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0836 Working Shifts

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Complete Transcript
Welcome to English as a Second Language Podcast number 836: Working Shifts.

This is English as a Second Language Podcast episode 836. I’m your host, Dr. Jeff McQuillan, coming to you from the Center for Educational Development in beautiful Los Angeles, California.

Go to our website at www.eslpod.com and download a Learning Guide for this episode. Take a look at our ESL Podcast store while you’re there.

This episode is a dialogue between Danny and Lisette about different times that you work throughout the day. Let’s get started!

[start of dialogue]

Lisette: You’re the new kid on the block, aren’t you?

Danny: Yeah, it’s my first day.

Lisette: I’m Lisette.

Danny: I’m Danny. Nice to meet you.

Lisette: You’re lucky to be starting on the day shift. When I started working here umpteen years ago, I had to work the graveyard shift for two years before I got the day shift.

Danny: I guess I am lucky, but I wouldn’t mind working any shift, even double shifts, once I get up to speed. My wife and I are expecting our first child and we need to save up.

Lisette: Oh, yeah? Congratulations! Well, there are always people who want time off and need someone to cover for them. You can usually pick up extra hours and shifts that way. Sometimes, there’s even overtime, but the veteran workers get first dibs.

Danny: I can understand that. Well, if you ever need anybody to cover for you, just give me a shout.

Lisette: All right, I’ll keep it in mind. Maybe I can help you save up for a diaper or two.

[end of the dialogue]

We begin our dialogue with Lisette saying to Danny, “You’re the new kid on the block, aren’t you?” “The new kid on the block” (block) here means a new person in an organization. Usually, in American cities, we call the place where the houses or the apartments are in between the streets “blocks.” “One block,” one rectangle that has four streets – one on the north, one on the south, one on the east and one on the west – well, that’s a block. And if you say you’re the “new kid on the block” that means usually your family has just moved to that particular area and the other kids may say, “You’re the new kid here.” You’re the one that has arrived most recently.

Here we’re talking about a work organization, not an actual city block. Danny says, “Yeah, it’s my first day.” Lisette says, “I’m Lisette.” Danny says, “I’m Danny, nice to meet you.” Hmm, maybe we have something going here between Lisette and Danny, let’s see. Lisette says, “You’re lucky to be starting on the day shift.” A “shift” (shift) is the period of time during the 24-hour day that you work. The “day shift” would be the period of time between, say, 8 or 9 in the morning and 4 or 5 in the afternoon – that would be in places that have workers there all 24 hours – in other words, a hospital, maybe certain factories that make things that operate 24 hours a day. Well, you can’t work 24 hours a day so you divide the day up into 3 shifts. The day shift, then there’s the second shift, which is usually from 4 or 5 in the afternoon until midnight or so, and then you have what we’ll find out in a second is the “graveyard shift.”

Lisette says to Danny, “You’re lucky to be starting on the day shift. When I started working here umpteen years ago, I had to work the graveyard shift for two years before I got the day shift.” “Umpteen” (umpteen) is an unusual word in English but you will hear it in conversation. It means a lot or many. The idea is that there are so many years you can’t count them. Often, it’s an expression or a word used by people who are getting older and can’t remember or don’t want to remember how many years ago it was. I graduated from high school “umpteen” years ago – many, many, many, many, many years ago. Lisette says she started working at this company umpteen years ago – many years ago – and when she did, she had to work the “graveyard” shift. A “graveyard” – one word - is a place where you bury bodies. It’s a place where you put dead people - a “cemetery,” we could also call it. But in the expression “graveyard shift” – it refers to people who have to work from midnight to say, 8 or 9 o’clock in the morning – the people who have to work at night, after usually midnight or 1 AM – we call this the “graveyard shift.” Why? Well, I guess because people have this idea that the dead are fans of the nighttime, that bodies walk during the night – I don’t know, that’s just what we call it.

