Today is the last installment of Furlough Monday for the time being. One of the things I learned from the furlough experience is that regular three day weekends sound a hell of a lot better in theory than they are in practice. For the duration of the furlough, Mondays have been all about pain – trying to keep up with all the demands with less than half the people is not a recipe for good times. I can only expect the experience was similar for those who showed up on Fridays. From my admittedly limited observations, what you end up with is a few people doing a lot of things and not doing any of them particularly well. I’m fairly sure the technical description is penny wise and pound foolish… but that’s a point for another rant.
Tonight’s point is that the end is in sight… and I’ve never been more excited about the prospect of a five day work week (or a full week’s pay). Thank God the Labor Day holiday is coming up so we can ease back into the routine with a short week. These short weeks have been like a kick in the junk… but I wonder if the long weeks will be any better.
1. Being the “dumb guy” in the room. I’ve met enough brilliant minds to know mine isn’t one of them. I’ve made my peace with that. I’m satisfied with having a respectable amount of general knowledge in many areas and a deep knowledge of a few threads of the arts and humanities. It’s my niche. But every once in a while you walk into a room, spend nine hours listening attentively and walk away realizing that you don’t have a damned clue what anyone was talking about. On those days the best you can manage is to smile, try to nod at what feel like appropriate intervals, and pray that no one asks you any questions. Days like that suck.
2. Being a piñata. We all have plans – a basic script by which we’re expecting to live our lives. For most of my working life, my plan included working 40 hours a week. With the arrival of sequester and furlough I made my peace with the new plan being 32 hours a week and adjusted accordingly. Now that furlough is ending, I’ll again adjust accordingly – insecure in the knowledge that “next year is going to be worse” hanging over my head. If there’s anything I hate it’s being jerked from pillar to post repeatedly like some kind of half-assed piñata.
3. Artesian Water Company. Nothing quite like getting a email from your overseas landlord wondering why he’s getting a notice that the water company is about to discontinue service. When I called Artesian to calmly ask WTF, the customer service representative cheerfully told me that the account was two months past due. Oh really? Not according to my account of statements and bills paid. But hey, I think I may have uncovered a slight problem with their doucheconoe business process that says bills can only go to the registered property owner instead of the guy actually living in the house and paying the bill. Asshats.
I really should just be staying home, conserving resources, and bitching online about the monumental contempt in which I hold the elected “leaders” of this country, but instead I cooked an actual breakfast this morning and knocked around with the dogs. Washed some clothes, did some dishes, and made myself presentable. I trolled around a few of the local pawn shops looking for deals on a couple of specific items and found out that grocery shopping at 1PM on a Friday is every bit as good as 8AM on Sunday. I’ll be keeping that little secret in mind for the next nine weeks. I cut the grass and decided even I’m not obsessive enough to do an hour’s worth of trimming in 100 degree heat. No worries, this weekend still has two more days and I’m sure obsession will trump heat at some point.
So now that everyone else has started their weekend too, here I sit, nursing a Red Stripe, trying hard to coax a few hundred words onto the page. If I’m bluntly honest with everyone, the beer is disappearing far faster than the words are showing up, so there probably won’t be much to salvage by the time it wraps up this evening. Maybe tomorrow, or the day after that. Fortunately, the words always seem to show up eventually, even when I don’t know exactly where they’re coming from. However it happens, I’ll take them all.
So yeah, Furlough Friday #2 (or Saturday Part 1 if you prefer) was as much of a success as one can reasonably expect under the circumstances. It’s still new and different. Ask me a month from now and you’ll likely hear a different opinion.
According to the procedures established by Uncle Sam to furlough his civilian personnel, I am entitled to make a written or verbal response and request reconsideration of the decision. As you can see, I opted for the written response.
1. Short weeks feel the longest. Why is it that a four day week feels at least twice as long as its standard five day counterpart? I’m sure there’s some deep psychoanalytical reason for it, but regardless it’s just stupid. Stupid and wrong. They say time flies when you’re having fun. Clearly “they” are full of shit and it flies when you’re just barely keeping your head above water too.
2. Furlough Fridays. Look, if you’re going to start letting me stay home on Fridays, how about not waiting for six weeks to kick off the new schedule. I’m more or less resolved that it’s the new reality, but there’s really no reason at this point not to dive in to the three day weekends right away. I mean that seems like the least echelons higher than reality could to to ease our transition to part time employees.
3. The birthday thing. I generally try to be a good sport because, well, it seems to be expected, but really I’d be just as happy if the whole birthday thing would pass as discreetly as possible. Some people want to celebrate for a week or the whole month. When the time comes, I’ll open a good bottle of wine, salute my good fortune at having managed not to drop dead for another 365 days, and get on with whatever else it was I planned on doing Saturday evening. Chances are I’ll pass the night either with my nose stuck in a good book or trying to write a half-assed one.
4. Bulldog checkups. Winston’s yearly physical and vaccinations are coming up tomorrow afternoon. The only good thing is that if you’re willing to take one of the last appointments of the day on Friday, I can get the vaccinations at half price. Inconvenient? Yes, absolutely… but when you’ve spent five years keeping up with bulldog related vet bills, you learn to take your savings where you can since it’s pretty inevitable they’ll discover something new and interesting that’ll need treated while we’re there.
(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.
Secretary Hagel announced this afternoon that the department was reducing it’s number of planned furlough days for civilians from 14 to 11. That’s down from the original estimate of 22 days they were talking about back in February and March. Judging from the blip of coverage I’ve seen, the media consensus is that defense civilians should be doing cartwheels and singing hosannas at the “good news.” That’s a problem for me.
While it’s true that 14 is better than 22 and 11 is better than 14, I’m not willing to concede the point that any number of furlough days is a “good” thing. In fact it’s bad precedent for the next 9 years of sequestration planning, it’s bad for productivity, and it’s bad for morale. I’m not going to get on the band wagon of a 5% pay cut this year (after 3 years of frozen pay) being a good thing. I’m not lending even the hint of my accepting the idea that this is anything other than a political problem being solved on the backs of a workforce that they’ve already spent three years beating like redheaded stepchildren.
The story we’re being sold is that leadership has “saved” the workforce from the worst effects of the sequester. The reality is that all you’ve done is replace one really shitty course of action with another slightly less really shitty course of action. It’s hard to imagine why I wouldn’t be falling all over myself with gratitude. I wouldn’t thank a mugger because he didn’t take all the cash in my wallet and I’m not going to thank our illustrious leaders for legally doing the same thing. If they were expecting a thank you for their half assed attempt at “leadership,” boy did they come to the wrong place.