Three parts…

Since my iPhone wasn’t smart enough to know that I took the day off today, it went off right on schedule as the sky was just staring to turn grey. It wasn’t exactly the kick off I planned for the long weekend. At least I got to use the morning productively – which is something that almost never happens on a normal Friday. As per schedule, I loaded Retribution onto my Kindle and sat at the kitchen table reading it one last time word for word. I was tracking along on my laptop and making the final few edits as the story went along. It took three hours of wordsmithing, tinkering with format, fiddling with the dogs, refilling my coffee, and watching the morning fade away to do it, but what I ended up with today was a finished product. The very last thing to do is upload it to the retailers and cut it loose. That’s a big part of tomorrow’s plan of attack.

I’m a man of three parts this evening. The first wants to go out and get falling down drunk in celebration of a milestone. The second wants to crawl into bed and sleep for four days in an effort to make up for sacrificed sack time. The third, the one who’s the real glutton for punishment, he’s already casting around wondering what the next project is going to be. I’m trying to ignore that part right now… even if I do have a few ideas rattling around between my ears.

Since going out to celebrate means dealing with people, that’s not likely to happen. The sun is still too high in the sky for me to seriously contemplate bed. Finally, there’s as good a chance of my spontaneously combusting as there is of me writing anything more complicated than this post tonight, so it looks like I’m left with the 4th option – mixing myself a good strong drink and sticking my nose in someone else’s book for a few hours.

Now that I think on it, that option doesn’t really sound bad at all.

Two days off…

Some of you may have noticed that I played hooky for two days this weeks, leaving the ivy covered halls of jeffreytharp.com without new posts on both Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t quite intentional, but I don’t exactly feel guilty about it either. Trust me when I say that posting seven days a week – through vacations, holidays, illness, and any number of other distractors – is a brutal pace. Don’t take that as a 538px-Concussion_mechanics.svgcomplaint, though. Given unlimited time and no requirement to feed myself, maintain an income-generating job, and keep up with the occasional outside interest, there’s not many things I would rather do than sit here tapping on the keys. So yeah, sometimes I’m just going to let it rest for a day or two

I think what’s happening is that I’m slowly trying to work my way into a new schedule – probably a slightly less intense six day a week kind of deal. Fridays are currently the front runner for my “day off.” That’s mostly because by the time I wade through a work week and make it to Friday, my brain has turned to some kind of viscous jell that can’t manage much in the way of coherent thought. I figure if one of the treatments for concussion is strict rest and minimizing activities that require extreme concentration, giving the old brain box a day off is probably a good idea. After all, five days in the office certainly feels like being beaten about the head and neck with a blunt object, so the treatment and recovery process should be more or less the same, no?

Open wide…

Life is full of ironies. When I was a young careerist just starting out you, I barely had two hours of vacation time to rub together. What I did have were almost limitless invitations to go places, do things, and generally raise hell while I was young and stupid. Since I never seemed to have the vacation time, I took a pass on most of those opportunities and hoped against hope that I wouldn’t get sick and need to burn off any of my limited reserve of days off.

Now, after a a decade or so of experience, I’m sitting on a pretty respectable war chest of paid time off. What I seem to be lacking are the invitations to raise hell and be stupid. While that’s probably for the best, there’s something disheartening about taking the vast majority of days off over the course of the year to do things like having bloodwork done and going to the dentist. I’m sure this is not how 25-year-old-Jeff planned to spend his days off when he was 35, but there you have it.

Sure, it’s a four day weekend, but I’ll be spending a big part of the first day with my mouth hanging wide open letting complete strangers poke, prod, drill, and fill. If I can manage not to spend the afternoon drooling all over myself, I’ll consider it a victory.

