My Life on the D-Shift

“Should a hooker with no teeth charge more, less, or the same?”

This was the icebreaker I opened with during my first week of working the D-shift at a semiconductor fab.  The D-shift schedule was 6pm-6am, Wednesday through Friday and every other Saturday.  There are three types of people who work this shift:

  1.  Parents needing the shift differential and overtime pay.
  2. College students wanting to keep their days free for attending classes.
  3. Weirdos who either can’t or don’t want to function in “normal’ society.

As you can tell from my opener, I belonged in the third group.

It wasn’t just working the night shift that made us crazy.  It was the environment.  If you are not familiar with semiconductor work, it requires a sterile environment.  We were not allowed to wear makeup, hair products, or perfume.  They could produce miniscule particles that could drop onto the silicon wafers we were manufacturing.  For the same reasons, you could not have food, drinks, music, or anything else that was not designed specifically to be in a fab.  Upon entering the production area, we clothed ourselves in jumpsuits, masks, booties, hair covers, covers for the hair covers, gloves and safety glasses.  The factory was comprised of a series of long tunnels, most of which had no windows.  Some had strange yellow lighting that made everything look like the color of piss.  Put all of those conditions together, and it kind of felt like another world, not just a work area.

There is that old saying “nothing good happens after midnight.”  That motto was created for fab workers.  First of all, there was sex, sex and more sex.  In the tunnels behind the machines.  In the safety showers.  On the tables in the conference rooms.  Look at your cell phone.  Someone had sex during the process of making that phone- probably a few people.

There was your average sex-at-work thrill seekers, but there always had to be someone taking it to the next level.  For instance, there was a guy who would describe his fisting sessions to me, in detail.  I have no idea if this is even remotely possible or if he just liked seeing my grossed out reaction, but either way, I was horrified just the same.  The same guy would show my friend pictures of his pierced nether regions.  I hosted a large costume party for my coworkers, and a couple showed up and demonstrated a full-on S&M whipping session.  And that wasn’t even the strangest thing that happened that night.

You might ask why I didn’t report these people to HR.  Well, I was not the saint among sinners in this scenario.  I have an entire list of transgressions I could have easily been fired for.  But more than that, these were my people.  The Employee of the Month diligently following orders and completing all tasks without issues does not make work interesting.  Its far more fun to befriend the girl who feels her leg getting unusually hot and rushes to find witnesses in case she spontaneously combusts.

Even when people were doing their jobs, they had a strange way of going about it.  There were no restrooms in the fab, so if you needed to go, you had to ask someone to watch your machines, disrobe from your bunny suit, and walk to the restroom in the hall.  One attentive worker stayed with his machines a little too long.  He didn’t quite make it to the restroom in time, resulting in a tell-tale trail leading down the corridor to the restroom.  The janitor came to attend to the situation.  Rather than cleaning it up immediately, he strategically placed a series of boxes on the floor to cover the trail.  I think he left it like that for a good half hour or so before finally scooping and disposing.

Even though these crazy incidents are burned in my brain, what I remember most about my time on the D-shift are the people.  Loading machines with silicon wafers is not the most scintillating or time consuming work.  I passed the time each night talking to my coworkers.

One gentlemen in my area was a crazy former hippie who somehow made it through the sixties without his brain getting completely fried.  He’d regale me with the craziest party stories I’d ever heard, complete with girls dancing on tops of kegs while meth cooked in giant vats and people greasing up with cooking oil to slither down homemade Slip-N-Slides.  The thing I remember most were his dumb jokes though.  Just like my dad, he always had a new terrible joke to tell me.  I always laughed.

His polar opposite was this good-ol-southern gal.  She had an infectious laugh and the sweetest disposition.  She told me about getting pregnant at a young age.  The child was born with medical problems and passed away around two years old.  It was ten years later, and she and her husband wanted to have a baby.  She was nervous all throughout her pregnancy, scared to get excited and have history repeat itself.  Our crew was overjoyed when she gave birth to a healthy, beautiful daughter and a second shot at raising a family.

The bonds I formed with these people were the real deal.  About a year ago, I found out one of my coworkers had transplanted to the city where I now reside.  We got together and it was as if not a day had passed.  One of my close friends is shooting a movie in my hometown, and hoped I could fly out to be an extra during the filming, just so I could be a part of it.  I recently reconnected with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in about five years.  Within a couple of emails, she had me inspired to try shooting stop motion animation.

Eventually, things changed, and I had to start living a life during daylight hours.  But I still think fondly of those years in the fab.  They were some of the best of my life.  I’ll never forget or regret my life on the D-shift.

And if you ever need to get a party going, here is a recipe for shenanigans:


Mike’s Killer Punch

2 bottles of champagne (you could use 7Up but it aint got no booze in it)

1 bottle of rum, vodka, or other booze that you like

1 cup of orange juice

1 cup of lime juice

1 cup of lemon juice

1 bottle of slow gin to make it red because it’s got to be red (you could use grenadine but it aint got no booze in it)

Mix, serve over ice, and enjoy

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