Danny says, “I guess I am lucky. But I wouldn’t mind working any shift even double shifts.” “To work a double shift” means to work 16 hours – to work 2 shifts. The day shift and the second shift – the first shift and the second shift, for example. Danny says, “I wouldn’t mind working any shift, even double shifts, once I get up to speed.” “To get up to speed” means to learn something quickly – once you’re able to do what you are supposed to do. So, you’re learning some new skills, some new thing you have to do at your work. It may take you a day, a week, a month to really be able to do it as well as you should, as well as everyone else. You need to get up to speed – to be moving fast enough, if you will.

“My wife and I are expecting our first child,” Danny says – so, I guess there’s no relationship between Danny and Lisette – “and we need to save up.” “To save up” is a phrasal verb that means to save money, usually for some particular purpose. “I’m saving up for a car.” “I’m saving up for a new computer.” “I’m saving up for a new electric guitar so I can be in a rock band” – yeah, that will be cool. “So, I’m saving up for something.”

And Danny and his wife, who is expecting her first child – when we say “they’re expecting” we mean she is going to have the baby, she’s pregnant – Danny needs to save up. Lisette says, “Oh, yeah? Congratulations!” Now, of course, Lisette must be a little disappointed to find out that Danny is already married but she doesn’t seem to indicate that in the dialogue. Lisette says, “Congratulations! Well, there are always people who want time off and need someone to cover for them.” “Time off” are hours or days when you don’t work your normal schedule. So, normally you work Monday through Friday, but you’re going to take some time off. We use the verb “to take” – with time off. You’re going to take some time off on Friday or on Monday. You’re not going to work all or part of that day. Lisette says that “there are always people,” meaning there will always be someone who wants to take time off and need someone to “cover for them.” “To cover (cover) for someone” means to work when another person cannot. So, someone says, “I can’t work this afternoon” – although I am scheduled, I’m supposed to – “Could you cover for me?” “Could you work during the time that I’m supposed to work?”

Lisette says, ”You can usually pick up extra hours and the shifts that way.” “To pick up” here is a phrasal verb meaning to get something in addition to what you would normally have. Normally you work 8 hours but you can pick up an extra four hours by working half a shift, four hours of the second shift, for someone who wants time off. “Sometimes,” Lisette says, “there’s even overtime, but the veteran workers get first dibs.” “Overtime” (overtime) – one word – is when you work at a job where you are paid by the hour and you work more than your normal number of hours for that week – usually in the U.S it’s forty hours. So, if you get paid by the hour, you make $20 an hour or $40 an hour or whatever it is, and you work your 40 hours and then the boss wants you to work “overtime” – you’re working more than your regular 40 hours. And in the U.S and most places, you get paid extra. So, you might get paid, instead of your normal $20 an hour, you might get paid $25 or $30. Sometimes, companies will pay what’s called “double time.” They’ll pay you twice as much as you normally work if you work overtime – more than your normal 40 hours. This is only for people who are paid by the hour. If you get a “salary” – if you are paid a certain amount every year, then typically, you don’t get overtime. You may work 60 -70 hours a week but you are not going to get paid extra. But overtime is when you are paid extra for an hourly position.

Lisette says that the veteran workers – the workers who have a lot of experience – who have been here a long time. “The veteran workers get first dibs.” “To get first dibs” means that you are the first person or in the group that gets to decide or choose something before anyone else. So, if the company says, “We’re going to offer 10 hours overtime this week,” first they will ask the veteran employees – the employees who have been there a long time. “Do you want it?” And they say “No.” And then they go to the next group and then the next group. “To get first dibs” means to get first choice. It’s an expression that we use sometimes. It’s often something that you would say as a child. Let’s say there’s a piece of chocolate cake or a large chocolate cake with several pieces and somebody says, “I get first dibs,” meaning I get to choose my piece before the rest of you. But adults can also say this.

