1. The two weeks of Christmas. I was sitting in a meeting this week where the great and the good were calling for all manner of things to happen in the next two weeks. It’s cute when they’re optimistic like that. Experience tells me that even the most dedicated senior leader is going to find it hard to get jack-all done when 75% of his or her workforce is sitting snug in their homes or on the road for the week before and after Christmas. It’s good to be ambitious. It’s good to have goals. It’s also important to know your limitations, especially when you’re working with a skeleton crew just barely large enough to keep the lights on. Reason 7,471 I have no interest in bossing ever again.
2. Not knowing when to STFU. There is a time and a place for raising new topics or for asking every question. When the guy sitting at the head of the table is trying to close things out and the meeting has already run twenty minutes past its scheduled ending, though, is neither the time nor the place. That’s when you should have been a bureaucrat long enough to know that it’s time to sit there and shut the fuck up.
3. Emergency slide flipping. If there’s anything worse than being stuck in your own meeting, it’s being unceremoniously suck into someone else’s meeting because their computer crapped out and getting it fixed takes days. Look, a) It’s not my program; b) I actually have my own work to do; and c) If we keep finding work arounds to the shit tech support we get it will never have a reason to improve. Being a slide clicker on your own material is bad enough, but the number of times I’ve been yanked away from whatever it was I was doing to flip slides for someone else is astounding. It’s like no one in this place has heard of opportunity cost or return on investment. There are days when I’m entirely convinced I’m the best paid clerk/typist in the whole damned country.
Everyone reading this is probably well aware that I’m not what anyone would describe as a “party” person. In most cases, hell really is other people – especially other people crammed in a room studiously avoiding any topic that could even possibly be considered controversial (and therefore interesting). In most cases the Nondenominational Office Winter Holiday Party is effectively a very long lunch in which everyone carries on the conversations we would otherwise be having over the cubicle walls.
These Nondenominational Office Winter Holiday Parties are said to be morale boosters. For some, maybe they are. If you should ever want to perk up my flagging spirit all that’s really necessary is cutting me loose a few hours early to hang out with the critters. It has the added benefit of not requiring anyone to reserve the back room somewhere and order in a deli tray, so it’s kind of a win-win.
Still, though, if I’m honest, the $13 price of admission is a small price to pay for getting four hours away from the cube farm without burning off any of my own vacation time so it isn’t an utterly lost cause.
1. Christmas Music. I leave the radio on for the dogs when I go to work. I came home one day recently to find that the station had transitioned to a 45-days of Christmas music format and nearly lost my shit. I’m sorry but I just don’t need to be told to have a holly, jolly Christmas ten days before Thanksgiving. For that matter I don’t need to be directed to have one ten days after Thanksgiving. Christmas music makes its appearance on my playlist only one day a year… that’s on whatever day I happen to be driving, like a swallow back to Capistrano, back to my native land a day or two before the actual holiday. Even then, it’s not exactly traditional Christmas songs that bleat from my speakers. My carols tend to come from the likes of Blink-182, Reliant K, Bad Religion, and a few others. I just can’t even with the other stuff this early in the year.
2. The damned darkness. I have a fundamental loathing for this time of year, not because I hate the holidays, but because every time I see the outside it looks like the middle of the damned night. It’s dark when I get to work. It’s dark when I get home. Five days a week, there isn’t a lick of actual daylight to be seen since my desk sits in what might as well be a giant shoebox wrapped in tin foil. It might be enough to drive a lesser man off the rails… fortunately it only drives me to drink.
3. Meetings after the end of the day. This seems to be a perennial topic. I guess that’s so for a reason. By the time close of business rolls around, every ounce of mental energy I can muster is being pushed towards getting the hell out of the building. When suddenly a meeting appears that will frustrate that which is my heart’s desire, I can’t guarantee that you’re not getting my best effort. You’re not even getting a half-assed effort. More likely you’ll end up getting what I generously call “I’m here under protest” face. Sure, I can smile, be polite, and even accommodating, but my brain is already 20 miles away. I’m sure it shows and that isn’t good for any of us.
Usually Christmas Eve finds me threatening to take a week’s hiatus from putting up any new posts. Experience tells me that there’s no way I’ll physically be able to restrain myself from bitching and complaining that long. Observing people during this week of festivities invariably means no shortage of dumb decisions or ridiculous people just begging to be immortalized on the internet.
Honestly, I don’t remember Christmas Eve ever being a major event. Maybe there were traditions as a kid, but since leaving home it’s mostly the day for getting from Point A to Point B and rushing through all points in between to do last minute things before the world (except Sheetz) shuts down for 24 hours. This year has proven to be no change from the expected.
With early evening coming on and mid-winter darkness setting in, social media slows to a snail’s pace, and even international news seems to take a bit of a pause. None of that is a bad thing. The world needs the occasional moment to take a knee and maybe get a little reflective. As for me, it’s a sure sign it’s time to stick my nose in a book. That’s exactly my kind of festive celebration.
1. What dreams may come. I don’t know what I spent the night dreaming about. I very rarely remember dreams. What I can tell you is whatever it was it left me well and truly annoyed. I can only surmise from the result that it somehow involved people being stupid. That hardly seems insightful but I can’t think of anything else that leaves me with such a general feeling of annoyance and disappointment in the universe.
2. Christmas. Go ahead and call me Grinch, Scrooge, Krampus, whatever, but it’s three days before Christmas and I’m just not feeling it this year. Maybe it’s because I’ve usually already started my Christmas vacation by this point in the week. Maybe it’s because it was 50 degrees today. Maybe it’s because I want to bludgeon the next person who whistles past my cubicle wearing an ugly Christmas sweater to death with my keyboard. I might not be ready for Christmas this year, but I’m damn good and ready for this eight-day weekend… and that’s not nothing.
3. Backup. I’ve been saying for months now that I needed someone to at least get familiar with some of the things I’m working on. I don’t need someone to do the work, just someone who can speak intelligently about it if I happen to get hit by a bus, win the lottery, or, you know, take a few days off. Now that the latter scenario is upon is, let’s not act like anyone is surprised it’s happening. The decision that every project was going to have a single point of failure was made at echelons far above mine and despite all evidence to the contrary, decisions have consequences. The consequence here is that while I’m gone, no one is going to be around to answer whatever questions happen to come up. Yes, it means there will be an unmitigated shitshow when I get back. I may not be able to avoid those problems, but I can sure as hell defer them and for the time being that’s good enough.
Every year at this time, the powers that be are somehow perplexed and befuddled that they suddenly find themselves with far fewer people around than they expected to have at their desks. As a mostly dispassionate observer the fact that the office becomes a veritable ghost town the last two weeks of December no longer comes as a surprise to me. It’s as predictable as the rising and setting sun.
While other people are home hanging stockings with care, bosses are skittering across their newly emptied halls calling for updated briefing slides, impromptu meetings, and searching in vane for an action officer who’s three states away sucking down nog. That leaves we who remain mostly to roll our eyes. I saw a lot of that response today. As the days pass and the week draws towards its end the faces will get fewer, but the eye rolls definitely become more exaggerated. By Friday, they’ll be almost comic.
That’s the nature of the end of the year working for this beloved institution of ours. It’s adorable that people think projects are still getting undivided attention and people are spending their time building the perfect slide. I won’t blatantly say the watchword of the week is “disinterested,” but anyone who’s paying attention knows the score.