Today is Peace Officers Memorial Day. For most people it’s a day that probably passes un-noted or little remarked. That’s fair. The only interaction most people ever have with a police officer is getting a speeding ticket. When you don’t need a cop or they haven’t caught you doing something stupid, their presence just kind of fades into the background.
My perspective comes from a slightly different place of course. In the formative years of my childhood, my dad wore a badge. Some of my earliest memories are of the smell of gun oil, the zing of a whip antenna bouncing off a low hanging branch, and vacation road trips interrupted by stopping along side the highway to aid someone in distress. Growing up, “police officer” wasn’t a simple job title. They were real people, many friends of the family who are friends still. Maybe that’s why I feel such disquiet when confronted by those with no respect or regard for the work done by those men and women who pin on that badge every day.
Police officers leave their home every day doing the kind of work that most of us wouldn’t tolerate for a single shift. They don’t always do it perfectly, but I’d be hard pressed to show you another group of people who are more intent on doing the right thing day in and day out.
You have every right not to like the work they do. You have every right not to like the way in which they do it. But the fact that last year 146 of them gave their lives in performance of their duty insists that they’re worthy of both my respect and yours.
1. Lawn (work) envy. If there was ever a single sound that could get under my skin, it isn’t nails on a chalk board or the hi pitched whining of small human beings. The most awful of sounds is the sound of lawn maintenance happening somewhere next door when I’m working from home. No, I’m not mad that they’re doing it. I don’t feel interrupted or put upon at all. It’s mostly just a rising frustration that they’re able to get out there and do it while I’m stuck being more or less responsible and not able to take advantage of the good weather to do the same thing myself.
2. Calls from unknown or 800-number. By now you’d think your fancy algorithms would tell you that I’m not going to pick up. I never do. But I admire your hope-spings-eternal persistence. If you want to have any hope of getting my eyes on your product or service, try send me an old fashioned letter. I’ll at least scan the first line of that before shredding it… and every once in a great while I’ll read the pitch if you’ve got a good hook up front. Otherwise, feel free to continue going to voicemail. It’s entirely your choice.
3. Showing restraint. There’s really nothing worse than being forced by social convention to sit politely and try not to smirk when the person on the other side of a conversation so richly deserves being grabbed by the throat and pummeled against every flat surface in the room. No matter how much asshats like that deserve a bit of rough treatment, I’d be the one who ended up in jail for handing it out. Talk about living in an unjust world.
I’ve spent most of my career as a relatively junior bureaucrat in various organizations. That usually means working in small spaces well away from anything like natural light. My last desk had what passes for a view around here, though. You could see grass, and some vines, and even a few trees. You could tell if it was sunny or if it was snowing. It’s such a small thing but I apparently came to appreciate it far more than I realized.
Sitting now in an interior room with no hope of seeing daylight, I realize I miss that damned window. I made the mistake of escaping the office for a few minutes around lunch time today. The sun was shining, the breeze was freshening off the Bay, and it was all the things mid-day in early spring should be. It was the kind of day that might make it a bit challenging to want to climb back into the bowls of a post-modern office.
The older I get, the more I tend to believe that we’re not really wired for this kind of work. Hermetically sealed glass, concrete, and steel – unless it’s incredibly well designed – really is something of a soul suck. It’s only the pesky things like pay and benefits that makes it tolerable… but only just. I’m realist enough to know now isn’t the time to run off into the wilds to live in a lean-to, but when the working days are done, you’ll be hard pressed to ever coax me willingly into another office building…
and all for want of a window.
My inbox is a war zone. It’s a maelstrom of electronic strife sorting itself daily between the dozens of easy to do things that each take 1-2 minutes or the majestically hard to do ones that command hours and days of constant attention just to sort out. I find if I focus too long on clearing the deck of the easy to do, hard stuff becomes a raging hairy beast. If I focus on the growing beast, however, the easy multiplies until I find myself as Gulliver – surrounded, cut off, and overrun by Lilliputians.
Time management “experts” will tell you to only respond to email at certain times of the day and give you tips and tricks on how to run triage and only engage the “really important” bits. I don’t know who these lunatic experts work for, but every SOB that lobs an email at my box expects an answer. Yes, some are more timely than others, but it’s the rare gem that gets flat out ignored.
To me, it feels like nothing so much as a grand opportunity to pick your poison. On any given day you’re entitled to a death by 1000 cuts or by a enormous rock falling on your head from a great height. Maybe some days, if you really foul things up right and proper you can have both simultaneously, but don’t get greedy because you’ll have to rise again tomorrow and fight the battle all over again.
I should start by confessing that I’m almost use to confronting all manner of canine medical problems. It’s one of the less charming, but utterly unavoidable side effects of living with an English bulldog. It’s just something you come to expect. I’m not entirely sure he can surprise me anymore. Usually my response is more of a “Oh, he’s broken again.”