Danny says, “I can understand that. Well, if you ever need anyone to cover for you,” he says to Lisette, “Just give me a shout.” The expression “to give someone a shout” (shout) means to call someone or to contact them. Usually it means to call them on the telephone. It’s an informal expression. You wouldn’t use it in a formal setting, but among friends or co-workers – people you work with – it’s okay. It’s probably an expression that would become less common. Now, instead of giving someone a shout, you would probably send them a text. Informally, we might use the verb “shoot” – “to shoot someone a text or an email,” “send me an email” or “shoot me an email” – that would mean the same thing – contact me.

Lisette says, “Alright, okay. I’ll keep it in mind” – I’ll remember that. “Maybe I can help you save up for a diaper or two.” She’s helping Danny by giving him extra hours so he can save up for “diapers” (diapers). “Diapers” are things that you put around a baby – around their bottom – so that they can go to the bathroom because, of course, babies can’t walk and go to the bathroom by themselves. I don’t have a lot of experience changing diapers. I was the youngest in my family. I know my older brothers and sisters do.

Now let’s listen to the dialogue this time at a normal speed.

[start of dialogue]

Lisette: You’re the new kid on the block, aren’t you?

Danny: Yeah, it’s my first day.

Lisette: I’m Lisette.

Danny: I’m Danny. Nice to meet you.

Lisette: You’re lucky to be starting on the day shift. When I started working here umpteen years ago, I had to work the graveyard shift for two years before I got the day shift.

Danny: I guess I am lucky, but I wouldn’t mind working any shift, even double shifts, once I get up to speed. My wife and I are expecting our first child and we need to save up.

Lisette: Oh, yeah? Congratulations! Well, there are always people who want time off and need someone to cover for them. You can usually pick up extra hours and shifts that way. Sometimes, there’s even overtime, but the veteran workers get first dibs.

Danny: I can understand that. Well, if you ever need anybody to cover for you, just give me a shout.

Lisette: All right, I’ll keep it in mind. Maybe I can help you save up for a diaper or two.

[end of the dialogue]

Our scriptwriter has written umpteen scripts, all of them good. Thank you, Dr. Lucy Tse.

From Los Angeles, California, I’m Jeff McQuillan. Thank you for listening. Come back and listen to us again here on ESL Podcast.

English as a Second Language podcast is written and produced by Dr. Lucy Tse, hosted by Dr. Jeff McQuillan. Copyright 2012 by the Center for Educational Development.

Glossary
new kid on the block – a person who is new in an organization or environment, such as a child going to a new school for the first day, or a person on his or her first day in a new job

* Sarah has a hard time making friends, so she really dislikes being the new kid on the block.

day shift – work performed during daylight hours, usually over an eight-hour period

* After working nights for six months, Laura was finally given the day shift at the factory.

umpteen – many; a lot

* Georgia said to her husband Tim, “I’ve told you umpteen times: put the toilet seat down!”

graveyard shift – work performed at night, when most other people are asleep, usually over an eight-hour period

* People who work the graveyard shift tend to drink a lot of coffee to help them stay awake.

double shift – working two eight-hour shifts one after another, without a break between them

* Working a double shift is easy for Piotr, because he used to be a medical student, and they’re expected to work very long hours at least twice a week.

to get up to speed – to quickly learn something and understand it well; to learn how to do something as well as others

* As a new reporter in the city, it took Edgar a few weeks to get up to speed on local events.

to save up – to accumulate or save money for some particular purpose, often by reducing expenses or working more than one normally does

* Christof is saving up to buy a new boat.

time off – hours or days when one does not work as normally scheduled, perhaps because one is on vacation or has a doctor’s appointment

* Frank asked his boss if he could take some time off in August to attend his sister’s wedding.

to cover – to work when another person cannot; to perform the work that another person would normally do; to do something to help another person so that he or she does not get in trouble

* Brian had promised to go to his son’s basketball game yesterday afternoon, so he asked me to cover for him at work.

to pick up – to have or get something in addition to what one would normally have

