I often work at 7-11 in the nighttime. In Taipei, a number of 7-11 stores have some nice tables. There's free WiFi, and while it's somewhat limited (you need to get a login that expires after 30 minutes, and you can log on only 3 times in a day), my phone has infinite 3G internet and tethers to my computer.
There's a 7-11 a few blocks from my place, so it's my de facto go-to place after the cafes in this sleepy little area are closed at 1AM.
After being here on and off for a few weeks, I've come to be impressed by the industriousness of the nighttime clerk here.
7-11 has managed to have one man cover the majority of the general service of customers who come in, preparing microwaved food or other things that need preparation when customers order them, stocking the shelves when the delivery trucks arrive sometime between midnight and 5AM, doing general maintenance and keeping the store clean (sweeping, mopping), and -- and this was the part that struck with the need to write this -- make repairs and maintenance of long-term fixtures like the fans, appliances, and refrigerators.
Tonight, he disassembled all the fans that are embedded into the ceiling, and the genius of the system became apparent. The fans were made to be assembled and disassembled with no tools at all. They're made of some lightweight material, and easy to logically take apart. They're held together by some sturdy plastic screw-like things that can be easily hand-cranked on or off while using the other hand to support the main weight of the fan.
After disassembling them all, he took them outside and washed them with a hose, and then dried them with a spongelike cloth, and put them back on. Whenever a customer (rarely) came in, he'd stop the part of the task he was in with a high degree of awareness, check the customer's order out, and then go back to his work.
The pay is probably much better for the night-shift than it is for equivalent day-shifts, because the clerk here is really intelligent, friendly, industrious, and seems like he's having somewhere from a decent to enjoyable time as he goes about his work.
I'm frequently the only one here in the nighttime, and we get along alright. We chat a little bit, and he seems to enjoy the company. I'm guessing the wages must be considerably higher than the daytime, because not only does the job entail the night shift, they also got a guy who is just solid all-around in personality, work ethic, and consistency.
This particular 7-11 is a larger one, right outside the only exit of a metro station, and this store's monthly gross revenues are probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
And the majority of the upkeep of the store is done by one guy at night, because everything has been engineered to be done safely and quickly. All the fixtures, the floor, the tables and chairs, the appliances, even the fans have been engineered to be maintained easily, quickly, and safely at night.
It makes me take a quick look at my own life and see how difficult much of the upkeep-related stuff is. Much of it is unscheduled, and done haphazardly. Much of it requires judgment and tedium. Much of it is not engineered to be doable quickly, easily, and consistently in blocks.
While observing the workings of a 7-11 at night is mundane in a way, it's also a revelation for me. A store doing hundreds of thousands of dollars of revenue can get most of its upkeep from one guy at night, by being well-engineered. There's many lessons here to apply to one's own life, if you want to get more done.