I’m on the cusp of taking my first vacation day since January. With a four-day weekend stretching out in front of me, I’m nearly as giddy as the proverbial school girl. I’m not going anywhere and I have no particular plans. It’s just an extra day not spent fighting with the help desk, or figuring out what the right teleconference number is, or ferreting out what people are actually asking for through email that was possibly written by four-year-old ring-tailed lemurs.
It doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but it really is.
At 4:00 this afternoon, I packed my work laptop away – out of sight and mind – instead of letting it occupy the same real estate on my desk where it’s been nearly every day since mid-March. It’s a small thing, but for me, deeply symbolic of the transition between working from home and just being at home. It’s a small difference, but an important one.
So, it’s Friday on Wednesday and that, friends, does not suck.
Ok, do you want to know the truth? I didn’t learn a damned thing worth mentioning this week. I did the work, I read some books, made some meals, played with the critters, and mostly avoided anything related to thinking deep thoughts.
Some weeks are like that. Maybe I could have made more of an effort – maybe I even should have, just for the sake of putting on a good show, but as they say the juice didn’t feel worth the squeeze. And that leads us directly to where we are now, with me sitting here pecking at the keyboard without much of anything at all to talk about.
I’ve been reading some solid books though – terrorists and silver mining and roman legions taking on American Indians. That’s some happy-making shit right there. Maybe this week that was far more valuable than learning something. Even if it’s not, I’m well satisfied.
I know that a few months ago I told you I like learning things. In fact,I promised to make each Friday’s post a tribute to that idea.
Here, now, I’m going to backtrack on that statement a little. This week has been an unrelenting bitch. I don’t want to learn anything new this week. In fact it would be helpful if I could just turn my brain down to a low simmer for the next few days and focus on blocking out things that are old and stupid rather than acquiring that which is new and interesting. I just don’t have the bandwidth for it this week.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put something completely mindless on the telly and read until my eyes go blurry. That should carry me through about 8:30 ot so. Then I’ll sleep and hope to rise again tomorrow and pretend it’s not just a two day pause in an endless parade of major and minor shitshows otherwise known as weekdays.
For the last five years I’ve had the odious distinction of being the lead planner for an event that brings upwards of 1000 people from across the country into buildings, tents, bars, restaurants, and pool halls of our little part of the world. I’ve been fortunate in each of those five years to assemble a team the least of whom could be described as acceptable. Most were easily best in class. We got along with a few nudges from leadership and delivered each year’s product on time, to standard, and on budget.
This year, for reasons surpassing any kind of human logic, “help” as poured in from each and every one of four management layers above me. “Help” poured in from the lawyers. “Help” poured in from the people who manage the contracts. “Help” poured in from quarters that have been otherwise silent for years. Which is nice since we really have no idea what the time, standard, or current budget are supposed to be anyway.
All of this magnanimous help has made properly certain that every god damned thing that gets touched comes flying violently off the rails at every available opportunity… and especially on Friday afternoon. Which is tremendously helpful for both my mood and blood pressure.
What did I learn today? Ha. Well, if there’s any possible way that we can fuck this up, but still blindly stumble on without even considering whether it’s a thing we should do, that’a exactly the direction we’ll follow.
This space is usually reserved for a retelling of something ridiculous I learned this week. I wouldn’t have much trouble filling the space. Though maybe a second edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week would be more appropriate.
Instead of that, though, I’ll just say I put my 59 minute early departure from work to good use. I stopped on the way home for groceries, got home and turned out the dogs, got them fed, loaded out the bird feeders, and then bolted the house on the couple of errands I almost always relegate to Saturday mornings.
I say that to say this… I’m kicking off a three day weekend and I wouldn’t have to leave the house until Tuesday if I didn’t want to. If you don’t think it’s a real possibility, do you even know me?
It’s the week before my annual burning off of use-or-lose leave. Sure, plenty of people are festive and jolly because Christmas is coming. They have their priorities and I have mine. I’d be thrilled with idea of sixteen work-free days in a row regardless of whether it was accompanied by a couple of holidays or not. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
So, you ask, what does the week before two weeks off look like? Well, I could say it was a week filled with high motivation and determination to cross all the t’s and make sure nothing is undone… but yeah, let’s not set those kind of unreasonable expectations.
It’s a week where I spent Telework Monday clearing my inbox (that was productive at least). Tomorrow will be a standard Tuesday – random meetings and more email to be sure. The next two afternoons are taken up with my semi-annual checkup and the office non-denominational holiday party. You can make your own assumptions about how productive I’ll manage to make either one of those days. The first four days of the week should be non-events.
Then we come to Friday. The final day of the work week. It’s the wildcard. Hard life lessons in Uncle’s service have taught me that it will either be a vast sweeping sea of nothing at all or it will be an unmitigated shitshow from start to finish. Historically it’s been my experience that there is no middle way. Not on Fridays. And certainly not on Fridays before an an ultra-long weekend.