Small pleasures…

One of life’s small pleasures is the feeling you get blowing through the office doors at 4:01 PM on the day leading into an extra-long weekend. It’s a happy moment knowing you’re as far away from your desk as you’re going to get… but being a glass half empty kind of guy, I also have to readily acknowledge that every minute that ticks past after 4:01 is one minute closer to the inevitable let down of being back at my desk when our revels have ended. Happily that’s more a Sunday kind of problem.

To a casual reader I think it must seem like I hate my job. It only seems that way. The work actually tends towards interesting and most of the people fall somewhere along the spectrum of better than average. There are, of course, exceptions but that’s to be expected everywhere as far as I can tell. Like everyone else, the simple fact is there are just other things I’d rather be doing than sitting in a box hammering away at PowerPoint for those eight hours in the middle of the day. For some reason, I don’t think I’d mind working the keys quite so much if I were doing my own writing for those same eight hours. Being a self-published eBook author, though, doesn’t pay the bills. Maybe someday.

This isn’t really a post about work, though. It’s a post about embracing the joy of the time off we do have – about making the most of the time we don’t spend sitting in a box. Whether you’re writing, grilling, boating, swimming, shopping, or just sitting around on your ass not doing a thing, try to enjoy it. The small pleasures are way too few and far between.

Liberal leave…

Vast swaths of the federal government operated with a “liberal leave” policy in place today. Loosely translated, this policy says “Travel conditions may or may not be dangerous this morning so instead of us actually making a decision to be open or closed, we’re going to let every individual go ahead and flip a coin to decide whether they want to work today or not.” I don’t have any particular heartburn with them using this approach on days when the weather is decidedly questionable in the early morning hours.

Rest assured, if at any time I realistically thought my life was endangered by the commute, I’d be the first to throw in the towel and head back to the house. As much as I would have enjoyed a Monday spent hanging around the house drinking coffee, I just wasn’t so in love with the idea that I wanted to use up a day of my own annual leave to make it happen. What I really wanted was for Uncle Sugar to go ahead and give me another day free of charge. Let’s be honest, it’s going to have to be a blizzard of epic proportions before I’m willing to say it’s so bad out there that I want to burn off a day of precious, precious vacation time… and usually that’s when Uncle ends up making the “right” call anyway and letting everyone stay home.

As nice as cooling my heels for an impromptu four-day weekend would have been, I’m too much of a leave hoarder to make it happen today… but don’t think for a second that I didn’t regret that decision when I was sitting at my desk looking at a metric ton of new emails that had been piling up since Thursday afternoon, the flashing “voicemail” light on my phone, and a line of people that had things that needed discussing. In retrospect, maybe I should have been a little more liberal with my leave after all, but that’s just another day of putting off the inevitable.

Four letter word…

Sure, sure, I know plenty of you out there on the interwebs are enthralled by how wonderful the post-Christmas snow has been. I’m here to tell you that you are, quite simply wrong. It’s cold, it’s wet, and it requires inordinate amounts of effort to move from Point A to Point B. Simply put, snow is just another four letter word. Like most other four letter words, its use is almost always inappropriate. It’s even more inappropriate on days when I’m already off and want to go out and do things and see people. Under the circumstances, snow is pretty much just an enormous pain in the ass with the singular redeeming quality of being kind of pretty.

Like a hot girl with the personality of a water buffalo, sometimes being pretty just isn’t good enough. The frozen nonsense can stop dropping out of the sky any time now.

Labor…

Surely I’m not the only one out there who sees the concept of celebrating labor by taking the day off, drinking beer, and grilling as just a little bit ironic, right? Look. now I’m the last person to object in any way, shape or form to a free day off, I’m just saying that honoring labor by sitting around doing nothing productive seems like kind of a stretch. I don’t think it’s ironic enough to drive me to do free work or anything, but still maybe we should just call it Non-denominational Early September Civic Holiday to better reflect the nature of the day. Just throwing that out there for your collective consideration.

