This coming Saturday will mark an auspicious milestone for me – The 15th anniversary of signing on as one of Sam’s civilian employees. The truth is that number feels vaguely fictitious. It clearly isn’t possible that much time has passed since showing up to meet the bosses and a gaggle of other new employees at a Shoney’s restaurant just outside the gates of Fort Lee in Virginia. As much as those days in the old Blue Auditorium and nights of bar hopping between Petersburg and Richmond feel like a different lifetime, they also feel a bit like they happened last month.
Due to some of the vagaries of the dual age and years of service requirement of the federal retirement system, racking up half of 30 years doesn’t quite put me officially halfway through a career. I won’t hit that magic point until March of 2019. Having fifteen years down still feels good. Just knowing you’re close to the back half of the game give a bit of comfort that sitting in cubes working on PowerPoint won’t last literally forever… even on days when it feels that way.
So what have I learned over the last decade and a half? I’ve learned that some people are heroes and others are knaves. I’ve learned that management and leadership are rarely the same thing. I’ve learned that no matter how hard you roll your eyes they actually won’t fall out of your head. I’ve learned, perhaps most importantly, that given enough time and distance, even the worst of bad days isn’t as awful as it seemed in the moment. That’s the kind of folksy wisdom you need to remind yourself of as frequently as necessary.
So as for me, Saturday will mark 15 years down and about 17 ½ left to go. For anyone else out there following along in Uncle’s great civilian army, you know that magic 15 year mark also means one very important thing. It means that I’m adding another 52 hours of vacation time to the mix. If you think having an extra week plus a little of new found time off coming my way every year from here on out to the end doesn’t hit me right in my happy place, well, you might not know me at all.
When I see stories like the death of Malcolm Young at age 64, I’m even more convinced of the need to retire at the earliest available moment. All life is a gamble. Sure, your day is probably going to go without much trouble – or it might be the day you get run down by a bus. Malcolm was 64 – an age that I increasingly think of as “not that old.” He has the resources of a lifetime spent as a rock star to draw on to fight the disease that struck him down. He died anyway.
Just last week, someone in the office next door went to meet her maker. She left Friday afternoon, called out on Monday, and on Tuesday she was dead. She had four decades of good and faithful service under her belt. She died anyway.
Given my lifestyle – with its love of red meat and carbs – I can’t reasonably expect to be a centenarian. I’m under no illusions there. Still, I don’t intend to die in harness, although I understand random chance could have something to say about that. As of right now, unless Congress weighs in and changes the rules mid-game, I need to reach the magic combination of 57 years of age and at least 30 years of service. I’ll land on that milestone on June 1, 2035. It’s a date that still seems awfully far away, but not nearly so far as it was once.
The very fact that time is limited drives me to gather up what I can as fast as I can and then get on with enjoying that (hopefully) long, long final weekend. I’m determined that I’m not going to allow myself to be the guy in the office who sticks around until 70 out of fear that the money might run out before I do. At least I’m well served that my desired lifestyle in retirement is largely quiet and relatively inexpensive. As long as I’ve got coffee, a few books, a quiet place in the woods, and a handful of critters warming themselves at my hearth, my needs and wants are largely met.
Now I’ve just got to try to not drop dead before I can get all the pieces lined up.
Early in the commute this afternoon, Big Red’s odometer rolled over 100,000 miles. That’s not quite as big a deal with these fancy new vehicles as it was say with a 1986 Oldsmobile Cutlass, but it’s a personal milestone for me. It’s the first time I’ve ever held on to a car long enough to rack up that kind of mileage.
It’s one of the few times in life I can honestly say I’m not really even interested in looking for a new car (though I wouldn’t say no if someone dropped a Ferrari or a Koenigsegg in the driveway). I thoroughly enjoy driving this over sized red beast of mine. Sure, she’ll never sip fuel like a Prius and there’s the occasional rattle of indeterminate origin, but I just plain like the old girl. I don’t suppose it hurts that she’s bought and paid for either.
It’s inevitable that at some point something new and shiny will catch my interest and replace Big Red as the objective of my automotive affection. Until then, though, I think I’ll be perfectly content traveling the highways and byways in my Tundra/living room on wheels and watching the Smart cars scurry out of my way.
Because I keep track of such things, I can tell you that this is the 150th weekly edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week. I have no idea whether I should be proud of that fact or horrified by it. Regardless, I’d have felt terrible in letting it pass without noting this small monument to one man’s ability to bitch and complain constantly and at length over long periods of time. As much as I’d like to just let this be a self-congratulatory post that feels like it would be something of a cop out… With that foremost in my mind, here are the three things that top my list of annoyances this week:
1. Forgetting. My memory has never been all that strong. Names? Forget it. I’ll forget a new person’s name before they’ve even left the room. There’s just something off with that part of my brain. I’ve learned to work around it without it usually being obvious. Forgetting the plastic pass that lets me into the building in the morning is something more problematic. That’s happened twice now in the last three weeks – both times because my pass was just a little off where where it normally sits. Apparently deviating from the morning routine even by as little as six inches one way or another is enough to mean I’ll end up driving 40 minutes to work, going home, and then trying the morning commute for the second time. If it happens again, I’m just going to staple the damned thing to my forehead and be done with it.
