I’ve been hoarding vacation days. I’ve mentioned it before. I’ve been hoarding them in hopes that someone at echelons higher than reality may have a change of heart and let us carry over more leave than usual into next year. With those hopes extinguished, it seems I’m about to reap the benefits of my months-long refusal to use leave a little at a time when I was already staying home anyway.
The rest of the year looks a little something like this: Next week features am impromptu four day weekend. Then I’m working three weeks followed by a week off. Three more weeks of work and then another week off. Then I work a week and pull in another four-day weekend. Finally, it’s work three more weeks and then take two weeks of vacation time to cap off the year.
Sure, there’s still a pretty significant chance I’ll be spending most of those days at home, but weighed against the prospect of losing the time completely, it’s hardly a sacrifice.
At some point during our long march through the plague year the bosses are going to expect us back in the office on a regular basis. On the off chance that happens between now and January 4th, at least I’ve build myself a nice cushion of down time so I can kind of ease back into the routine that we’ve spent the last seven months proving to be antiquated and unnecessary.
Sure, our political overlords are shit, the bureaucracy is ridiculous by its very nature, and the work can be grindingly routine, but that big bucket of leave you get after spending 15 years on the job absolutely does not suck.
Look, I’m as big a fan of federal holidays as anyone in the country. There’s a problem with Washington’s Birthday, though. Well, technically it’s not a problem with the day itself. It’s more of a problem with what comes after it… which is a long, monotonous, fifteen week slog through spring to the next officially recognized holiday.
Fifteen five day work weeks in a row. Hell might be other people, but that long stretch between holidays gives it a yearly run for its money as far as I’m concerned.
There’s nothing to be done about it, of course, except remember that I have a small mountain of annual leave I have to burn off before the end of the year that I can tap into if things get dire. I’ll do it if I have to, but those days never feel quite as good as the freebies.
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.
One of the great perks of hoarding sick leave early in my career is now having a giant stack of it available to use when I’m not feeling up to snuff. Today is one of those days – when the better part of valor was parking myself on the couch and flooding the system with medication instead of dragging myself to the office as if I thought I still had anything to prove to anyone.
Instead, after breakfast, and a few odds and ends, I sat here muttering at the dogs, facing a few hours where I’m nearly stoned into inaction. I’m not sure I could operate heavy equipment even if I wanted to. They may be on to something with that warning.
What they’re not on to, apparently, is the definition of the phrase “non-drowsy.” Hey, I like being as blitzed as the next guy, really, but damned if it wouldn’t be nice to have a option that could dry out my sinuses without sending me face down on the kitchen table. Yeah. That would be great.
It’s Monday, but it’s a short three-day week and there’s at least one telework day between me and the start of the weekend on Wednesday afternoon. Summer and fall are my favorite times of year to be in Uncle’s employ. Unlike the interminable, holiday-free stretch from February to May, the holidays flow with reasonable regularity in 4-6 week intervals. They’re always something to look forward to on the horizon – a minor way-station on the long trip to 2035.
I make a point of pride out of making sure I’ve burnt off all my leave by the end of the year. I generally aim to carry precisely the maximum amount of leave across from year to year… not an hour more or an hour less. Keeping a big honking pile of leave available is a safety blanket of sorts – an insurance policy – against the idea that something catastrophic could happen at any time, but I have a cushion of paid time off owed to me to help mitigate whatever the problem might be.
Life experience has also taught me that I appreciate time off more in small doses than I do en block. With the exception of maybe a week or ten days across Christmas and New Years, I take most of my leave a day or two at a time. A four day weekend seems to hit some sort of neurological sweet spot for me – enough to feel rested, like it’s been something more than a regular weekend, but not so long that the very act of coming back to work feels torturous. Coming back after a long stretch – like the “Christmas break,” has a funny way of leaving me more annoyed and dispirited than I was before I left. For me that’s the real danger of taking too much time in one run.
So, here I am, my projected leave schedule covering the calendar like shot from a scattergun. Most aren’t random strikes, though. I try to set them to maximize preexisting holidays or to compliment the few days of the year I know I like being somewhere other than work. Throw in four or five more days held in reserve for the inevitable mornings I just can’t face eight hours in the cube farm, and it’s my own special, patent pending formula for dragging my carcass through another year while preserving some semblance of sanity.
After driving to the office a few weeks ago only to find that they had closed for the day without giving much of any advanced notice, I’ve opted to go ahead and ignore official guidance (whenever it comes at all) and establish my own policy for when to come and go in craptastic weather. This morning, for instance, I made a showing at the office, but pulled the plug at 1000. I cleared the parking lot and the security gate in my usual 10 minutes. Twenty minutes later, official word came down that liberal leave was in effect. Maybe twenty minutes after that, they announced that post was closing for the day. 20,000 people immediately got in their cars and jammed the gate for the next hour. By the time people who waited for “the word” got their gear and headed out, I was already home sitting in my fuzzy slippers. It’ll end up costing me 2 hours of annual leave since they didn’t formally close until noon, but I’ll trade 2 hours of leave for not spending an hour or more sitting in traffic at the gate any time.
The moral of the story is that when it comes to my health, welfare, safety, and convenience, I’m taking the decisions out of the hands of “something corporate” and making them myself from here on out. Unless or until the decision-making improves, I’ll cheerfully trade my earned leave for some semblance of sanity in how things work. I may not always make the “right” decision, but by god I’ll always make one in a timely manner. Maybe I’m just too damned old and cynical to sit around waiting for permission when forgiveness is almost always available.
So, is it too soon to start agitating for a closure tomorrow? Or authorized liberal leave? That would work too.