It’s when the Labrador retriever pulls up with the medical mystery, I’m admittedly taken completely by surprise. She’s been a mercifully healthy dog and I’m more than appreciative of having at least one that doesn’t need nearly continuous medical supervision.
Unfortunately last week I discovered Maggie had a lump about the size of half a golf ball under the skin just below her ribcage. A trip to the vet and biopsy obviously followed – and in the meantime I’ve been spending the time keeping my mind off it as much as possible. Patience, as we know, is not one of my great virtues. Since I don’t run my own diagnostic lab, of course, there’s nothing for it but to wait and see what results come back.
I’ll do it, but I will in no way commit myself to doing it patiently.
Thanks to Facebook, I know that today is the 6th anniversary of accepting the job offer that ultimately let me escape West Tennessee and more importantly, carried me back to Maryland’s blessed shores. Believe me when I tell you that’s not what annoys Jeff this week. In fact it’s a day that I should probably be celebrating with feasting and fireworks and parades. As disgruntled as I now may be, I know that six years ago my mood was far more vile.
What annoys me is the realization that it’s actually been six damned years. That took more than a couple of minutes to really sink in. Even then it still doesn’t seem quite right – like maybe I’ve misapplied some basic mathematical concepts somewhere.
I’ve been forced to admit that it’s more likely the days have crept past at their petty pace more or less unnoticed to cobble together the passage of so many years just 24 hours at a time. Even that feels like a bit of a stretch, though, because I really have no idea where the time went – and that’s profoundly annoying.
Occasionally, without knowing exactly how or why the day just kind of gets completely away from you. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll have something to show for a day like that. More often, in my experience, you just suddenly look up, realize the whistle is about to release you from your toil, and find that there’s not much you can point to in the way of good solid results to show for your time.
If I were a business management guru, I’d probably conjecture that it has something to do with disjointed days broken up with too many meetings, (attempted) multi-tasking, the time thief that is email, and the ever present danger of employees lingering a bit too long over their social media accounts. Alas, I’m no guru, but just a guy sitting here at the keyboard so what could I possibly tell you about such things?
Given an option between being a little too busy or a little too bored, I’m apt to choose busy if for no other reason than it does seem to move the day along at least a touch faster. At tis point anything that even gives the impression of getting me back to hearth and home in a more timely manner is a net good overall – even if it’s only illusionary. Sometimes the benevolent lie is good enough.
You’re going to find things in life you have a natural aptitude for. Some of them you’ll enjoy doing. Others will become the bane of your existence. Trust me when I tell you that just because you’re good at something that doesn’t in any way mean you’re going to enjoy spending your time working at it. People are going to come along and do their damnedest to cram you into doing that which you do not want to do because it makes their life easier in some way. Want a pro tip? Don’t do it. Run as far and as fast as you can in the other direction.
Most people are going to spend at least 40 hours or so a week doing something – probably something that you don’t particularly love, because frankly the people who tell you to follow your passion never seem to have any sense of how low the pay scale is for those toiling away on their “passion jobs.” Still, if you value your sanity at all, at least angle yourself towards doing something that doesn’t make you want to split skulls by the end of the day. You’ll thank yourself later.
It’s mostly too late for me. My path for the foreseeable future seems to have been set. I’m to play the role of professional events coordinator – from registration booths to floral centerpieces, I’m a one stop shop. I’ll do it and do it well, because that’s just what I do, but I’m begging you with tears in my eyes, don’t let that happen to you. Yes, I could plan the hell out of your next birthday, wedding, or bar mitzvah but that in no way should lead you to think that I’d in any way enjoy the process.
I’ll conclude tonight by saying loud and clear what I must mutter to myself a dozen times a day: FML. This is so not what I signed up for.
I’m not a procrastinator by nature. I tend to want to jump in and get shit done just as soon as possible. The grand exception to this rule is the laundry list of online annual mandatory training opportunities that Uncle has decided are important. Many of them don’t change from year to year. The old ones never drop off and new ones are always being added by some good idea fairy lurking in the depths of the five sided lunatic asylum on the banks of the Potomac.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve put off doing this online training hell right up until the last possible minute. Usually that means sequestering myself for a few days before the end of the year to click through everything just before the end of the fiscal year and clear my name off the training officer’s naughty list.
I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and using part of my telework days to plow through these interminable classes two at a time. I don’t have a rhyme or reason for which ones I take other than working the list from top to bottom… but today turned out to be “drug and alcohol awareness day” at the online training farm.
After two hours of checking this particular box, I’m left to wonder how these dumbass training requirements don’t send us all down the path of reckless drug and alcohol use.