The Night Owl, also known as The Graveyard Shift Worker

Sydney, 10pm.

I shaved, set my hair, dressed nice and sharp, walked out from my apartment.

…to work. Itª was my commute time.

It has been one month since I started working for this brand new hotel as a night manager. I still feel weird walking towards the city, completely sober.

Most people I came across on the way to work were heading home. They might have a lovely dinner, great drinks with friends, or a lovely date with a partner. They looked merry and happy.

Some people looked exhausted – might have just finished work for their late night shift or overtime – but you could still see their face relieved, finally released from their duties and going back home to have a rest.

Not me – because I worked 11pm to 7am, 5 days a week minding the hotel. People called it “the graveyard shift”. Indeed.

I had seen the late night city so many times but it looked completely different from my commuter’s point of view.

You felt more nostalgic and melancholic this time of the year, passing by the Christmas illuminations of the department stores and public plazas. Even though I liked my job, you couldn’t help but think “why am I heading toward work this time of the night??”



My previous job was a concierge at another hotel in the city.

Concierge and Night Manager – both belonged to the same department, the Rooms Division.

However, their function was miles apart, it was not funny.

Concierge – you gotta be outgoing, engaging and talkative. Yes, talking is your main job. 

Talk to the guest, talk to your manager, talk to your doorman, bellman, fellow concierge. Talk to taxi drivers, food delivery guys, even homeless guys passing through the driveway! 

Indirectly, you talk to all sorts of people from all over the world over the phone. You can say email correspondence is a kind of talk.


Night manager – if you want, you could complete your entire shift without talking. Well, I exaggerated but very few talks indeed. Overnight, the telephone was almost dead. In fact, you would miss your heartbeat a bit when the phone rang at 3 am in the morning. Like a famous song by Men at Work, “Who can it be now??” 

I guess it could be a totally different story if you were working overnight in a very busy city – like NY, London, or Tokyo. Not in Sydney. Everything shut early. Airplanes couldn’t land after 11pm, most restaurants would take the last order around 9:30pm. Even bars needed to shut the door at 3am. 

By the time we started our shift at 11pm, most guests had arrived, late night diners and bar-hoppers would be back in the next 1-2 hours…and here comes silence.

Besides occasional requests from the guest asking for extra pillows or toiletries, only I and my colleague were doing end of the day reporting. It was like when you were asleep, your body was just functioning bare minimum. Like heartbeat or deep breath.

After being a concierge for 20years, this was indeed very, very different. Did I miss those crazy busy mad moments at the concierge desk? Hell yeah.

I was slowly attached to this job, Night Manager though. It gave you some sense…like you were a foundation of the hotel. It was like your organ. You didn’t appreciate or notice their functions every day but without them you were stuffed.

For me, working for a hotel was the dream job. Sure, I spent almost all of my work life in various hotels so I had no clue what other jobs were like.

I could only say my experience – and I have been happy with this occupation and lucky to be a part of it. What did you expect more?

Several times during the night, I walked the entire hotel just to make sure everything was okay. The corridors of the guest rooms were totally quiet by now. I wondered if our guests were having a good night’s sleep…or what kind of dream they were having right now?


Our hotel lobby had a large window facing a street.

Now I could see black night sky was losing colour, gradually turning into dark blue and then sky blue.

Let’s open the curtains. The morning was almost there.

I started my end of the shift process and thought…another day done (or another night, it still confused me).

Some early risers were heading down to the lobby and the gym. A few early departure guests. I wished them a great day ahead, amusing myself my day was almost over.

Here comes my morning colleagues – means my shift was reaching to the end.

Told goodbye to them and walked out from the hotel.


The city was still quiet – cafes were just opening up. Early joggers and commuters.

Air was fresh and crisp. I took a deep breath, exchanging air within my body.

Again, I felt funny  seeing morning commuters – for them it is just the beginning of the day but for me the day is over.

…until I got dressed again at 10pm.