At the risk of being accused of not taking anything seriously, the thought that’s occurred to me more often than any other this week is wondering how, exactly, so damned many people have eight or nine days off, largely in the middle of the week, to be able to spend so many days in a row schlepping around the streets of America’s major cities.
I wish I were even being facetious. I’m simply amazed that so many people have the amount of free time in the middle of the day that being this level of involved would require. I mean don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a nice pile of vacation time stacked up, but not so much I can fire off a week of it at a time due to unplanned circumstances.
Maybe what I learned is that I’m not getting as good a deal on leave as I thought I was. Best believe I’ll be making sure to educate myself further on this one.
1. Running out of time. Even as I grudgingly accept the fact that it’s necessary to work in exchange for money which I can then exchange for goods and services, I cannot quite shake off the feeling that I’d rather be safely tucked into Fortress Jeff with an endless supply of hot coffee and a mountain of books to read. Mentally preparing myself to go out and rejoin the world is, in a word, traumatic. It’s times like this I can see how one might just get suckered into the fool’s gold appeal of something like a “universal basic income” scheme.
2. January finances. As a professional adult head of household, January has always been a budget buster of a month for me. It’s the month when my biggest bills come due for the year – car insurance, home owner’s association dues, paying off Christmas gifts and travel expenses, the start of the winter heating season, and a few others. No matter how well the year is budgeted, January always comes around like a swift kick in the teeth and throw in one more large dollar item than I was projecting. It’s like the new year giving you a rabbit punch just to remind you that just because it’s a new year doesn’t mean it’s anything more than business as usual.
3. Congress and the president. If you thought having the executive and legislative branches run by the same party put the “fun” in dysfunctional, just wait until you see the magnificent shitshow that Washington devolves into this afternoon when Democrats assume power in the House of Representatives. To all those who scream “false equivalency” or who want to blame one side or the other, I’ll simply say go fuck yourself. A pox on both their houses. No one sitting in our hallowed halls of power is an innocent.
After the better part of two weeks off, some might say that they feel rested and ready to get back to work. I’m not one of those people – never have been. Eleven days of doing whatever I want, whenever I want has precisely the opposite effect. There’s been a lot of reading, a lot of cooking, some visits with old friends, nights spent sprawled across the living room floor with the dogs while we catch up on a few TV shows, and tending a few necessities of home ownership. What hasn’t happened at any point during these days off (until the sun climbed over the yardarm today), is giving any but the the most passing of thoughts about what might be going on and/or waiting for me back at the office.
Now that I’m squarely facing the last day of this glorious long, long weekend tomorrow it has come creeping back into my thoughts… and decidedly not in that “oh yay I get to go back to the office soon” kind of way. There’s nothing for it, of course. I’d be shit at living under a bridge and the endless bulldog medical bills won’t pay themselves, so face it I must.
There’s still a day standing between me and whatever bat shit crazy ideas have passed themselves off as the best things ever over the last two weeks. I feel it’s my personal obligation to do my best to ignore those thoughts as best I can for at least the next 24 hours. After that, all bets are off, and we’ll be exhausted and right back in the tall grass as if there never was a break at all.
Today I was sitting at my desk around 9AM lamenting that it was only Wednesday and there were still hours to go in the first half of the week.
After a moment’s pause, I realized a few important things:
1) There is a three day weekend incoming;
2) I still have 40 hours of use or lose annual leave on the books;
3) I just got my 40-hour performance award (because I’ll take time off instead of cash money every time); and
4) Starting on January 13th, I’ll be earning 8 hours of annual leave a pay period in recognition of the fact that I’ve managed to not get fired or dropped dead since signing on with Uncle fifteen years ago.
After completing the required paperwork – because truly nothing moves in the bureaucracy without the required paperwork – I’ve effectively created a time machine by which I can skip one of the annoying days in the middle of the week and head directly into the weekend starting at close of business tomorrow.
That’s made Wednesday far more tolerable on just about every level.
If you’re wondering what the deal is with that word up there in the title line, it represents the total number of emails I received today. Being a careful shepherd of my limited supply of vacation days, I realized that burning one off on the Monday before Independence Day was likely to be a tragic waste of resources. I thought this for two reasons 1) I was scheduled to work from home today anyway and 2) Virtually no one who can avoid it is going to come in to work on a single day between a weekend and a federal holiday.
My assessment of the situation proved to be entirely accurate although just how dead it proved to be was well beyond my expectations. Neither of the messages I received called for immediate action… and in fact one of them was just thanking me for providing some information requested last week.
I don’t have a years long study to back up this supposition, but I’d be willing to stake my questionable reputation on the fact that Uncle Sam could save a shit ton of money by just closing up shop on these oddball occasions that pin a work day between two days off. Then again, if Sam went around doing things that made sense on a regular basis, I’m not sure I’d even recognize the place. I suppose we’ll just carry on then.
