffin batter and raw bacon from the stock room into the industrial kitchen.

Breakfast service starts at 7:30 a.m. on weekdays, which leaves the cooks less than two hours to prepare the 15-item menu for the hundreds of students who will file through the lines over the course of three hours. Breakfast ends at 10:30 a.m., and when it’s over the cooks at Hill will have fed anywhere from 600 to 800 people.

The head breakfast cook at Hill this morning is Keyshia Brown, who normally works the lunch shift from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Today, however, she’s filling in for the regular breakfast cook. Brown actually prefers the earlier hours because, she says, “you get it over and done with.”

The 28-year-old Brown wakes up at 4:30 a.m. to get from her home in Ypsilanti to the dining center by 6 a.m. for the morning shift. Brown transferred from the Markley Dining Hall to Hill when it opened in 2008 because the hours were earlier. At Markley, Brown worked the 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. shift, which ate up most of her day. But since she now finishes work earlier in the day, Brown says she’s able to go home and spend time with her daughters. Brown is also taking night classes at Washtenaw Community College, and she says her morning shift at Hill allows her to do that.

“I’m looking for a career, not just a job,” Brown explains. “Don’t get me wrong. This is a really good job and times are really hard, but I want a career. And thinking of my kids, I want them to have a better future.”

As staffers get ready for the dining hall to open at 7:30 a.m., the front kitchen establishes a steady yet urgent rhythm of messy clamor: hash browns sizzle and pop on the oiled griddle, egg-yolk mixture bubbles and splashes and long metal spatulas slap against the searing surface. Student employees help Brown prepare muffins, pancakes and hash browns for the breakfast line. Once service starts, the student employees will take orders for omelets and serve them on an individual basis.

The tempo is highly productive, ensuring another successful meal. Metal trays of food hit the breakfast line just on time and students begin to trickle in after 7:30 a.m. The smell of scrambled eggs, crisp bacon and buttermilk pancakes radiates through the dining hall.

A long line of students, armed with iPods, forms an hour later. They pass quietly through the line in a hurry to eat, while staffers work intently to replace diminishing trays of food.

But the work doesn’t stop when breakfast ends. Through the course of the day, cooks will prepare food for thousands more students during the lunch and dinner meals. And when the last student finally exits the dining hall, the cooks begin four hours of food preparation for the next day.

“It’s pretty much the same routine everyday,” Brown says. “I just want to hurry up and get it done so I don’t have to think about it and I don’t have to stress myself out.”

University Janitor — by Sam Wainwright

While you’re packing up your bag at the Grad or trekking home from the UGLi late at night, most of the University’s custodians are just starting their workday. With shifts ranging anywhere from the 7 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. shift at the Michigan Union, to the 4 a.m. to noon shift at the Duderstadt Center, the University’s custodial staff are hard at work while the rest of us are sleeping — or drinking.

And the drinking is actually what causes much of the mess, according to University custodian Dave Steiner, who says students often stumble into unlocked campus buildings like the Union and use them as “pit-stops” on their way home from the bars or house parties.

“The bathrooms (in the Union) are hideous,” Steiner says of the resulting mess. “Women are worse than men, just so people know.”

For Pete Copp, the University’s custodial supervisor, a normal day will start with his alarm ringing at around 2 p.m., just in time to catch his kids as they return home from school.

“It’s difficult for me because I have two kids (and they play) football, soccer, all the sports,” Copp said of trying to balance being a father and working a midnight shift. “But luckily for me, I’m off on the weekends. Some of the other guys that work weekends, it’s a little difficult.”

Starting his shift at the Union at 7 p.m., Copp typically grabs his “breakfast” right around when most people are sitting down for dinner. The custodians take a “lunch” break anytime between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., and then eat dinner when they get home, most nights after 4 a.m.

Leaving work at this time allows Copp to help his kids get ready for school before ending his day at 7:30 a.m.

Though the work can often be isolating and dull, many Union custodians say they’ve seen their fair share of bizarre encounters. Just over two weeks ago, they caught a man sleeping in the Union Ballroom with a few hundred feet of curtains he had pulled from the walls wrapped around his body. However, many of the custodians say the Michigan League seems to be the epicenter of late night weirdness.

According to Custodian Arron Stroud, the League has seen everything from fully-equipped midnight baseball games in the ballroom to bubble baths in the fountain to wildlife in the hallways.

“We heard footsteps,” Stroud says. “And there was no one in the hallway except for us. So we went out into the hallway and there was a deer just walking through the hall on the second floor.”

But it’s not just the students who keep the custodians busy. Steiner says the yearly Anesthesiology party has the reputation of being a “rager,” resulting in a lot of cleanup for him and his fellow custodians.

“There’s a lot of liquor served,” he says.

The University ballrooms often serve as venues for faculty parties, weddings and bar mitzvahs, and the custodians frequently have their hands full cleaning up after these events.

Beyond the occasional party or stranded animal, however, Copp says the day-to-day cleaning of University buildings isn’t the most exciting job.

“It really is a no thrill,” Copp said.

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