Personally, I’m planning for the shitshow option. I think the universe likes to give you one last kick in the teeth before it gives you something so valuable as a long stretch of days off. I’d gladly accept a nice, easy Friday, but to stave off the almost inevitable disappointment, planning for the worst feels like a far better use of the limited time I’ve got left.
So I’m thinking about launching a new weekly feature… I’m leaning towards something short and pithy highlighting something (or several things) that I learned during that week. Based on the handful of notes I’ve jotted down already, there’s a fair chance that it’s mainly going to be a running list of things I probably should have known already given my advanced age.
I really don’t know if this idea is something that might have the staying power of my venerable series on What Annoys Jeff this Week. It might just be one of those early morning, under-caffeinated ideas that would have been better left where I found it.
I’ve been tinkering for a while now with various ideas of what I could use to plug an ongoing gap on Fridays here. I know that by the end of the week I’m rarely in the humor to churn out a fully formed post, but quick one-offs could fill the bill nicely in moving from a 4-posts per week back to a full service, five posts a week format. I increasingly feel like I need to be writing on Fridays, even if it’s just a little something to keep the fingers moving.
Anyway, we’ll see where it goes from here. Watch this space on Friday evening and you can judge for yourself.
If you ever want to see what a monumental waste of resources looks like, I’d consider the average office on any given Friday between Thanksgiving and New Years to be the perfect place to begin your case study. Sure, there are a few things going on and there may even be an occasional fire that needs dousing, but for the most part, inter-holiday Fridays are more dead air than anything else.
Some of the problem is structural. The end of the calendar year has three major holidays stacked within six weeks of one another – that jumps to 4 holidays in eight week’s if you include Veterans Day. Still more of the issue traces back to basic personnel practices – specifically to and especially for some offices being staffed by senior people with years of experience whose compensation package includes a maxed out weekly allotment of annual leave. That leads to a lot of people all needing to burn off a large number of vacation days the closer it gets to December 31st. Fridays are a perfect target of opportunity for burning off those accumulated hours.
Even knowing there is a laundry list of reasons why Fridays this time of year are near useless doesn’t contribute much to making them go by any faster when you are one of the unlucky few who isn’t burning off vacation time in eight hours incriments. At worst, these days can be moments of understaffed panic, at best, slow death by boredom. I really have no idea which of the two is worse.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had to think of an original post to cap off the week on a Friday night. With the archives now well and truly exhausted, though, I’m left with no choice.
What I’m thinking about doing, now that there’s a more than twelve year deep back catalog of posts, is to use Friday evenings to revisit some of the “best of” posts from the last 4,380+ days. Maybe this is the chance to trot some of the golden oldies out of the barn for a fresh look using something like an “on this date” format.
I’m giving it some thought – do I add fresh commentary, note where I’ve changed my mind and where I haven’t, try to provide some fresh insight? Yeah, I don’t know yet.
The thought of going on a deep dive expedition way back to 2006 is equal parts tempting and terrifying. I like to think that in the intervening years my writing style and substance has improved. Then again maybe it hasn’t. Honestly so much of that was written so long ago I’ve entirely forgotten it. I want to imagine that the Jeff who’s sitting here at the keyboard now is very much a kindred spirit to the one who wrote those early posts. Believe me, you don’t want me to delve too deeply into how much of my self-identity is tied up in being blissfully consistent.
So, I guess the only think I’ll say tonight is “we’ll see.” If next week around this time you find yourself reading something dated from 2006, don’t worry. You’re not caught in a time warp, it’ll just be me doing more excavation of the past in the never ending search for clicks.
I’ve had it with this week. It hasn’t been particularly busy. It hasn’t been particularly trying. It hasn’t been anything other than completely ordinary, but I really have had it. Neither my head nor my heart are in it. If I can feel it that strongly, it’s got to be showing.
Fortunately, I’ve been hoarding vacation days since the beginning of the year and pulled the trigger to double the size and duration of this weekend – Effectively pulling Friday right up into the middle of the week. It’s remarkable how much my mood improved by firing off just that little bit of paperwork.
Some people would drown that extra-long weekend in Netflix or find their way to the beach or the mountains. Me? Well, I’ll be mulching if anyone needs me. There’s something deeply satisfying about working in the dirt. Maybe it’s hard-wired from pre-history when our hunting and gathering ancestors gave way to their agrarian progeny. Then again maybe it’s just nice to see a finished and physical product coming together at the end of a day’s work. That’s not something you find much of in a world ruled by spreadsheets and PowerPoint slides.
Whatever the reason, I know I’ll feel better once my hands get in the dirt – and maybe after a few days of going to bed physically tired instead of just mentally worn out.