All about Eve…

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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

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.

Christmas surprise, or Our watchword is indifference…

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.

Hitting pause…

In the interest of not committing myself to deliver something I may not feel like doing, I’m going to go ahead and state for the record that my intention over the next few days is to declare an operational pause, take a knee, and not do much writing over the next few days. I really think I could benefit from just turning my brain off and letting the system reset, so that’s the barest sketch of what I’m planning for between now and next week.

As usual, of course, I reserve the right to change my mind at any time and resume posting like a madman. It feel like even odds on whether that will happen or not. It’s hard to imagine four days passing by without something seeming noteworthy.

With that, I’ll wish you all the very best for a merry Christmas and get on about the too-long list of things that need to get don around here before sun up tomorrow.

Inevitable…

The inevitable happened today. Somewhere at echelons higher than reality someone decided that there was a TPS Report that just couldn’t wait until after the holidays – that out there in the far reaches of our vast bureaucratic quagmire, some vital piece of information sure to bring democracy, peace, and justice to a troubled world was just laying around waiting to be reported upwards. Rank and high station may have their privileges, but getting dosed heavily by common sense isn’t among them.

What really happened today was a request for information was generated high in the stratosphere, it was typed into the computer and then passed to me “for action.” I immediately rolled my eyes, which is something I spend an inordinate amount of time doing if I can be perfectly honest. I then in turn typed my own message passing the requirement for this very important information down to the next level. When they receive it, someone will roll their eyes and ask what the fuck I’m smoking and then they will write up their own email and send it ever further down the line. Eventually it will reach the desk of some individual who knows at least some of the answer, they’ll write up a response, and then the whole great process gets thrown into reverse – with each level seeking out its own approvals, making a few changes, and then sending it upwards before an answer returns to my desk where I’ll realize that the answer-by-committee bears no resemblance to the question I asked originally. Because time has expired on the clock, that factoid won’t stop me from rolling my eyes and passing it on back up the chain.

It’s a clunky, archaic process at the best of times. Let me just say for the record, sending something out two days before Christmas and expecting a response immediately after the new year is not, by anyone’s definition, the best of times. What it is, however, is a recipe for a systemic failure at almost every level. It’s the operative definition of setting yourself up for failure.

But this is the season of yuletide, when a long dead saint rises up from his frozen tomb and alights onto his sleigh driven by eight super-natural reindeer to distribute toys constructed by enslaved elves to the world’s children. It’s the season of miracles like that… so if you just believe hard enough, maybe anything really is possible.

Preserving the illusion…

And so tomorrow we begin Christmas week, or what I affectionately like to think of as Why the Hell Didn’t I Take the Whole Week off Week. During most slow periods I can fiddle around sufficiently to find something to keep myself busy, if not gainfully employed by the strictest definition. The week of Christmas always presents something of a challenge, though. You see, even in the bureaucracy, 95% of the people who are still around are smart enough not to try kicking off anything new – and the 5% who aren’t that bright can safely be ignored until the new year. Even on the off chance that something does come in hot, the chances of the right combination of people needed to resolve the issue satisfactorily actually being available are precisely nil.

It’s been my experience over the years that offices being “open” at all these last two weeks of December is almost a complete fiction. Sure, the lights are going to be on and there are going to be some people milling around for all the good that’ll do. It’s not quite farce, but it is only a step or two above illusion.

Rest assured, friends, I will do my part to maintain that illusion right up until the final buzzer – at which point I will scamper to the exit and promptly forget everything even remotely office related until the new year. And if you think “scamper” was an incorrect word choice, you’ve clearly never seen me leave the building at the end of the day. Only the interest of preserving some semblance of personal dignity keeps me from processing to the door at a flat out run most days. On the day leading into an 11-day weekend all bets are off.

Those days will go fast enough and the grind through 2016 will commence well before I’m ready for it… but in the meantime I’ll do my level best to enjoy every moment between now and then.