Today I was sitting at my desk around 9AM lamenting that it was only Wednesday and there were still hours to go in the first half of the week.
After a moment’s pause, I realized a few important things:
1) There is a three day weekend incoming;
2) I still have 40 hours of use or lose annual leave on the books;
3) I just got my 40-hour performance award (because I’ll take time off instead of cash money every time); and
4) Starting on January 13th, I’ll be earning 8 hours of annual leave a pay period in recognition of the fact that I’ve managed to not get fired or dropped dead since signing on with Uncle fifteen years ago.
After completing the required paperwork – because truly nothing moves in the bureaucracy without the required paperwork – I’ve effectively created a time machine by which I can skip one of the annoying days in the middle of the week and head directly into the weekend starting at close of business tomorrow.
That’s made Wednesday far more tolerable on just about every level.
As it turns out, when I spend the day knocking around local used book shops, eating a late lunch, and then dicking around the house I tend not to have many great topics come to mind when I sit down to blog. Lest someone think that’s a complaint, it’s not. It’s just a simple statement of fact.
In the back of my mind I know this ultra-long weekend is also at its halfway point and I’m bound and determined to squeeze as much down time and relaxation into the five days to come as possible. If things feel a bit more bland than usual around here for a few more days, consider this an official apology.
I had three long days to get a post together. I’d like to sit here and make some brilliant excuse for why it didn’t happen. The truth is I kind of completely forgot that today was actually Monday and not the second coming of Sunday. The fact that it’s Monday utterly escaped my mind is the closest thing I have to an excuse for today’s lack of pithy commentary/bitching and complaining.
If I’m painfully honest it was nice to have three consecutive days when I wasn’t particularly worried about stringing words together in something close to a coherent (and mildly entertaining) order. I’m sure all will be as normal by this time tomorrow, but just now I’m going to soak in the last of these three days and appreciate them for the unplanned break they became.
This past weekend was beautiful… so I’ve been told. I spent the lions share of it alternating between laying on the couch sleeping, laying in the recliner sleeping, or actually in bed. Sadly, in bed was mostly tossing and turning sporadically until I got too annoyed to keep at it.
Under most other circumstances I feel like I would have enjoyed the kind of four day weekend that was almost completely passed at home. As it is, I don’t remember much of it until my immune system seemed to get its act together yesterday afternoon. As much as I appreciate not spending another day at the office feeling like ass, having something to show for the long weekend would have been much nicer.
As it is, I feel like I’ve somehow been cheated out of my time off – betrayed by my own dirty dealing respiratory system. Yes, I’m aware that sounds just a little bit crazy, but I want my weekend back damnit. Time off shouldn’t count against you when you’re legitimately worried about hacking up a lung.
1. The help. OK, so here’s the thing… There’s a point in the life of a project when it is no longer a good idea to throw additional bodies at the problem. Two or three months ago, when I started asking for specific assistance was the time to allocate resources. Ten days before the light turns green and this things has to work is not the time to offer up “whatever help you need.” In fact adding new people at this point is pretty much only going to slow things down and make everything harder to do. We have long since crossed the line of departure after which I will either be able to manhandle this shitshow across the finish line myself or it will collapse in a catastrophic and spectacularly public manner. There really is no third option now.
2. The National Capital Region. Loosely defined for my purposes as the District and the counties of Maryland and Virginia abutting the federal enclave, the area usually makes my list because of their abysmal ability to deal with even the most well forecast snowfall. This week they make the list because those feds operating in and around the NCR have gotten themselves a “free” day off tomorrow. I get the logic of not wanting a few hundred thousand workers coming into the city when a million or so people are swamping the place for the inauguration, but I want a day off too damnit. Back to back three-day weekends would have been perfect.
3. Due dates. Here in the land of making things more difficult than they need to be, we call due dates “suspenses.” These suspenses are what tells us how long we have to work on various action items. The idea is simple enough. The problem is the near universal belief that it’s wrong and immoral to send anything out “before its suspense.” The very idea seems asinine to me. My intent, every single day, is to get things off my desk and on to someone els’s as quickly as quality allows. Hanging on to stuff just because it isn’t due yet has got to be one of the most patently ridiculous things that happens on a regular basis… Which is really saying something because we are full to the rafters with people doing absolutely ridiculous things.
Independence Day week is, in my opinion, second only to the week between Christmas and New Years in terms of how little actual productive work takes place inside Uncle’s vast machine. It’s true that not everyone takes the week (or four days) off, but for the most part the number of people on vacation approaches the point of critical mass where it becomes nearly impossible to get anything accomplished if it requires more than two people to be part of the decision-making or work flow. I’m sure there are plenty of old hands who might deny what I’m telling you, but experience tells me that this week is a dead zone for productivity. No matter how many memos you cram into the pipeline, if there’s no one there to read them on the other end, it’s just so many trees falling in the forest.
I’ve always felt like this week was the civilian equivalent to an operational pause – a breather before the long march through summer towards Labor Day and the close of the fiscal year. There are still plenty of people giving the illusion of getting something accomplished, but I suspect that if they were all honest at least half the emails they send are greeted with an out-of-office message. By early in the day Thursday, you’re going to find even the most dedicated of employees giving up the illusion and watching the clock with the rest of us poor dumb working stiffs.
That’s just part of the magic joy that is the trinity of three-day weekends in the summer. They feel different. They’re special. Maybe they hark back to being fourteen and having the whole summer stretched out in front of us like a never-ending weekend. Or maybe we just appreciate the reminder of the life we can look forward to in 20 year, 11 months, and 1 day… if we were so inclined to count the amount of time until we’re eligible for retirement.
Talk about celebrating a real independence day.
Vast swaths of the federal government operated with a “liberal leave” policy in place today. Loosely translated, this policy says “Travel conditions may or may not be dangerous this morning so instead of us actually making a decision to be open or closed, we’re going to let every individual go ahead and flip a coin to decide whether they want to work today or not.” I don’t have any particular heartburn with them using this approach on days when the weather is decidedly questionable in the early morning hours.
Rest assured, if at any time I realistically thought my life was endangered by the commute, I’d be the first to throw in the towel and head back to the house. As much as I would have enjoyed a Monday spent hanging around the house drinking coffee, I just wasn’t so in love with the idea that I wanted to use up a day of my own annual leave to make it happen. What I really wanted was for Uncle Sugar to go ahead and give me another day free of charge. Let’s be honest, it’s going to have to be a blizzard of epic proportions before I’m willing to say it’s so bad out there that I want to burn off a day of precious, precious vacation time… and usually that’s when Uncle ends up making the “right” call anyway and letting everyone stay home.
As nice as cooling my heels for an impromptu four-day weekend would have been, I’m too much of a leave hoarder to make it happen today… but don’t think for a second that I didn’t regret that decision when I was sitting at my desk looking at a metric ton of new emails that had been piling up since Thursday afternoon, the flashing “voicemail” light on my phone, and a line of people that had things that needed discussing. In retrospect, maybe I should have been a little more liberal with my leave after all, but that’s just another day of putting off the inevitable.