2. Realizing your own (lack of) importance. Most people don’t know this about me, but I have a long history of tilting at windmills. I’ve made staking myself to lost causes almost my life’s work. You could almost call me a patron of futility. It’s probably some kind of deep character flaw, but it’s been my mode of operation for so long that I’m not sure I’d know how to proceed any other way. Because of my windmill tilting tendencies I get to enjoy that awkward moment when you’re forced to admit that you’re nowhere nearly as important to someone as they’ve been to you. It’s a roundhouse kick to the ol’ ego. Fortunately I’ve got that in spades, although that still doesn’t make an distasteful truth any more palatable.
3. Missing deadlines. For the first time possibly ever, I’m facing a major project that in all likelihood I won’t be able to bring in on time. That’s made all the more problematic because there’s no option but to bring it in on time. There’s no rain date and the thing is going to happen no matter how many bits and pieces I’m still holding when the time comes. It’s infuriating because there was plenty of time to get everything in formation – right up until the point we (collectively) started getting sloppy and letting sloppy be ok. My inner perfectionist is aghast at the possibility.
Since it’s sunday morning and dinner is happily doing its thing in the crock pot, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to load up this week’s update from the archives. Today’s offering includes the last post from October and the first four from November 2007. There are no epic rants this go around, but they lose dramatic effect if one pops up every week, don’t you think?
Today’s posts also mark a milestone in the “from the archive” series. There are now less than a year’s worth of back posts waiting to get transferred here to WordPress. It’s bittersweet. I’m sure I enjoy this weekly trip to the recesses of my brain as much if not more than anyone. I’ll be a little sad to see them come to an end.
Enjoy this morning’s posts and remember we’ll be back with poppin’ fresh content tomorrow.
(c) University of Florida
Government work tends to be one of those odd environments where up is down, good is evil, and logic is nonsense. It feels, at times, like a none-too-subtle combination of Groundhog Day and Dante’s Inferno. Maybe that’s an exaggeration… but only a little. I can say that with a degree of certainty because that’s the kind of day it’s been today.
At just after 11:00 this morning I was handed my formal notice that the United States Government plans to furlough me one day a week beginning on July 8th. Exactly 148 minutes later I received an email congratulating me on ten years of service to the government and notifying me that I’d be getting a certificate at the next office awards ceremony. You’d have to work pretty hard at sending two more discordant messages to your employees. Timing, as they say, is everything… even when it comes to giving with one hand and taking away with the other. I hope you’ll forgive me if I’m not in a rush to agree to parading across the stage, smiling for the photo op, and pretending that I give a good goddamn about another certificate in my three ring binder.
I’m sure at some point in the distant past, a nice suitable for framing certificate was a fine motivational tool… but unless I can barter that certificate for goods and services, under the circumstances, I think you can understand why I don’t think it’s worth the paper it’s printed on. I’m going to improvise, adapt, and overcome… but don’t expect that I’ll be thanking anyone for the opportunity.
And people wonder why I’m cynical about almost everything.
Let me say that it’s a big week for me personally and that as a result I’m about to geek out on you guys a little bit. Today marks the 3rd birthday of jeffreytharp.com and running this blog as an independent website. After spending my formative years blogging on MySpace a short stint on Blogger, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed having a permanent place to hang my virtual hat. Having the name right there as the web address means you’d damn well better be willing to be accountable for whatever comes flying out of your mouth. Even though it’s occasionally caused some friction, it’s made be a better blogger and a better writer in general. It’s absolutely worth it.
In addition to marking a birthday, this week also saw my 1000th post go live. Since there is still more good stuff coming from the archives every Sunday, I look for that total to keep going by leaps and bounds. All my old blog posts from MySpace are now available here and I’m working my way through the Blogger years every Sunday. I’m really looking forward to finally having all my posts under one electronic roof sometime in the next four or five months.
Finally, thanks to everyone for keeping up with me from June 29, 2006 to today. I know the “about” section claims that I don’t write for an audience, but we all know differently. No one throws this much life and opinion into the ether if they don’t secretly enjoy being the center of attention from time to time. I supposed that’s not really much of a secret anyway.
19,526 visits, 1,003 posts, 314 comments, and 59 countries over the last 1,095 days. For one sane voice in the wilderness, that’s a pretty respectable record.