Editor's Note: This is the first in a two-part series.
READ PART II OF THE STORY BY CLICKING HERE.
WOODBURY, Tenn. -- Ambulance paramedic Roger Lovvorn loves night duty, as he helps keep the Volunteer State tradition alive and well.
He must love his duty because he’s been doing it for 20 years as a full-time emergency medical service attendant with the Cannon County Ambulance Service, in addition to the three years he served as a volunteer paramedic.
“I never considered the medical field as a youngster, but when I began volunteering in 1991, it changed my life,” Lovvorn said. “That’s when I realized I could make a real difference in helping people’s lives.”
Woodbury Mayor Harold Patrick, credits the importance of night people, especially public servants such as police, medical staff at the Stone’s River Hospital and the paramedics who make the emergency runs in our ambulances.
“I can’t imagine life in our town without these vitally important people who volunteer to serve their fellow citizens all hours of the day, and night, for that matter,” Patrick said. “And I want to thank their spouses and children for adjusting their home lives in support of the people who serve around-the-clock.”
Lovvorn admits all is not roses and pretty dealing with tragedies that seem to happen most often in the dark of the night.
“Several years ago, when my own two children (Nick and Shelby) were teenagers, I recall the awful night when two of our community’s finest teen girls died in a tragic car crash,” Lovvorn recalled. “Something like that, it really affects you and the whole community.
“I see people in their worst, severest circumstances,” Lovvorn added in the middle of his week’s first 24-hour workday on duty. “You get immune to some of the worst circumstances, but there are personal tragedies that linger with you, especially when those tragedies involve children.”
Does he think the public respects public servants who work in the wee hours of the night while the majority of the public is asleep in their nice warm beds?
“I don’t think the public thinks and appreciate enough the people who are working around the clock for the public’s benefit and safety,” the medical attendant noted. “As a paramedic, what helps most is a supportive, understanding family ‑‑ people you can talk with and trust. And as paramedics, we talk and help one another when severe tragedies strike our community.”
The next night person interview came in Smyrna in a restaurant near the massive Nissan Automotive Manufacturing Plant.
It was a dreary cold, rainy and foggy night ‑‑ 24 hours after New Year’s Night 2014 had been celebrated.
“It’s been a very, very slow night,” noted Waffle House server Jasmine Drawford at 2:32 a.m. as two workers from Nissan placed a to-go order of hash browns and bacon on biscuits.
“There’s not much stirring tonight,” added 19-year-old Jasmine, who defines herself as a night person.
“We clock in at 9 p.m. and get off at 7 a.m.,” Jasmine said. “With those hours, yes, we qualify as night people. And I enjoy those hours actually.”
“I love working these hours,” she added. “But on slow nights, you get tired faster. We tell jokes to one another to make the night go faster. I guess this being a slow night, people have spent all their money and energy from over New Years and Christmas.”
How “slow” was this night?
“I’m drinking half coffee and half chocolate milk to help me stay awake,” Jasmine described. “Plus, we’re having family pictures made in the morning, so I’ve got to stay awake for that after I get off work.”
Some nights are more exciting that merely serving coffee with cream.
For example, Jasmine can’t count the number of marriage proposals that have come across the dining counter from men wanting to be more than mere customers.
Some proposals come spiced with love ballads.
“Oh, on busy nights I’ve had people ‘sing’ to me, sing love songs to me,” Jasmine noted with a smile. “Some tell me they love me. And I’ve been proposed to more than once, you know, to get married. One guy’s request was either marry him or make him a waffle. He got his waffle.”
Jasmine commutes from her residence in Murfreesboro for her night job at the Waffle House on Nissan Boulevard.
Night cook Shawn O’Connor, 32, describes himself as a “veteran night person.”
“I’ve been working for Waffle House as a shift cook now for eight months, but I’ve been working in the restaurant industry since I was age 15,” noted O’Connor as he whistled a tune while flipping a piece of chicken on the grill and tending a double-order of hash browns “smothered and covered” with onions and cheese.
Asked if there’s any difference between customers who dine in the daytime and at night, Shawn replied: “There’s less intoxication in the daytime, that’s for certain.”
Remaining flexible with people helps the nights pass faster, night shift workers Jasmine and Shawn agreed.
“Some nights have more BS than others, Jasmine shared.
“We often have some BS to contend with from time to time,” noted Shawn. “Be sure and spell Shawn right, for it’s Irish. We let the BS roll off our backs. There’s generally no problems, but yes, some nights have more BS than others.”