Doing the work…

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.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Bathroom stall phone calls. Yes, you’re sitting down and probably bored, but the shitter in the public restroom really isn’t a conference room. And yet at least once a week I walk into the one down the hall from my little section of cube farm and there’s someone holed up in one of the stalls having a full blown conversation. First, it’s the one room in the building where I can mostly go to escape pointless conversation. Secondly, whoever you’ve got on the other end of the line doesn’t need to hear you dropping the kids off at the pool. Lastly, you can save the stink eye, because every time I walk in there and find you on the phone, I’m going to fart, belch, whistle a jaunty tune, and generally be as loud, obnoxious, and passive aggressive as possible… because I dare you to say something to justify yourself in the eyes of gods and men.

2. City slickers. In Paul Krugman’s recent screed in the New York Times, Getting Real About Rural America, his thesis seemed to be that things could get better if only people in rural America started thinking more like people living in urban America. The catch, of course, is that I’ve made the conscious decision to live in rural America precisely because it doesn’t think (or behave) like urban America. I could have just as easily decided to live in Baltimore, Wilmington, or Philadelphia but none of those places support the kind of lifestyle or the quality of life that’s important to me. If the capital “D” Democratic Party ever wants to make serious inroads into the vast swath of country beyond reliably Democratic voting cities and inner suburbs, they’re going to have to come up with a far better argument than “you should just think like us.” The day I declare I want to give up wide open ground, backyard wildlife, towering oaks, no traffic, and idyllic quiet for “everything the city has to offer,” consider this my written permission to begin proceedings to have me psychologically committed. 

3. Recognition. After spending the better part of six months mixed up in delivering a final product that’s “rolling off” the proverbial line next week, there’s nothing more cheering that sitting in a meeting where one of the Gods on Olympus turns to you quizzically and asks, “Ummm, why are you here?” Oh, no particular reason, I saw a meeting forming up and I didn’t have anything else to do this hour so I thought I’d hang. I don’t ever do things for public credit to see my name in lights – in fact I actively avoid those things. Still, though, sometimes it might be nice to know it’s recognized that I’m not just wandering the halls lacking anything better to do. You can just color my morale well boosted today.

Personally…

I think it’s adorable when someone calls me sounding apologetic and forlorn because they need to make a major change to one of the events managed by Tharp Parties and Events Ltd. (A division of Big Bureaucracy Productions).

Look, chief, we all work for someone. You answer to your bosses. I answer to mine. If yours and mine provide conflicting guidance and we can’t sort it out together, I have absolutely no problem pushing it up the chain for resolution somewhere at echelons higher than reality. Your bosses and mine are allegedly professional adults who should be more than capable of decision making when their staff can’t come to agreement.

Believe me when I tell you that if you come to me saying “I know this is going to blow a hole in the schedule, but my bosses don’t want to do A, B, or C,” I’m just going to shrug, pass the word to the next level up, and move on with the day. The chance of my taking it personally is precisely zero-point-zero.

You see, there are a limited number of hours in the day and I’ve only got so much energy to apply to whatever batshit crazy things happen during any given 24-hour period. I do my level best to wast as little of that time and energy on anything that is absolutely beyond my ability to control or even to exert influence upon.

So, you see, if you ever find yourself in a position of delivering me “bad news,” and I take it with what might generously be called ambivalence, know that it’s not exactly because I don’t care, but rather because even as you were speaking, I assessed the situation as being something well outside my scope and I’ve already made the decision to refer it to higher for further evaluation and action.

I’m nothing if not a man who recognizes his own professional limitations.

Non-answer answers…

The language of bureaucracy is full of many ways to admit that you have no idea what’s going on in interesting and completely non-committal ways. This afternoon I was in a meeting where I’m pretty sure I used all of them. It’s an awkward feeling, though not in any way surprising or unusual. 

You see, I find myself in the not unfamiliar position of being told that I’m “in charge” of something without being given the corresponding authority to make any actual decisions. This means I’ll spend more time running back to higher echelons and asking “mother may I” and waiting for mother’s response than I will doing anything that might accidentally resemble planning.  

Sure, I’ll perch out on a limb from time to time and make a decision that’s time sensitive. There’s a cost associated with doing that – a limited pool of good will that occasionally lets you execute an end run around the powers that be. It usually ends up with either being required to beg forgiveness or listening to one of the Olympians opine on how it had been their idea all along. 

