Been There All Night: The Life of a Desk Clerk

College is full of a lot of late nights spent studying at the library or writing the next big paper, but some students spend their late nights in a bit of a different way: working the residence hall desks.  


If you’re anything like me, I love me some sleep. I try to get at least a solid 7 hours of sleep, or I am not a pleasant person. However, my friends who work as desk clerks have a bit of a different strategy for getting their rest. One of my desk clerks said that he gets his energy to make it through the shift by sleeping beforehand. Sometimes it can be hard to plan sleep around a 12am-4am shift, so that’s where naps come into play. Another desk clerk said she compensates for lost sleep with a daily two-hour nap, which is a pretty common thing for any college student honestly. Although they can work some late night shifts like 12am to 4am or 4am to 8am, each desk clerk has found a way to balance their job and sleep schedule based on what works for them.


However, desk clerks face more than just some weird sleep schedules. There are some weird things that can happen when working the front desk. Seriously though, why would people choose to wonder around the first floor at 4am instead of sleep? That’s one of questions my desk clerks still asks himself during his shifts when people seem to be up and about. One of the weirdest encounters that the workers have mentioned came when two people who weren’t residents entered the hall. She did what she was supposed to do and asked for their name and room number to which they replied they were simply walking around because they were bored. They walked out of the dorm, and my friend said she still never figured out how they got the doors open, but she hasn’t seen them since. Clerks have also complained about how eerily quiet it can get during night shift; even a small sound like a paper falling could be enough to scare you if you were used to the complete silence.


Aside from some strange encounters, the desk can also serve as a positive experience. Luckily, desk clerks can work on their homework at the desk, so that gives them some extra time to knock out any school work they may be stressing about. Besides schoolwork, I wondered what else they did while sitting alone at a desk in the middle of the night. The answer is exactly what I would be doing: watching Netflix. Everyone in college, and literally everyone else, has that one show they just love to binge, and this job gives desk clerks the opportunity to do just that. However, shifts aren’t always full of lonely Netflix sessions and homework. The workers have mentioned how much they enjoy having their friends stop by the desk to just hangout and chat during a shift, so next time you see a friend at the desk, stop by and say hi!


Despite the late hours and some weird moments, the desk clerks I interviewed seem to really appreciate and enjoy their job. “I’m glad that working the desk has been able to connect me with not only the residents but also the staff. I can honestly say that I have made friends through this job.”, said one of desk clerks. While I was curious about how desk clerks managed their time, I found there is not a single answer. Sleep, homework and work operate in a fragile balance that everyone has to figure out for themselves, and I commend each desk clerk for being able to manage this balance in ways I probably never could.