Almost, but not quite halfway…

My “official” calendar in Outlook is often what could generously be called a hot mess. ​It’s filled with blocks of times for actual meetings I expect to attend, meetings that I just need to know are happening, generic reminders of when certain things are due, the full range of vacation days and doctor appointments, and often as much other information as I can cram on to them to make the days at least look productive.

As I was projecting out the schedule on some longer range projects that had known timelines stretching through next spring, when I ran across a chit I had put down long enough ago that I don’t remember doing it. Sitting there on the calendar not too deeply into 2019 was a simple block that read “Career Halfway Point” marking the temporal spot mid-way between January 13, 2003 and May 31, 2035.

I’m honestly not sure if finding this particular Easter egg has left me feeling better or worse. Better that the halfway point is a relatively close-in target now, yes. Worse, because It means there’s still slightly more asshattery ahead than there is behind.

I won’t say that time precisely flies, but it does seem to move with haste. At least that’s how it feels when considering time in long stretches – some of the individual days and weeks can feel like they’re dragging on for years all on their own. There’s a big part of me that feels unqualified glee at the idea of being over the hump. My inner pessimist in me, of course, also can’t help but note that the closer to the end we are the closer to The End we are. It’s not quite a Pyrrhic victory, but it shares a zip code.

Making monuments…​

Occasionally you open your mouth and say something that should be patently ridiculous to every person in the room. The mere suggestion should be met with mocking, rolled eyes, and sighs of disbelief. Mostly you do it when you’re a little bored or just want to see what kind of rise you can get out of someone. You’d never in a million years think anyone would take any of it as an actual suggestion.

Then, of course, you are brought crashing back to the real world with a comment about “how relevant” your suggestion is.

No. Please, just no. These words were not meant to be taken seriously. They were meant as biting critique of our penchant for creating monuments out of things that should be sandcastles. I’m not sure I remember what #winning looks like, but I’m reasonably certain we’re doing it wrong.

​Clouded judgement…

I almost called in sick today. I didn’t sleep particularly well last night and this morning my face felt like the dentist had practiced his trade with a jackhammer instead of a ​drill. Hot coffee made it worse and I’d have liked nothing more than to kick back in my favorite comfy chair with an ice pack and gone about the important business of feeling better.

What I did instead, was pull up my big boy pants, swallow down a fist full of ibuprofen, and drive in to the office. I did this because I had one minor thing that needed to be done before noon and I didn’t feel like sticking anyone else with it. Instead of coming in and being able to knock this one small item off the list this morning, though, what I found was that none of what had been agreed to on Friday had actually been done. At least one of the people who needed to see it was on vacation. Another couldn’t be bothered to read any of the follow-up email.

So, because I was trying to do the right thing by not setting up one of my coworkers to have to send an email on up the chain, there I sat with my thumb firmly emplaced up my ass unable to get the most basic of things accomplished. The longer I serve this republic, the more convinced I become that no one enters these jobs angry and jaded, but they’re made so by circumstances and conditions well outside of their control.

I almost called in sick today. I should have done it. I allowed the possibility that I’d achieve something productive to cloud my judgement. I very clearly make bad decisions… and for that I am very, very sorry.

Cubicle hell…

I’ve been a cube dweller for all of my 15 years working for Uncle. The one constant across all those years is a firm belief that if there is a hell, at least one level of it has cubicles stretching out to the horizon in all directions. In effect, to work in a cube is to already be condemned to toil in a hellscape to get credit for your eight daily ours.

Most days, cubicle hell is a land of minor irritations – of people who talk too loudly, non-existent air conditioning, 30 conversations happening simultaneously, an utter lack of privacy, and an endless parade of small distractions seemingly devised to prevent anything that could be mistaken for productivity.

The small annoyances are punctuated occasionally by the large distractions. These are what you may expect to find when the Powers That Be will decide that everyone in the room needs to face a different direction or that the cube walls are one row too tall or too short. The Powers will then, in their infinite wisdom and goodness, decide to address these grave shortcomings in the most expeditious way possible.

If you’ve never tried to conduct business in the middle of a construction zone, I think you owe it to yourself to give it a try. At any given time your 30 square feet of cubicle hell could be made inoperable when they have to re-route the electric or network cables, when they have to disassemble your desk, or when they need to remove a panel so you can stare obnoxiously across 30 inches of open space at the face of the person with whom you use to share a “wall.” Now the Powers have removed even the pretense that you aren’t packed in elbows to assholes with your fellow condemned souls.