Mercifully the last thing on earth I want is credit. All I really want is to do a job quietly, professionally, and then head myself towards the barn at the first available opportunity. Frankly I’d prefer than my name stay out of the record as much as possible – because public recognition has a funny way of only serving to attracting more work and I’m not looking to expand into new markets here.

Today was the first of many meetings where most of my responses will inevitably be some variation of “I don’t know.” This is the time of year when I approach peak bureaucrat-ing. It’s a close run contest to decide whether I’ll respond “don’t know” or “that depends” more often over the the next few months.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. HOA meetings. My neighborhood’s annual Homeowners Association meeting is scheduled tonight and leaving the house to attend this thing that’s happening a couple of thousand yards away from my back door feels onerous. Just the thought of having to do something like that every week or, gods forbid, multiple times of the week sends me into mild fits and twitches. I admire the hell out of you guys out there who have a couple of kids who you chase around to practices, performances, or games after work. I think it’s clear that the lack of “personal staff time” under those circumstances would make me certifiably crazy in short order.

2. Republicans/Trump/the Media made someone send these bombs. Bullshit. This is the same argument from people who want to believe beer companies make someone drive drunk or fast food joints are making us all get fat. You know who’s responsible for the dumb shit I do? Me. Not the president, not the media, not McDonald’s, not Budweiser. I’m responsible for my decisions and actions, even in this age that wants very badly to tell us that we should just blame things on someone else rather than take even the tiniest measure of personal accountability. If you want to live a life where you’re always the victim of someone else’s dastardly designs, I don’t suppose I can stop you, but it’s sure as hell not a world I ever intend to live in.

3. The rule of three. Sometimes making WAJTW a triple-topic post bites me in the ass. Usually that happens when the biggest things that annoy me are still holding over from the previous week or when it’s something that feels like it could (or has) featured every week. I mean there’s only so many times I can say some version of “people in general annoy the living hell out of me.” It’s always a true fact, but I like to have specific points of announce to point at rather than just the fact that people and their infinite capacity for stupidity continue to exist.

The virtue of 4AM…

I’m an early riser by most people’s definition. Weekday, weekend doesn’t really matter. Unless I’m deathly ill, and usually even then, I’m awake a few minutes on either side of 5AM. Today was a rare exception that pushed the day’s start time to 4am. When you’re use to waking in the small hours of the morning one hour is pretty similar to the next. It’s dark, the world is quiet, and you don’t want to do anything so much as sit on the porch and enjoy another cup of coffee. Sadly, though, today wasn’t the day for that.

Without detail, suffice to say what had me up in the small hours was a patently ridiculous task that involved significant eye rolling and standing around a parking lot in the morning’s light drizzle for far longer than was strictly necessary.

That’s not to say that waking up at 4am is completely without virtue. Dragging yourself out of bed at 4AM and starting the clock on your work day by 6:00 delivers the undeniable benefit of then being able to punch out and head home by 2:30 in the afternoon. That part of the day felt good and right. Most people wouldn’t make that devil’s bargain, I’m sure, but if the powers that be would let me kick off every day at 6:00 and clock out at 2:30, I’d sign up for that schedule in a hot minute. Sadly I inhabit a world where I’ve been “invited” to meetings starting at 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00PM. Those are hours I’m exceptionally uninterested in being in the office, but during which bosses seem to thrive.

Maybe that’s why I’m such a consistent fan of early mornings.

When Monday sucks a little bit more…

It’s Monday. That would usually mean I spent the day happily tucked in to my home office with views of the woods and three fuzzy critters keeping me company. Those Mondays, telework Mondays, are something to be celebrated rather than serve as a source of existential dread.

Today, of course, was the existential dread kind of Monday. It’s the kind that required my presence in the 5×5 foot, half walled box I usually only spend four days of the week occupying. I was thrown off my normal Monday by a meeting at which my bodily presence was encouraged if not actually required.

The catch is, some time between signing off on Friday and arriving on Monday the meeting in question got cancelled… with the net result being I gave up a delightfully dreary telework Monday for absolute no reason at all. Not cool, man. Not cool at all.

Sure, I know this is one of those fancy first world problems that everyone enjoys, but since I, in fact, live in the first world, I’m not sure what other type of problems I could be expected to encounter on the regular. I’m not saying that anyone died or was maimed as a result of this series of unfortunate events. All I’m saying is that Monday sucks as a general rule and I missed out on an excellent opportunity to make Monday suck a little bit less.