* Many people pick up a few extra pounds over the holidays.

overtime – when talking about people who receive an hourly wage (not an annual salary), the time spent working beyond the 40 hours a week one would normally work, for which they receive additional payment

* Truck drivers can make a lot of money through overtime.

veteran – someone who has a lot of experience and has been doing something for a long time, longer than most other people

* Veteran teachers can still remember the days when there weren’t computers in every classroom.

to get first dibs – to be the first one to choose something; to get to choose or have something before anyone else

* As kids, we got first dibs in choosing which restaurant the family would go to on our birthday.

to give (someone) a shout – an informal phrase meaning to call someone or contact someone and tell him or her something

* If you need help to move, just give me a shout.

diaper – a cloth or paper-and-plastic wrap worn around a baby’s bottom and upper legs to hold urine (liquid waste) and feces (solid waste) so that it doesn’t touch clothing or other objects

* If we don’t change the baby’s diaper often enough, he gets a rash on his skin.

Comprehension Questions
1. Why does Lisette refer to Danny as the new kid on the block?
a) Because he’s the youngest employee.
b) Because he’s the least experienced employee.
c) Because he’s the newest employee.

2. What does Lisette mean when she says, “the veteran workers get first dibs”?
a) The veteran workers are the first to choose to have overtime.
b) The veteran workers get to taste all the products before anyone else.
c) The veteran workers are paid more than newer workers.

Answers at bottom.

What Else Does It Mean?
shift

The word “shift,” in this podcast, means a period of time when one works: “Huang worked six shifts last week.” A “shift” can also be a change in the way people think: “Many people note a shift in their outlook and priorities once they become parents.” On a computer keyboard, the “shift” key is held down to make another key produce a capital letter or a special symbol: “To type a dollar sign, hold down ‘shift’ and press ‘4’.” A “shift” can be very simple dress: “You can’t wear that shift to the party. It isn’t fancy enough.” Finally, in a car, a “gear shift” is the handle that a driver moves to control how hard the engine works and how quickly the car is moving: “This gear shift is stuck in reverse!”

to cover

In this podcast, the verb “to cover” means to work when another person cannot, or to perform the work that another person would normally do: “I have a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday. Can you please cover for me?” The verb “to cover” also means to put something on top of something else so that it cannot be seen: “If you’re cold, cover yourself with a blanket instead of turning up the heater.” A “cover band” is a band that plays songs that have been performed by other artists, not their own songs: “They’re just a cover band, but Hank really likes their style.” Finally, a “cover charge” is the money one has to pay to enter a bar or dance club, in addition to the food and/or drinks one buys: “I can’t afford a $20 cover charge! Let’s go someplace that’s less expensive.”

Culture Note
Types of Shift Patterns

“Shift work” allows employers to run their business “around the clock” (24 hours a day, seven days a week). The day is divided into shifts, usually eight-hour shifts, and employees are assigned to each shift. Usually employees rotate through different shifts, so that they do not always work the same shift.

The “three-shift system” is the most common shift pattern. The first shift is from 6:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., the second shift is from 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., and the third shift is from 10:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Employees work a shift Monday through Friday and then have some weekends “off” (when they do not have to work). In general, employers assign employees to a single shift, but some companies move employees around.

Other common shift patterns include “four on, four off,” where employees work one shift on each of four “consecutive” (immediately following each other, without any break) days and then have four days off. “Four on, three off” and “four on, one off” are also common shift patterns.

Many manufacturing companies “prefer” the “DuPont 12-hour rotating shift” which uses four “crews” (groups of workers) in 12-hour shifts. Each employee works an average of 42 hours per week, but there is one 72-hour week. Then the employee receives one “full” (entire) week off.

There are many other “variations” (different versions) of shift patterns, depending on the industry and the specific needs of the businesses, such as whether shifts need to “overlap” (with one starting before the previous one has ended).

Comprehension Answers
1 - c

2 - a