What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Selling online. There are a few pieces of lawn equipment and other odds and ends I don’t have use of anymore. For ease of listing and in hopes of not dealing with too many crackpots, I opted to post them on the local neighborhood website instead of Craigslist. In retrospect I would have been far better off just loading everything in the truck and hauling it over to the dump. I know I’ve spent at least $150 worth of time answering questions about a $25 item. Lesson learned. From here on out I’ll just throw stuff away. It’s not worth the aggravation for so little return on investment.

2. Walking and talking. If you’re on your phone and wander into the street without paying the least bit of attention I should be within my rights to hit you with the truck. I’m not talking about flattening anyone, but it feels like giving these dipshits a glancing blow with the side mirror should be accepted if not encouraged.

3. Connectivity. Having access to email and the Internet are pretty much my only real job enablers. I’m sure I could do at least some of the work without those tools, but everything would take days longer than it should. Some of it I can get done by phone but the “must have a signature” stuff not so much. If you’re a knowledge worker access to a function network isn’t a convenience or a perk, it’s a necessity. If you the employer can’t provide that then you’d best not look at me cross eyed when I start telling you there are things I can’t do. Like it or not, without connectivity there’s no path between Point A and Point B that doesn’t involve hand written letters and a book of stamps.

Comfort and convenience…

So given the stink being raised (pun clearly intended) about who should and shouldn’t be using the variously marked public restrooms, I can’t help but wade in to the mess. See what I did there?

For purposes of this discussion let’s assume for a moment that there’s a clearly designated men’s room and a clearly designated women’s room. Anyone who self-identifies as a man uses the men’s room. Anyone who self-identifies as a woman uses the women’s room. Seems easy enough as long as we don’t get stuck on who has what plumbing.

With that understanding of the situation, my biggest question is what’s to stop me, a 300 pound, goteed, heteronormative male, from deciding I’d just rather use the ladies loo? Maybe it’s closer to my desk. Maybe it’s just because the ladies (maybe) don’t piss all over the seat. The reason behind my decision doesn’t really matter because we’ve established that people get to pick the bathroom where they feel most comfortable regardless of what their personal equipment or what anyone else using those facilities thinks.

Personally, I don’t care who’s popping a squat in the stall next to me, but if we’re all going to be cheerleaders for equal-access restrooms, don’t be surprised if I show up farting and belching in the ladies room at some point just because it’s more convenient. If anyone makes a fuss, I’ll just call myself a big, bald, ugly chick who likes looking awfully butch and wearing polos and khakis. How dare you question my authenticity and can you please point the way to the nearest Equal Employment Opportunity office so I can file a complaint and set myself up for a nice settlement.

I’m sure the issue is full of nuance and subtlety that I’m somehow missing, but what it seems to boil down to for me is a question of how far does my right to make the vast majority of those around me uncomfortable stretch in my relentless pursuit of pooping where I want to poop?

Dreams and wishes…

With all respect to Dr. Freud who argued that dreams are and exercise in wish fulfillment, I’m afraid I have to go out on a limb and beg to differ. I woke up in a cold sweat this morning near enough to 3AM in the aftermath of a dream in which I (for some unknown reason) was sitting on the back porch watching the back yard wash out all the way down to the bottom of the foundation. I can assure the good doctor that I in no way have any wish to do that kind of excavation work. Ever.

Maybe the most entertaining part is that Dream Jeff was completely uninterested by the every growing chasm that was appearing where his dream yard was supposed to be. I can only assume that the entire thing was just a bad reaction to too-late-in-the-evening meatloaf sandwiches and spending too much time obsessing about a dry basement.

I’d like to think the couple of hours I allocate to sleep are supposed to be a restful time. Fortunately last night is largely an exception to that rule. Even so, it’s yet another of the many reminders that sometimes inside my own head is a very strange place to pass the time.

​Pushing paper…

I’ll admit that pushing paper doesn’t have the same gritty-sounding edge as breaking bad, but that doesn’t make it any less of an exercise in futility. On this particular Monday, I had the good fortune to review and/or revise an After Action Report, a “fragmentary order”, an “operations order”, two separate requests for information, and several requests for echelons higher than me to pass information upwards through the chain of command. The only thing that really unifies all those efforts is that it’s helpful to be good with words and to know just where in the bowels of the organization something might need to go in order to have a prayer of being answered.

It’s an unfortunate skill that I seem to possess, at least in some limited quantity. If that’s the superpower I got, well, let’s just say I got the short end of whatever stick they were handing out that day. Oh, it pays the bills and keeps a roof over your head, sure enough. Still, it’s not exactly what anyone might call a passion project unless they’re into a deeply warped kind of S&M.

So we trudge on at this petty pace from day to day, fueled almost exclusively by over strong coffee and too little sleep. Until we grind down all the world’s forests to cover the globe with reams of paper carefully checked at the margins and printed in 12 point Arial. Even then, on that long coming day when the last report has been printed, the last order cut, and the last briefing printed… somehow there will still be paper left to push. Worse than a nightmare, this is real life.

