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.
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.
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 complaint, 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?
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.
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.
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.