1. The middle of the damned night. Months ago, I signed up for the 4-hour in person class I need to sit through in order to apply for a Utah non-resident carry permit. I did it fully knowing that the class was scheduled from 5-9 PM on a weekday. I know it won’t seem like it to a normal, reasonable person, but let me assure you that to me, stumbling out of the training facility at 9 PM on a Wednesday felt like it might as well have been two in the damned morning. It’s over, finished, and done with and I now have all the required paperwork to file a request with our friends in the state of Utah, but it’ll take me a week for my internal clock to figure out what the hell happened and why we’re so far off schedule.
2. Misplaced expectations. Here’s something more people should probably know about me: I’m not going to chase you. I don’t care what you “bring to the table.” I don’t care how good you look in a sundress. I don’t really even care if you do that thing I like. I’ve arrived at a stage in life where I have been perfectly happy before I meet someone and I’ll be perfectly happy when they’ve departed the scene. I might feel bad for about ten minutes, but then I’m going to mix a gin and tonic, flip open a book, dispense some ear scratches, and be entirely content. If you go away expecting that I’ll chase you, good luck and godspeed in your future endeavors. We’re done here.
3. I’m cynical and jaded and don’t make much of an attempt to hide it. Give me enough time and I can find the lead lining in every silver cloud. That said, I’ve worked jobs where bosses were actively trying to make life more difficult – truly the kind of guys (and they’ve all been guys) who seemed to just want to watch the world burn. I can’t attribute that kind of malice to the current crop of immediate bosses. Some of them I might even be willing to concede are well intentioned. That doesn’t mean the decisions forced on them from higher, the general working conditions, and the ongoing efforts to suck what little bit of joy you can muster in cubicle hell out of the room aren’t conspiring to turn morale into a smoking crater somewhere beneath what use to be an already very low bar. I’ll do all the things on time and to standard, because that’s the devils bargain I struck in exchange for the money, but if you’re expecting a smile on my face and a song in my heart while it’s happening, you’ve come to the wrong place.
I got my flu shot this afternoon. I had the flu once. That would have been way back in 2004. It was a miserable few days shifting restlessly between bed and the couch. Every fall since then, I’ve been happy to get something that could prevent me from catching the bug or reduce its symptoms if I did end up catching it.
Having had the experience once, I didn’t need any further encouragement. I didn’t need to be entered for a door prize. I didn’t need someone from YouTube to agree with me. I didn’t need to be encouraged by athletes or movie stars. I did it because over the last 43 years, I’ve been vaccinated against I honestly have no idea how many different things both mundane and exotic.
None of those previous vaccinations has enabled me to pick up 5G using my fillings or inserted a GPS tracker under my skin. I haven’t grown a tail or developed an insatiable craving for the flesh of babies. History tells me all those previous vaccines did precisely what they were designed to do.
Smart people, with decades of education and training, have told me the flu shot is far less risky than the thing it helps prevent. I don’t believe them because I’m a rube who just fell off the turnip truck. I believe them because history tells me they’re right.
I am, however, just cynical enough to have gotten the shot at the tail end of a 4-day weekend so if something bad happens, I can take sick leave to cover it instead of ruining perfectly good time I had already scheduled out off.
My laptop took 90 minutes to boot up this morning. Combined with the more than an hour it took to get access to our primary workspace, that put me about three hours into the workday before I could really even start “working.” That’s the point at which I realized that thanks to some very helpful new “improvements,” I didn’t have access to one of the email boxes I need to do my actual job.
The whole thing got mostly unfucked sometime after I’d have usually gone to lunch, so now you can add general hangeryness to the mix of what was stupid today. Add it atop all the things, unseen, piling up in the mailbox I’m supposed to be working out of today. They were all things piling up on me, because I’m the designated stuckee for the next week, so there’s no reprieve in knowing I can just pass the buck to the next sucker who comes along.
