1. The speed at which you can go from hero to zero and back again. They say no one remembers all the good stuff you did past that one time you do something bad. That’s probably true enough. Good and bad, in my experience, are simply matters of perception though… and the whiplash between one person declaring you a shithead and the other proclaiming your glory is probably something I will never get use to. It’s a good thing we don’t have objective and standard measures of performance against which all things can be judged.
2. People always notice the big things. Tell people they have to work a double shift and that eight hours is as noticeable as a sore thumb. Let that same eight hours slip away in increments of 15 minutes here and 45 minutes there and no one seems to notice much. I notice, of course. I notice because I value my time more highly than just about any other commodity. If I were to start randomly showing up between 15 and 45 minutes late with no notice or explanation, it’s a fair bet suddenly that incremental time would start being important to more people than just me… and I’m feeling just passive aggressive enough to see about putting my pet theory to the test.
3. Home maintenance. I bitch a lot about home ownership. With that said, I should note that I really do love the house I’m in. What’s grating on my nerves at the moment, though is the “systems maintenance” do loop I seem to be suck in at the moment. Water heaters, gutters, HVAC, sundry other appliances all need their fair share of attention – some more than others. As with every aspect of home ownership it always boils down to a simple matter of time and/or money. As both are in somewhat short supply at the moment, I hope I can be forgiven my slightly jaundiced view on the joy of home ownership at the moment.
Well, it’s Tuesday. I spent a small shit ton of money and burned off eight hours of vacation time.
I also learned an important thing. Usually I think of Tuesday as Monday Part 2. Usually it is annoying and I return home in something of a foul mood. Today there wasn’t a foul mood to be seen… and that despite the cash outflow and “wasted” time off.
The lesson here is that the issue really isn’t Tuesday. Turns out the foul mood isn’t generated by the day of the week, but rather what I’d normally spend that day of the week doing.
That’s good information to have… but begs the bigger question of what the hell I’m going to do about it.
There’s a tendency in the bureaucracy for days to run late into the afternoon and then on into the evening – as if those running the show didn’t have a home to go to and had no interest in being anywhere else. If I’m honest, by the time we’ve rolled past the usual and customary close of business, my loudest voice in my inner dialog is screaming “Why won’t they just shut the fuck up?” loudly enough to drown out most everything else. By that point, how interesting or important a topic might otherwise be is utterly irrelevant to the way my brain processes the information. It’s one of the many reasons I know I should never angle to restart my rise through the ranks. I just don’t have the interest in putting in the hours required and it’s never, ever going to be the place I’d rather be than anywhere else.
A sure and certain end of the work day is the only thing that makes some of them even tolerable. Take that away and, well, you’ve put me to sea without a compass or any way to find my North Star. It’s not lost on me that no one is looking for information or wanting to have meetings at 7am before they drag themselves in. What makes those same people think the rest of us are any more interested in staying on in the other direction is beyond me. Of course rank has it’s inevitable privileges. That truth is as old as our species, I’m sure.
Things would be different, of course, in the World According to Jeff. No meeting would last longer than 30 minutes and none would start after 4PM… because unlike others I have other shit to do and don’t live life searching for the adulation of those who dwell in offices.
I’ve mostly accepted that aside from making a quick stop to top off groceries or for fuel, weekdays are going to be mostly consumed by going to, being at, and returning from work. By the time I get home, tend the herd, and have a bit of dinner, my brain has pretty much turned to mush. All I’m good for after that is mixing a decent drink and maybe a passingly interesting blog post.
The weekends, for their part, aren’t much better with their time eaten up with errands, cleaning, yard work, and generally keeping the homestead from falling down around my ears. By the time that all gets knocked out, it’s usually already late Sunday afternoon.
What perplexes me, and in fact makes me a little bit jealous, is how other people seem to carve out time to actually go do things for recreation. Of course I’m not likely to show up in a stadium full of people, but I wouldn’t mind so much getting out to stomp around the high ground at Gettysburg or take the tour at Independence Hall. Those things take time, though, and I know the minute I pull out of the driveway my mind is already going to ticking off the things that are lurking around not getting done.