A year later…

As most of the rest of the Western world is busy celebrating Easter, I’ve mostly spent this Sunday morning trying to wrap my head around the idea that one year ago almost to the hour I was sitting down and signing my name on 37,361 pieces of paper that allowed me to borrow a horrifying sum of cash and move into a far better house than I imagined possible. I won’t say that the year has been all sunshine and roses – it feels like there’s been some part of the place under construction for most of that time; not to mention an ever-lengthening list of projects yet to come.

Now with that being said, and despite the general pain in the ass of being a homeowner, this place ranks among the better decisions I’ve ever made. Good bones, good neighborhood – and neighbors I can’t even see for three seasons of the year – it’s a hard place not to like. The longer I’m here, the more I change to suit me versus suiting the last guy to live here, the more I like it.

I’m already struggling to imagine that a year ago I was standing in the middle of a totally empty house wondering what the hell I’d gotten myself into.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Getting a new project. I don’t mind taking on different work, but there are few things more professionally frustrating that being on the receiving end of a data dump of information about a project you haven’t in any way been part off. Generally I tend to prefer the quick hit projects that run for a couple of months, have their big finish, and then are put to sleep. It’s the never ending, ill defined efforts that are always a constant source of aggravation and annoyance. I suspect that’s mostly because of not having the background of how and why certain decisions were made. Basically all you end up with is an enormous steaming pile of email ​without history or context. The best you can hope for is that the guy running the project before you didn’t leave things an unmitigated cluster fuck and that you’ll be able to sift through the mass quantity of electronic paper to find the few gems that you really need to know.

2. If you say you value your people as your highest organizational asset, but then hold them two or three hours after the end of their normal duty day because you want to have a meeting and can’t be bothered to be in the office more than one day during the week, well, you can pretty much forget about ever recovering your credibility. Time is arguably the most rare commodity we have and when you think your people don’t have anything better to do with their (alleged) personal time than wait around to play the fawning audience, you’ve stopped being a leader and started being just some guy with a really good parking spot. I’ll respect the office because it’s the right thing to do, but respecting the office leaves me plenty of room to consider you a pretty crummy human being.

3. People. A dear friend of mine pitched the idea of going to DC to wander amongst the cherry blossoms this weekend. It sounds like a fine idea in practice. It’s a rare enough thing for both the blossoms and the weather and a weekend to cooperate all at the same time. The fact is, as good as it sounded, all I could really think about was the vast sea of humanity who would be there doing the same thing. I like the idea of festivals, concerts, and events in general… but the people. Sigh. Thats another matter entirely. I’ve heard that we all have some kind of neurosis and this one seems to be mine. I’ve never mastered the fine art of being around large groups of people and hiding my disgust at how many of them are oblivious to everything and everyone outside whatever personal bubble their occupying. I can do it when I have to or with sufficient preparation, but a whole day spent elbow to elbow with the masses sounds more than slightly hellish. The mental energy it would take not to completely lose my shit would leave my exhausted for the better part of the next week. I’m told I can be quite engaging with individuals or even a group of people I know reasonably well, but I’d be well and truly hopeless schlepping around a Tidal Basin full of perfect strangers.

A vestigial remnant, or Eight hours in the aggregate…

Like any good bureaucrat I have a system when it comes to accumulating and pushing along information. Every morning the first hour or so of my day is dedicated to sending out various data calls, requests for information, and making sundry other attempts to gather the information I’m going to need for the day. The rest of the day (aside from whatever unfortunate percentage is going to inevitably wasted in meetings), I then spend amalgamating the information I received into a semi-coherent narrative or providing information to others.

I sent out a lot of requests for information on Monday, knowing that a few of them were somewhat involved – and also knowing that I was going to be off Tuesday so I wasn’t in a real rush to get anything back. I assumed, and here you can see where the problem starts, that two days would be a sufficient amount of time to respond to a few straightforward questions. My assumption, as those prove to be so often, was wrong. That, of course, is why two days later my inbox is bereft of information I need in order to start closing the loop on a couple major pieces of work that currently reside on the corner of my desk.

I won’t say that today was a wasted day, but it could have been a hell of a lot more productive if people bothered to respond to email and voice messages in something approximating a timely manner. I’m sure we’re all very busy working on very important projects, but yeah, that only goes so far towards salving the painful realization that I could have left for the day by about lunch time and gotten just as much done… which all lead back to my long-festering belief that the 8-hour work day is a vestigial remnant of when we all worked in factories and production was measured by the piece. When production is measured in something less tangible – in ideas, correspondence, and concepts – it seems that the days should be “as long as they need to be” with some shorter and some longer but most likely approaching an average of 8 hours in the aggregate.

I suppose this is just one of the many reasons no one ever asks me to expound on my philosophy of organizational management.