I’ll be logging some miles over the next week. The baseline mileage between now and about this time next week is 664 plus random driving around and at least two days of regular commuting. It would be harder to plan an agenda that would put me in three more far flung parts of the state over a period of a few days. I’m holding my breath because it only seems appropriate that the universe would conspire to have me make some kind of emergency trip to St. Mary’s County and complete the tour of the extreme ends of the State of Maryland.
For a state as dense with highways as Maryland, one of the fun thing you learn when you spend time on the road here is that that there really isn’t a good way to get from one end of the state to the other without first driving around Baltimore. Still, every mile under the wheels this week is 5,280 feet closer to the beach… and that makes a whole lot of road dogging it seem worthwhile.
Like so many others in recent memory, this week could be a laundry list of annoyances from the great to the petty. As always, I tried to drill into the beating heart of the three that annoyed me most this week… but ask me again in five minutes and the list could have easily changed again.
1) Hiring freeze. One of the fun aspects about a hiring freeze is that although people go away and are not replaced, the things that they were doing while they were working never go away. They just get shifted around until they find someone who can do a half-assed job of getting them done. It’s the old standard philosophy of “doing more with less.” It’s a perfectly find concept when applied as a stopgap measure lasting for a relatively short duration. As a permanent part of the business model, it’s somewhat more problematic. At some point the system comes collapsing down under the weight of its own absurdity and the lords of creation have to accept one of four options: 1) Call in reinforcements; 2) Accept that sometimes they’ll just have to do fewer things with the reduced number of resources; 3) Fire everyone and hope a new crew can do it better; or 4) Continue to do everything as usual with a consequently lower level of quality. What you can’t do over the long term is keep taking on additional work while keeping up with business as usual.
2) 216 miles. Having driven or flown across most of the country at some point over the last ten years, I’ve never given much thought at to distance. It’s always just been ground to cover. Lately, though, I’ve been thoroughly, thoroughly annoyed by 216 miles. I guess perspective, and motivation, change everything.
3) The Pinterest-ing of Facebook. I like Facebook. Or I like the concept of Facebook. I’m not sure I’m a fan of how it’s evolving, but that’s another post. I like Facebook as a tool for delivering pithy updates, comic pictures of cats, and generally keeping up with friends and family. What I‘m not so much a fan of is how recently my newsfeed has been taken over by recipes, chain posts, and all manner of corporate ads. I can’t do anything about the ads and I’m not going to de-friend anyone, but you can bet your sweet ass I’m exerting extreme editorial control over the “Change What Updates You Get” function.
It seems a lot of people working in my office live in a master-planned enclave not far from work. I’m sure it’s nice if you’re into jogging trails, tot lots, and clubhouse where they have a monthly movie night. Lawns are mowed and flowers planted by the Home Owners Association and there’s even a gate to keep out the riffraff. I can’t say I’m philosophically opposed to any of those things, really.
What does make my blood run cold was talking to the new boss a few days ago and him saying “Oh yeah, Mr. Bigwig stopped by the house after dinner last night and we went over some new ideas for Big Fancy Project.” Huh? He came to your house? And then he had the audacity to want to talk about work? Not cool.
I think we’ve established now that I’m not a social climber and there’s a pretty slim chance that I’ll ever get invited to a leadership retreat. I get my work done on time and within tolerance, consistently, and with minimal oversight. I do it for eight hours and then when I leave I don’t think about it until I get back the next morning. It’s a time honored system and it works for me. One of the bosses randomly showing up on my doorstep at 7 o’clock wanting to talk shop is way, way beyond the pale. Sometimes it’s good to be reminded why I live way out off the beaten path rather than in town. It seems physical distance from the office is at least as important as mental distance.
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.
Driving from the Baltimore exurbs to Northern Virginia every day is a little bit like eating a light bulb – Sure, you can do it, but why the hell would you want to?
For the better part of the last four years, I’ve considered myself a real road warrior, but this is too much even for my lead foot.