The very best part of today is that even though all my systems are now “working,” in order to send an reply from Mailbox #1, I first have to copy the body of the email and the intended recipients into a Word document, close Mailbox #1, open Mailbox #2, paste in the reply itself and the rest of the email thread, manually build the distribution list, hit send, close Mailbox #2, reopen Mailbox #1, and hope the reply shows up. All told, something that should be as easy as sending email could take 5-10 minutes per message depending on how slowly the software opens and the size of the distribution list. There’s a recurring report on Monday with upwards of 100 recipients. It may be the only thing I get done before lunch.
Normally I roll my eyes at coming to the office to do things I could just as easily do from home. Today, of course, I spent a large portion of the day not even able do those things. If you ever find yourself thinking I’m too cynical or jaded, I promise you, it’s all for cause.
It’s fair to assume that my outlook on most things runs somewhere between cynical and completely jaded. I like to think it comes from a lifetime of watching the world around me… or more spificially, the people who inhabit that world. I’ve rarely been disappointed when I ratchet my expectations for them way, way down.
Still, as much of a cynic as I am, I can’t help but understand the allure of finding yourself inside the orbit of the local chieftain or other center of power. Power, even petty power, or someone else’s power, can be intoxicating. I’d be lying if I told you I couldn’t see what might make people give up their personal life and join the cult of personality.
Look, I’m admitting I can see the draw. The attraction is understandable. I’m also 100% sure that there are no circumstances where I’d ever be that guy. Subsuming my own ideas and ways of doing things in the name of some great and powerful Oz-like figure just isn’t me. It isn’t me, but there are occasional moments where I feel the pull and realize how easy it might be to fall into that trap if conditions were otherwise.
I appreciate the bone that House Republicans are throwing at the 800,000 federal employees who spent most of the past week sitting at home waiting to go back to work. While I won’t presume to speak for 799,999 of them, all I can say is as much as I appreciate knowing I’ll receive back pay for the time spent locked out, it’s just a handout. What I really want, what I expect of my “leaders” at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, is that they will take action to actually put the federal government back to work. As hard as it might be for the political class to believe, I want to be allowed to work for a salary rather than receive a fist full of dollars through the largess of Congress.
A cynical person might say that Congress is trying to buy the silence of 800,000 people who are directly impacted by their actions in the Capitol. While I’ll cheerfully take you money, and it will pay my rent and buy my food and pick up the tab for Monday’s root canal, what it won’t buy is my silence. It won’t buy my willingness to be complicit in your halfassed power plays. Money for nothing almost always comes with strings.
The historic response of Congress to any problem they encounter is to throw money at it. I suggest at a time when it’s becoming more and more clear that our financial well is running dry, it would be better for all involved to actually pass a budget or a continuing resolution and put the 800,000 back to work instead of handing us money for nothing. Then again, I’m just a guy who’s been sitting home for the last five days growing a beard, so what do I know about it?
P.S. I am however, very interested in your Chicks for Free program. Go ahead and sign me up for that one.
Government work tends to be one of those odd environments where up is down, good is evil, and logic is nonsense. It feels, at times, like a none-too-subtle combination of Groundhog Day and Dante’s Inferno. Maybe that’s an exaggeration… but only a little. I can say that with a degree of certainty because that’s the kind of day it’s been today.
At just after 11:00 this morning I was handed my formal notice that the United States Government plans to furlough me one day a week beginning on July 8th. Exactly 148 minutes later I received an email congratulating me on ten years of service to the government and notifying me that I’d be getting a certificate at the next office awards ceremony. You’d have to work pretty hard at sending two more discordant messages to your employees. Timing, as they say, is everything… even when it comes to giving with one hand and taking away with the other. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not in a rush to agree to parading across the stage, smiling for the photo op, and pretending that I give a good goddamn about another certificate in my three ring binder.
I’m sure at some point in the distant past, a nice suitable for framing certificate was a fine motivational tool… but unless I can barter that certificate for goods and services, under the circumstances, I think you can understand why I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. I’m going to improvise, adapt, and overcome… but don’t expect that I’ll be thanking anyone for the opportunity.
And people wonder why I’m cynical about almost everything.