As of the close of business this afternoon, there are 10 working days standing between me and the a year ending 12-day weekend. Sure, some people are all friends, family, Christmas, Jesus, whatever… but for me, it’s the nearly two weeks of uninterrupted time off that gets my motor running. All the other stuff feels more or less incidental to having such an expanse stretching out before me where I’m the only one dictating how I spend my time. OK, maybe it misses the point of the season, but being the non-conforming traditionalist I am, that doesn’t bother me much.
After the past season of professional discontent in service to the arbitrary and capricious whims of the dysfunctional legislative and executive branches of government, the most joyous and celebratory thing I can think of doing is ignoring the whole shitshow for my twelve days of Christmas.
1. Christmas shopping. I know the old saying goes “It’s better to give than to receive” and while I’m sure there are some very good socio-religious reasons for that adage, my own Christmas shopping does not in any way reflect it. After a week of hitting the sales at my usual haunts, it’s pretty much Jeff: 10, Everyone Else: 0. I’m shooting to get most of my list covered down over this coming weekend. Fortunately, in the finest tradition of 21st century man, gift cards are pretty easy to find and I can have just about all of that knocked out in about an hour. I’m sure I could go spend the next three weeks carefully pondering what the recipients might want, but in the end, shopping for other people is mostly a wild ass shot in the dark. It’s better all around to take my chances with them knowing what they want instead of giving it my best blind guess.
2. Arguing on the internet. I’m a regular member of several online forums. One of the best aspects of the internet is that no matter what you’re interested in, there’s almost guaranteed to be a group of people out there interested in talking about the same thing. From investments to tortoise keeping, there’s a discussion out there for you. What I don’t understand is why so many people spend an inordinate amount of time and effort on these sites arguing with one another over nitpicky details that really make all that much difference. There’s something about having an internet connection that imbues people with the sense that they alone are the herald of the One Truth. I’m of the opinion that there is room for smart people to disagree, for there to be more than one version of the truth, without everyone being a bunch of doucheknockers. Then again, that theory depends largely on it being a discussion between smart people. Which may be the ultimate flaw in my logic.
3. Thirty minutes. That’s how much later than normal I left work on Tuesday. I signed off on it in advance and for once actually wanted to go to a meeting, but that didn’t take into account the fact that apparently leaving 1800 seconds after the end of my usual duty day approximately doubles the duration of my drive home from 45 minutes to nearly an hour and a half. If I wanted to deal with that kind of asshattery, I would have accepted the job down at Ft. Myer and not here in the sticks, thank you very much. File that one under the category labeled “Mistakes I Won’t Make a Second Time.”
I’ve been trying hard to avoid the impending office Christmas Party. I’m not a social butterfly, hard as that may be to believe. I don’t enjoy small talk or making pleasantries with whatever random people I end up sitting with. Frankly, I find events like this absolutely exhausting. Staying at my desk in hopes of getting something done actually sounds far more pleasant than eating an institutional lunch and trying to chat with a room full of strangers.
In the last week, I’ve gotten a spate of emails “reminding” me how much the food has improved, how important team building is, and what a boost for office morale these occasions are. I’m getting the distinct impression that while this is a purely “voluntary” event, the expectation is that we show up, paste on a smile, and pretend to have a good time. Because I’m Mr. Go-Along-and-Get-Along, I’ll probably end up caving in.
Even though I’m almost inevitably give in to peer pressure, it’s my firm belief that mandatory fun just isn’t, especially when you get to pay for the privilege of doing something you really didn’t want to do in the first place. Something about adding insult to injury. Really, the only saving grace of these activities is that they take place during normal working hours. If it was something I was expected to do on my own time, well, I think you can imagine how that might go over.
If anyone is reading this and actually wants to improve my moral, instead of coercing me to buy $15 rubber chicken and cold vegetables, how about giving me a raise for the first time in four years… or a bonus… or even a time off award that costs exactly nothing. I can fill my own head with platitudes about how important the work is, how valued I am, and that my contribution matters. Sadly, a cash bar, awkward conversation, and a mediocre meal just don’t rank high on the list of things that motivate me to do great and wonderful things.
