"Mrs. Washington. May I help you?" she asks mechanically, her long fingers set to punch the desired party's telephone numbers into the digital console. But it's just another crank call, the type that operator Louise Washington receives steadily from 11 p.m. to 7 p.m.

"At night you deal with people who need somebody to talk to," she says magnanimously. "You deal with people who don't turn the light on to see what time it is."

At age 32, Washington considers herself lucky. Working the midnight shift at C&P Telephone for almost seven years, she has reached what she considers one of her life's goals -- contentment.

"When I come out into the day, it's so noisy. It seems like everything is so congested," she says, adding that since working at night, she cannot even bear the volume of a band.

During the night and early morning hours, she answers a nearly constant stream of calls that she differentiates by time and nature of call.

"Between 3 and 4 a.m. is when all the weirdos call," she explains, noting one man who calls each night asking provocative questions.

"Between 2 and 4 a.m. is when you get people who can't sleep and want somebody to talk to."

Then there are the disturbing suicide calls, the calls from handicapped persons who need help and, of course, the irksome time and weather calls.

During the day, she sleeps until noon and then watches television until 4 p.m. After that, she takes a nap before going to work.

"I love movies. Give me a can of soda and a good movie and I'm contented," she says bashfully. "I go to sleep by the TV and wake up by the TV."