Banker’s hours…

I thought that one of the perks of not being a supervisor would be qualifying for some kind of alternative work schedule… you know, the deal where you work nine hour days and get every other Friday off kind of thing. Years ago at the start of my career I worked at a site that ran ten hour days Monday through Thursday. Every week was a three day weekend. I have to admit that there’s something to be said for that schedule. Yesterday, though, I took a pass on the chance to get on board with the every other Friday off schedule. I always figured I’d jump on the opportunity for “free” days off, but I didn’t and here’s my rational:

1. I’ve become a morning person by default. I’m more productive between the hours of 8-11 AM than I am the rest of the day. My least productive time of the day tends to be between 2-4 PM. Tacking on another hour after that doesn’t seem to be a value proposition for anyone. Now if they’d let me start the day around 6AM, we might be on to something, but that doesn’t seem likely.

2. If I leave on time, even in the depths of winter, I get 30-45 minutes of daylight in the evenings. It doesn’t sound like much, but for my money there’s little worse than driving to work in the dark and arriving home in the dark. In December, those few minutes of light every day are worth more to me than extra days off (seriously).

3. The only “alternative” I’m really interested in is telework. I had a good run with telework back in the day and found working from the kitchen table, five feet from the coffee pot to be probably my most productive day of each week. That probably has something to do with being out of sight and out of mind. It’s a great way to sit down once a week and focus on something without that cacophonous roar of people yelling over the top of cubicles at each other.

4. Being a single father, there’s only so many hours I can stay away before something bad happens… like the kids staging a jail break, eating the couch, and turning the floor into an open sewer. Since they’re pretty well trained at keeping themselves entertained for 10 hours, trying to change up a system that works seems like a bad idea. That’s just a layer of additional stress that I don’t need to inject into the environment.

So yeah, I’m going to take a pass on the alternative work schedule for the time being and just be happy keeping banker’s hours.

When Days Off Aren’t…

Maybe I’m blowing this out of proportion, but one of the things that makes me absolutely apoplectic is getting calls from the office on vacation days. Ninety-nine times out of 100, I’ve planned these days in advance, have put a lid on whatever projects I happen to be working on and handed off key pieces of information to the guy who’s backstopping me for the day. The fact is there’s nothing I’m working on that’s so important that it can’t wait less than 24 hours until I’m back at my desk. I know this because A) I’m not highly graded enough to start or end a war by myself and B) My distinguished institution survived two and a quarter centuries before I started showing up at the office.

As a rule, I don’t ask much of my employer. All I’m really looking for is a regular pay check and health insurance, a reasonably predictable schedule, and a few days off here and there. Other than that, anything else that comes down the pike is pretty much just a perk. I appreciate those too, but I certainly don’t expect them. Does “not calling me for trivial and routine issues when I’m off” qualify as an unreasonable expectation? I mean had I happened to be gone on a two-week cruise they wouldn’t have called, why is taking a random day off though the week given any less consideration? Spending two hours on the phone going over things with the office pretty much defeats the point of taking the day off. I wonder how telling them I’m only taking six hours of vacation for the day since I was working the other two would go over.

I know it’s a recession out and making waves for your employer isn’t a great idea. That’s why I’m here ranting instead of in the boss’ office ranting, right? But still, if that little bit of consideration is a bridge too far, just let me know.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

You know you work for the government when…

…You have to staff your request to take Monday off through four separate people who are, in one way or another, “sort of” your boss. Of course there’s the supervisor who actually signs my timesheets and does my annual rating… His work almost always gets top priority for some reason. Then there’s the guy who I sort of stopped working for after today but who hasn’t actually stopped tasking me to do things yet. There is the guy in the new division who I kind of work for starting Monday who is already filling up my plate with things I need to do for him. And last but certainly not least is the overboss, who randomly throws assignments at me that all need to be handled immediately and possibly without any of the other three actually knowing what I’m working on.

This is one of those days when I am amazed that the most powerful government on earth ever manages to get itself dressed in the morning.