Even if your desk happens to be one spared that day, there’s the general construction noise – the power drills, and shifting metal, dropped tools and banging. All the while, you’re careful to pretend that everything is business as usual. There are no distractions. Everything is going according to plan. You love the new floorplan that the Powers have granted unto you, for they, in their spacious offices, behind actual closing doors, are secure from what they wrought. Surely they know best.

As it turns out, cubicle hell isn’t so much a place as it is a process – ongoing, evolving, and always looking for ways to make every day just a little bit harder and such just one more drop of joy from the marrow. We have met the enemy and it truly is us.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Snap judgement. I’ve got a pretty good record of making snap judgements about people and situations. Occasionally, though, I’m proven utterly and unequivocally wrong. Just occasionally people really do surprise me. That seeds chaos and discontent in my universe and really does annoy me to no end.

2. Email. Actual it’s the lack of email that’s the problem. If we’re going to pretend to be an organization that lives and dies by electronic communication, keeping this most basic of those tools available feels like a reasonable place to start before we dive in and try to tackle the more complex stuff. But hey, what do I know? I’m just a guy sitting here because the damned email isn’t working.

3. Anyone who asks why I like animals so much and people so little. Seriously with that question? Have you met animals? They’re awesome. Sure, some of them will kill you if given half a chance, but on the whole they’re endearing and some of them are downright adorable. They can be expected to go about their lives doing basic animal things. On the other hand, have you met people? Some of them will kill you given half a chance too, but they have far fewer of the animal’s redeeming qualities and are, as a group, far less adorable. Unlike the other members of the animal kingdom, a large percentage of people can be expected to wander through their lives oblivious to the world around them and behaving in as obnoxious manner as possible. Given the choice, I don’t see how it’s even a contest.

My lane…

In each and every job I’ve ever had I’ve had a standard list of issues and items that are defined, at some level, as being things that I am responsible for doing on a regular and recurring basis. These are “primary duties.” There are also secondary duties – perhaps items that I do when someone is on vacation or that require more than one person to complete in a timely manner. Lastly, there are the ubiquitous and ill-defied set of “other duties as assigned.” These ODA have a tendency to be ash and trash actions that aren’t particularly time consuming but that have a bit of a tendency to be dull, thankless time sucks.

Through them all, the primary, secondary, and ODA, though, I’ve always made it a point to know my lane – all of those things for which I am collectively responsible to carry out at any given time. Now, the list isn’t static. It changes based on manpower, skills, personal preference, and sometimes (usually) the whim of senior leaders everywhere. In a more ambitious age, I knew not just my lane, but also had a fair depth of understanding of the lanes to my left and right. I won’t say those days are gone forever, but I certainly pay a lot less attention to the things that are outside my currently assigned channel markers these days.

Knowing your lane and its boundaries is, in my opinion, one of the most important tasks you can master as a run of the mill employee drone. Knowing what you’re supposed to do, when you’re supposed to do it, where it comes from, and where it goes will put you in good stead 85% of the time. If nothing else, it gives you at least a little bit of ammo when someone asks you to do something that you know well and good lies in the purview of some guy who sits down the hall.

I make it my first order of business to know my job and where its limits lie. Now if everyone else could just find their own lane and bloody well stay in it, what a wonderful world it would be. Yeah. I’ll be holding my breath on that.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Overestimation. As much as I appreciate your belief that a good word from me is a powerful totem for overcoming organizational obstacles, I regretfully must inform you that you have profoundly overestimated my ability to command change in a chaotic world. I appreciate your vote of confidence, but if my serving as the voice of reason is your last best hope, I think it’s best for all of us if you plan now on crushing disappointment. Rest assured that my pleas fall on the same deaf ears as yours.

2. New (old) routine. It took me exactly three days to fall into a new routine of doing whatever I wanted to do whenever I wanted to do it. Landing back in the office after almost a week of that kind of decadent behavior has proven to be a hard pill to swallow. Sure, it’s just the old routine back again, but after a brief hint of freedom I can’t help but resent the confining structure just a little bit more than usual. Fortunately it will only take a few weeks of grinding monotony to reset my expectations based on this new (old) routine.

3. Pollen. The weather these last two days has been ideal for top down driving. The airborne pollen that hits you like a physical wall, however, makes it prohibitively agonizing to avail myself of the opportunity. Sure, some people who are more strongly constituted or may just be willing to endure scratchy, bloodshot eyes and the inability to breath through their nose, are out there soaking up the sun. Me? Not so much. Real summer will be here soon-ish. Then I can really enjoy the ride. Sadly, though, I want to be topless now.