Reading for comprehension. Before you ask if I can provide the dial in number, perhaps you should read all the way to the bottom of the 4 bullet point email I just sent you. I’m not saying I always include every scrap of information someone might need in an email. Sometimes things get left out. But when I know the information you seek is one of the items I purposely put in a prominent place for all to see, it’s like you’re trying to get on my last nerve. I’m increasingly convinced the only reason meetings ever really need to happen is because people can’t be relied on to read for comprehension.
False surprise. You’re well into your 50s. You’ve spent 30+ years in Uncle’s service. Don’t feign surprise when things you want to try to get done two weeks before the end of the year can’t be done because 75% of the people who do the work, myself included, have no intention of being around between Christmas and New Years. It happens every year like clockwork. It’s regular as the tide. Please, for the love of little newborn baby Jesus, don’t suddenly pretend concern that a thing can’t be delivered a mere handful of hours before everyone but a skeleton crew goes away for a couple of weeks. This is especially true when you were given the opportunity to work the fix four months ago but opted to drive ahead anyway. It just embarrassed both of us.
Medical science. The good news is that my A1C is now actually too low and as a result the doc is taking me off one of the meds I’ve been on for the last two years. That, of course, was accompanied by the bad news that my cholesterol has finally snuck into the “troublesome” range so I’ll be starting on a new pill for that… along with regular blood work to make sure the combination of it all isn’t ripping my liver to shreds in the process of keeping the rest of me alive.
Tuesdays are definitely the new Monday… even though I’d be hard pressed to tell you how it was any different than a typical Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday either. All the standard weekdays just fall into a general batch of sameness as far as the eye can see. It’s gotten to the point that the only time I can really tell the difference between them is when I take note of the day of the week marked when I shoot a handful of pills out of my classic geriatric medicine storage container.
I’m not saying the sameness is necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. It’s PowerPoint, Excel, rinse, and repeat. It doesn’t take a lot of extraneous brain power unless something is slipping from the rails. Like I discovered back in my past life as a teacher, once you’ve been doing something year after year, there really isn’t much new. Most “new” efforts mean dusting off some slides I’ve been storing for five or ten years in the archive, prettying them up with some new graphics and numbers, and pasting them into wherever they need to go. It can be time consuming and monotonous, but it’s rarely hard.
I probably shouldn’t admit that. It’s like giving away some kind of trade secret. Or an invitation for fate to knock my carefully constructed web of standard answers wildly askew. On second though let’s just pretend this post never actually happened, ok?
1. Rapidly shifting gears. I always forget just how steep the drop off in things to do is when a big project wraps up. Between last Thursday and this Monday I went from having 600 emails in my inbox and 47 missed calls on my phone to having a whopping 6 emails in my box waiting for action and no missed calls. For months there’s this gradual acceleration. It’s almost imperceptible. Before you know it you’re charging flat out, still accelerating, over the precipice, before slamming into the wall that is “business as usual.” I’m not exactly complaining that I’m getting a chance to catch a breath, but I am surprised more people don’t strip all their gears from downshifting so fast.
2. Housebreaking in the rain. Jorah has been a dream puppy as far as housebreak is concerned. Two solid days of rain, however, were something less delightful. Squishing around the yard every few hours in a steady fifty degree rain with wet feet is one of the joys of pet ownership that would surely make any dog owner question why the hell they decided to add a member to their family in the first place.
3. Playing bouncer. I spent a few hours this week checking badges and working the door to keep the riffraff out of a meeting. There’s nothing special about that – other duties as assigned and whatnot. I can turn off my brain and do as told with the best of them. It’s only later, when I put on my taxpayer hat and do some mental math about how much I made during my tenure as an up jumped bouncer, my eyes sort of roll back into my head. I have my own opinions of course, but I’ll leave it to others to decide on the application of resources… something something mosquito and sledgehammer.
4. Alabama. What the actual hell is wrong with you cousin fucking, backwoods, holier than thou asshats? Republicans are supposed to be the part of small government and minimal intrusion into people’s personal lives. You collection of assclowns would be hard pressed to find a way to be more invasive. At least when I think the government in Annapolis is a shitshow, I can look at your statehouse and remind myself that it could be worse.
I’ve done well for myself. I’ve taken advantage of my educational opportunities all along the path of life. Occasionally I even think that I’ve done better for myself that a simple boy fron down the crick really has any right to expect. Don’t think for a moment that I take any of that for granted.
I’ve seen a lot of the world and had the opportunity to have some truly remarkable experiences. At heart, though, I ultimately think of myself as a technician – a wrench turner in the data economy. I’ve tried the whole management and supervision thing and we’re all better off for my having given it up.
Mostly, I really just want to be left alone to do the work. That’s where my talents and interests are applied to the most effect.
I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: Hard won experience tells me that I can either spend six hours doing the work or spend those same six hours sitting in meetings talking about the work. If I’m doing the latter, there’s absolutely no progress being made on the former. Putting more simply, I can talk about the damned work or I can do the damned work. I cannot, however, do both simultaniously. Personally, I know which one I’d greatly prefer.
However, my opinion on the subject is clearly not of any great significance. If it were I wouldn’t regularly be spending 50% or more of my days sitting around jibberjabbering instead of getting the job done.
It’s always a positive and self-affirming moment when someone comes by your desk, takes a long look at you, and announces, “Damn, Jeff. You look tired.”
The fact is, I am tired. It has nothing to do with how much sleep I got the night before (which was plenty) and everything in the world to do with the volume of information I’m trying to exert some semblance of control or influence over for the next 25 days. There are plenty of people who have a more demanding plate of responsibilities, of course. If my project slips off the rails no one is going to die a terrible flesh wasting death due to toxic chemical exposure. That, at least, I have going for me. Still, between project meetings, sub-team meetings, a never-empty inbox, and a phone that won’t stop ringing, I’m not so much processing information as I am sifting it from one pile to another while hoping I don’t miss something important. Unfortunately I’ve been doing this long enough to know I’m missing stuff.
It’s a piss poor way to operate. It means everything else that’s supposed to be important and on my plate is getting crowded out just because of the volume of material this one particular effort is kicking up. I’ve got some expected leadership beatings lined up later this week, so at least I have that to look forward to. Plus, if I’m this tired now, just imagine how chipper and rested I’ll be in another three and a half weeks. That should be good times for everyone.
I have occasionally been known as a pot stirrer, a rouser of rabble, a trouble maker, and a malcontent. Maybe I am those things, but generally I only do it in the service of a greater cause – to force a conversation onto hard territory that needs covered or to make sure that the dissenting side of the argument gets heard. I don’t generally do it because I want to hear my own voice. You can safely assume that if I had my druthers, I’d pass most days in writing and quiet contemplation with the television news channels providing the low-volume background vocals.
More often than not, I’m being a contrarian because there’s a point that needs to be made, not because I particularly enjoy being the odd man out. I could save myself one hell of a lot of headaches by sitting down, shutting up, and just letting things happen. Unfortunately that’s never been my approach… though some days, I really do wonder if giving a rat’s ass about anything is really worth the trouble that comes with it.