I’m telling you folks, inside my head is a damned strange place to live sometimes.
For most of the last five or six years I’ve worked to build up a firewall between home and office. They were the twin streams in my life that must never, every cross. Today, with a few strokes of the pen, I’ve started the process to un-make that bulwark and let the two halves scrape past one another a bit more closely. Actually, that’s not accurate. I’ve given work a written invitation to conduct a wholesale invasion of Fortress Jeff.
That sounds more dire than it probably is since all I’ve really done is start the wheels in motion to get approval for working from home one day a week. As much as I value the hard wall of separation between home and office, the hard math isn’t on my side. Once I ran the numbers, finding that tucking myself in to my home office once a week would save me almost 40 hours a year of commuting time it makes the thing a bit of a no brainer, really.
I did the whole working from home thing years ago and I’m well aware of its virtues, particularly when it comes time to really study an issue and give it the mental once over without Chatty Cathy in the next cube spending the whole day in your ear. Plus, although my colleagues are decent enough (mostly), chalking up at least one day of the week where two dogs, a cat, and a tortoise are my officemates sounds preferable in just about every way.
We’re going to take this idea out for a bit of test drive starting (probably) sometime this month… but I’m not making any promises. As much as I’d like to spend another day at home, letting the office creep into the sanctum sanctorum may be a bridge too far.
If you stick around long enough occasionally good things happen to good people. Most of the time that’s not the case, but just occasionally the universe gets one right. It’s nice to see someone finally get compensated for the level of responsibility they’ve already had. It’s a damned rare thing and I’m happy to see it.
The flip side of such recognition, however, is that when these good people move up and out you inevitably end up with a pile of their old job on your desk because someone still has to do it when they’re gone. Anyone who’s been in the game any length of time at all has been on both sides of the “workload balancing” equation. So it goes.
My advice at times like this is to remember that the day is only eight hours long no matter who’s trying to cram 12 hours of work into it. Wash, rinse, and repeat as needed until the weekend arrives. A decade ago, this kind of thing would have made me nervous and jerky. Now I mostly just shrug and accept there are some things that will never rise to the top of the list of things to do – and even if that’s not technically ok, it’s just the way it is.
1. Other duties as assigned. I can do my job – the heavy analytical lifting – or I can do the other duties as assigned – issuing keys, setting up new employees with laptops, filing, hole punching, and flipping slides. However, I lack the gift of being in two places at once so you’re going to have to pick between those so I know what you actually want me to spend time tending. I’m good either way, but choose one and you’ll get a seriously good analyst, close the other and you have a spectacularly overpriced secretary. The choice is utterly yours.
2. Being other than on time. Although I’ve been doing it nearly every working day since January 2003, people always seem surprised when I shutdown and head for the doors on time. You may work for love. You may work for pride. You may even work to give your short time on this rock a sense of purpose. I’m a simpler animal. I work for money because I know my time isn’t free or limitless. Think of it what you will, but you can always be assured that when I’m “on,” you’ll get the best product I can manage, but I will be equally dedicated to preserving my personal time at almost any cost.
3. Free stuff. My news feeds and the media channels have been filled with talk of everyone who wants “free” stuff these last few days. They want a $15/hour paycheck guarantee for entry-level unskilled labor – essentially a request for “free” money since their economic activity doesn’t command such price in the marketplace already. They want “free” higher education. They want “free” healthcare. They want “free” housing and “free” food and maybe even a “free” phone. I may be a poor simple hillbilly from Western Maryland, but it strikes me that what the most recent round of protestors really mean is they want the stuff and they want other people to pay the bill. Precious little in life comes for “free.” Someone, somewhere, has to pick up the check. It’s not presently the popular thing to say, but in my mind being a grown ass adult mostly means being able to make your own way in the world, paying your bills, and being a responsible and productive member of society… or maybe I missed a memo somewhere. In that case, where’s my free shit?