Government work isn’t exactly bad when you can get it. There are, of course, strings attached. One of the most off-putting strings by which I am tethered to the job is attending a series of monthly meetings that may or may not have any actual relationship to my profession. Since I’m well known as a team player and an undeniable physical presence in any room, I show up, listen attentively, take notes, and regularly report back only that there is nothing significant to report. Sitting through an endless series of meetings doesn’t require a real human-sized brain, but separating the mind from the body is generally frowned upon. Since my General Schedule overlords seem pleased enough with this arrangement, I too will leave well enough alone.
Look, I’m the first one to rock the boat whenever I think rocking it might actually do some good. Fighting city hall over the number of random meetings people get stuck in isn’t one of those occasions. I’ve been a professional bureaucrat long enough to know that the only thing worse than being in too many meetings is not being in them – because that’s always when someone gets the bright idea to make something your responsibility and not actually bother to tell you about it. So in a way, making sure all the meetings are well attended is a warped kind of self defense mechanism.
So baring a Powerball win, my foreseeable future would seem to include spending the hourly equivalent of at least one full week a month doing nothing more than sitting in meetings where my only real responsibility is signing off with “No sir, nothing to add here.”
This is the life I chose… it’s a blessing and a curse.
I know a few of you out there are all gung ho about your exercise routines. You run marathons, lift six times your body weight, and participate in all manner of physical exertion. More than a few of you have commented about how the effort leaves you feeling energized and wanting to go harder and do more. See, right there is where you lose me. I’ve tried a lot of it over the years – free weights and machines, walking, jogging (aka my feeble attempt at breaking into a run), stair climbing, resistance training, etcetera and so on. Where these activities leave you feeling energized, they leave me feeling tired, achy, sweaty, and generally like there are a dozen other things I could have spent that hour doing that would have left me feeling more productive for the day. It’s not that I reject the obvious benefits of these activities so much as it is that I find them mostly dull, tedious, and often painful. Hard as it might be to believe, that’s not the exact recipe for keeping me interested in something.
However, my semi-annual visit coming up in January to my Teutonic doctor and he’s going to ask the inevitable question about doing a minimum of 30-45 minutes of cardio a day. I won’t lie to him, because lying to your doctor is just bad policy, so with the impending visit in mind, I’m back on the wagon. And by wagon, I mean the cursed stationary bicycle that lives in the basement and for the last three months has served as an improvised laundry drying station. So at least when he asks, I can tell him with a straight face that yes, I’m doing the requisite number of minutes per day. I’ll leave off the bit about hating every minute of it since I’m fairly certain that’s not medically relevant.
I envy you people who find your exercise regimen personally fulfilling. For me it feels an awful lot like three hours a week that I’ll never get back.
Welcome, ladies and gentlemen to the penultimate post from the MySpace archives. This week I present for your reading pleasure the final post from September 2008 and the first four posts from October 2008. As usual, they cover the range from my initial thoughts on the burgeoning financial crisis that was so new back then, reports on construction at the Memphis house, and the stuporous aftermath of a fall wedding reception.
There might not be any of the rants you’ve come to know and love in this batch, but I think they hold up surprisingly well – particularly the early though exercise about the coverage and causes of the Great Recession. The posts from October are going to bleed together slightly. There is a brief overlap of posts I wrote to test out Blogger while continuing to post on MySpace, so a bit of overlap was unavoidable when I merged posts. For this week’s update, you’ll need to scroll to the bottom of October’s page after you hit the link. That should take you to the current update.
With just four posts to go, the long effort to bring all my blogly goodness under one roof is almost complete. Next week you can look forward to the final four (and of course my running commentary on how we got from Point A to Point B).
If I may be so bold as to make a Christmas shopping recommendation for everyone, I’ll take this opportunity to remind you that books make excellent gifts… and I’m not just saying that because I want you to give my books to people. Although, if you choose to give the gift of Jeff, you can pick give the electronic or paperback edition of Nobody Told Me: A Cynics Guide for New Employees from Amazon. If you’ve gone all electronic or just want to stick it to Amazon, the ebook is also available from Barnes & Noble and Smashwords.
I know there are a few of you who are always looking for a deal, so in that spirit if you purchase your ebook from Smashwords, I’m offering a $1 discount from now until December 25th. Enter CW57P when you check out and you’ll receive the promotional price of $1.99.
Let’s face it, Nobody Told Me: A Cynics Guide for New Employees, is just about the perfect gift for the guy who hates everything.