1. Late breaking winter. I had a passing thought that I might get through this winter unscathed in the landscaping department. It would have been the first winter since buying the place that was the case. Clearly that’s the kind of thing that’s a homeowner pipe dream. In the bright light of afternoon – and now that a lot of yesterday’s snow has melted off, I can see at least three boxwoods that appear to be broken at the stem, several other shrubs that may have been bent and twisted beyond recovery, and a reasonably good sized maple limb that landed squarely on top of a forsythia that was just starting to take off. Some people love nature for what it is. Me? Aside from the adorableness of the fuzzy animals, I find nature to be something to be pushed back against at every opportunity. Seems like I’ll have reason to break out the chainsaw after all.
2. Six hour days. I use to enjoy two hour delays. That’s until I ran into a short day that felt like it lasted at least 2,476 hours instead of just the six that the “clock” says passed.
3. Congress (again). These asshats literally only have a handful of things specifically named in the Constitution as part and parcel of their responsibilities as elected representatives. The fact that they fail so spectacularly to get those few things done even when one party controls all the levers of government speaks to both their uselessness and our stupidity for continuing to elect 90% plus of the same 535 people time after time after time. Truly democracy has given us the kind of governance we so richly deserve.
Letting decisions fester until the last possible moment is rarely a recipe for arriving at a well-considered answer. That may seem somewhat counterintuitive, because having more time to decide should allow someone to make the decision based on more perfect information. In my experience, that’s almost never actually the case. What really happens is that the decision is just put off and no actual thought is put into it until it’s the flaming bag of dog shit blistering the paint on your front porch. Put another way, the default setting is procrastination.
The real problem with waiting isn’t just that you leave a bunch of people sitting around with their thumbs up their asses while the pondering drags on for days or weeks. The problem is that in most cases decisions get delayed until it’s too late to apply any academic rigor and you just end up going off half-informed in whatever direction seems best at the time. Shooting from the hip with a scattergun is probably a fine strategy for defending your home from hopped up delinquents, but it rarely passes muster for decisions that require a little more fineness.
It’s not how I’d do things. In fact it’s precisely the opposite of how I run the 128 hours of my week for which I am the designated decision-maker. For the 40-hours a week wherein I have no decision-making authority whatsoever, though, that’s its own can of worms. The very best I can do is appraise those who do decide on the potential bad things that will result from waiting. After that all that’s left is a shrug and a muffled “told you so.”
I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the extra four hours off this morning. I never turn my nose up at free time off. That being said, four hours is just an awkward amount of time. Given the passible but not clear state of the local roads, my commute in is going to take an hour. Given that the average driver is stupid and there will undoubtedly be more than one driver on their way home this afternoon that puts it into a snow bank, my drive home will likely be over an hour. At a commute to work ratio of less than 1:2, if you’ll excuse the phrase, it just feels like something of a waste of time – as if we’re opening the doors today just so someone can say “yes, we’re open,” without having much concern for whether or not anything actually happens inside those doors.
Liberal leave – time off for which pre-approval isn’t required – is an option. Due to the peculiarities of Uncle Sam’s timekeeping regulations, though, under these circumstances one can’t combine the 4-hour delay with an additional four hours of liberal leave. If you’re going to stay home, those four hours in the afternoon are going to cost you a full eight hours of vacation time. That was a hard lesson learned.
So now the roads could be running with lava and there could be a troll under every bridge between here and there, but damned if I’m going to spend eight to get four. The math just doesn’t work, so I’ll go in, eat lunch, check some email, bitch about the snow, and then schlep home. Not exactly a recipe for productivity, but I’m sure it counts on someone’s report card as a full day’s work.
I’ve lost track of the number of snow related 2- and 4-hour delays and closures we’ve had this winter. This morning just adds one more to the tally. The only thing I can say is that “they’ve” been marvelously inconsistent in how they choose to respond to each and every snow event. This morning, for instance, is another two hour delay. That might be the right decision based on conditions where such decisions are being made, but being a guy who lives 45 minutes from the office, my conditions and theirs don’t always correspond. Such is the case this morning. From what I can see of the surface conditions outside, even if I leave two hours later than normal, it’ll be half an hour before I get to a road where I can see blacktop. Based on past experience, a good estimate is that my drive in will take take about twice as long as usual.
After a winter of having delays announced, rescinded, changed, renounced, and extended, my visceral instinct is to give it an old fashioned “screw you guys, I’m staying home” today. Sure, that would mean giving back the two hours of admin time this morning and burning off a full 8 hours of leave. I’ve got a mountain of leave banked, so that’s not really the issue.
The one hang up I have is that at some point this morning I’m supposed to be in a meeting. It’s not a meeting I’m particularly interested in, but it’s mine. And I feel a inexplicable level of guilt at pawning it off on one of my poor unsuspecting colleagues. I don’t know why. There are plenty who have no compunction about taking a day of unscheduled leave and dropping their shit in someone else’s lap to deal with. Still, I hate the idea of being “that guy.”
Of course none of that means at 0800, I won’t make the call, but I want you all to know that I’ll be positively racked with guilt about it if things go that way.
One of the best things about working for Uncle is the cornucopia of new and interesting words that have entered my lexicon. That’s particularly apt this morning, when I’m looking out as far as the floodlights will let me and seeing wall to wall snow, wind blowing like a mother, and a temperature hovering at 16 degrees. It’s the operative definition of “not fit for man nor beast.”
Wisely, my employer opted to pull the trigger on a 4-hour delay. Under normal circumstances, for someone who maybe lived closer to the office, that would be a good thing. For me, with a 50+ mile round trip, going in for four hours in weather like this basically means I’ll spend more time commuting than I will actually at work. Logic would dictate that I just go ahead and take four hours of vacation time and call it a day. Of course logic has no place in government service, so it’s not that simple.
Punching out today would basically make me a blue falcon, leaving whoever was unfortunate enough to show up at their desk to cover a spectacularly useless meeting that I’m supposed to endure this afternoon. I already inflicted that fate on people while I was off for Christmas, but since it was scheduled in advance, it feels less falcon-ish somehow.
Once the sun comes up, I’ll get after the shoveling, cleaning off the truck, and give it the ol’ Frostburg try at getting to the office somewhere in the general vicinity of on time today. I’ve decided not to be a blue falcon. Because I clearly lack good decision-making skills.