I’ve been told on more than one occasion I “do days off wrong.” I’m probably guilty as charged. As evidence let me walk you through an example 8 day period…
Monday. Day 3 of a three-day weekend. Scheduled root canal surgery.
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – Normal Work Days.
Friday. Day 1 of a 4-day weekend. Features an oil change for the Jeep and an eye exam with dilation.
Saturday, Sunday. Standard weekend procedures.
Monday. Day 4 of a 4-day weekend. Sit home and wait for HVAC service tech to show up.
Just now I’m filling my gullet with high test products from big pharma hoping against hope that I can stave off the aforementioned Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from turning into one or more days of mucking through life with whatever cold virus of the week is going around.
I miss the days when I took a day off to not do a damned thing instead of either a) hacking up a lung and feeling like ass or b) to be a productive and responsible adult homeowner.
1. Weather forecasts. I know weather is a complex “system of systems” but damn. If I were as often wrong at prediction and prognosticating results within 24 hours I’d get shitcanned for sure. Yet another example of where I’ve made poor career decisions overall.
2. Restorative days off. I’m a jealous guard of my time off. There is almost nothing I value more highly. I do my best to maximize the value of those days. I hate wasting them… which is why it’s so sad that the restorative effects of time off last no more than two hours into the first day back. It feels like it should take longer than that to slide back into a sea apathy and discontent. The operative word there being “should.”
3. Talk. People talk a lot. They talk and talk. They make promises and speak to high ideals. What almost none of them do, tough, is back that talk up with their actions. Talk is important. It speaks to our aspirations. Behavior, though, that’s what shows people how committed you are to getting there. If you can’t be bothered with the action part of the equation, it’s probably best to just shut the fuck up.
Due to the extreme plenty of hours on the clock last week, I now find myself in a position of having a few extra days to myself. Those are definitely the days I like best.
Instead of going blind on PowerPoint I got to:
– Put more shelves in basement
– Read 200 pages (of something other memos or regulations)
– Play fetch
– Restock the bird feeders and watch the deluge of feathered critters
– Cleared the deadfall from the back yard
– Walked the back 40 marking trees to cut down this spring
– Made lunch
– Watched two episodes of great British television
– Left Italian sausage, sautéed peppers and onions, and marinara to simmer 3 hours before dinner
– Sat down to write this post at 3:15 and wrapped it up by 3:30
It’s not what most would call exciting, I’m sure, but it felt like just about the perfect day.
Today is another one of our famous 4-hour delays. Personally I hate them. If you go in, the commute takes twice as long and you end up pissing away 4 hours at your desk because 2/3 of the people you need to get anything done decided to stay home. If you stay home, you end up burning off a full day of leave in order to take 4 hours off because of some archaic interpretation of OPM regulations governing time and attendance. It’s the very definition of a winter weather no-win scenario.
Looking out the kitchen window I can see a few trucks are starting to move on what passes for a “main” road in my part of the world. In Ceciltucky that mostly means it’s a road with a yellow line down the middle of it. To get from my place to an actual highway, though, involves a whole lot of little winding country roads that don’t usually see so much as first plow until the mains are cleared. Big Red is certainly sure footed enough to do it, but the real question is do I want to be bothered.
If I weren’t going to have to take part of the day off tomorrow the answer would be a resounding “no.” At least I know I’m not a complete slacker employee because I feel vaguely guilty about taking unscheduled time off even when I don’t have anything particularly pressing that someone else would have to deal while I sat home with my fuzzy slippers on. I’ve got an hour or so before I need to make the final go/no go decision. Right now it’s basically a coin flip decision.
Most nights by the time I get home I have at least the kernel of an idea about what I’m going to write about that night. Usually it’s a few words dashed out on the back of a post it note, or a voice memo on my phone, but that’s enough to get me started. Tonight is one of those other nights – the nights when despite being busy from dawn until an hour before dusk, I don’t have a single decent thing on my mind.
You’ll have to trust me when I say that’s not a function of just having been bored today. The fact is today was probably one of the busiest days I’ve had in the last few years. None of it was particularly hard work, but everything I touched was time consuming – understanding the issue, talking to the right people, making sure the right answers go to the correct places; put another way, it was an all-star day of coordinating, integrating, and synchronizing. It lasted forty minutes longer than my usual day, could have lasted another fifty minutes past that, and when I left I still wasn’t close to finished.
Tomorrow looks like more of the same. Actually, tomorrow looks like more of a continuation of today because so much of the work will carry over or worse yet because people will have had the night to sleep on it and dream up some new and interesting wild-assed questions. That’s my long winded way of saying that since around 8AM it’s felt a lot like we’ve been trying to cram ten pounds of day into a five pound sack.
It occurred to me some time this morning that Friday is a day off for me. I’m going to get my yearly physical and eye exam. Getting my eyes dilated and being treated to the old “turn your head and cough” routine sounds better than the alternative at the moment. That should tell you all you need to know about the kind of week I’ve got lining up.