This week is something of a scheduling oddity due to a confluence of unrelated events. It features a federal holiday, a telework day, half a day off for a dental appointment, and day of annual leave “just because.” That leaves exactly 1.5 days of time physically spent in the office. On one hand, of course, that feels like 1.5 days too many, but on the other it feels like just about right amount.
Of all the things I bitch about you’ll very rarely find the amount of time off I have in my hip pocket making the top 50, let alone the top ten. I know exactly how lucky I am to have that big beautiful stack of vacation days and sick leave sitting there waiting for me to use them.
Right now I’m making up lost ground to tend to appointments I didn’t have time to make in the first four months of the year and burning off days here and there to do things that are just more easily accomplished on weekdays than weekends. After the planned 5-day 4th of July weekend, the burn rate will settled down to a more sustainable rate for a few months. I suppose every week can’t be exceptionally short.
Those full, 5-day work weeks through the height of summer are going to make for a difficult adjustment. Sigh. I need to do something exceptional and get myself a nice time off award in order to stave off the madness just a little longer.
There are going to be some days when the best possible medicine you can dispense is long hours on the couch with a good book and Netflix on TV.
And also drinking half a bottle of Pepto. That helps too.
1. Side effects. We all know I’m a fan of better living through chemistry. The problem, of course is that in addition to what various chemicals do to keep you alive, they all come with some kind of side effect – an unintended consequence if you will. The side effect of Flexeril, apparently, is that it it keeps my eyes from focusing on fine details (such as words typed on a computer screen) and leaves me feeling in a constant state of “about to fall asleep.” Neither of these things lead to a happy or productive Jeff, and that’s not a recipe for better living. Still it’s a step up from some of the side effects I’ve read about like anal seepage, stroke, and death. Clearly with these things there’s a very, very fine line between medicine and poison.
2. The reward for good work. I’ve never understood why the reward for doing good work is getting the opportunity to do more work. Wouldn’t it make more sense to say something like “Hey, you did a bang up job on that last thing, so go ahead and take a knee and we’ll let some other schlub carry the water this time.” Of course that’s not how it works at all. It’s easier to find a good horse, ride it until it falters, and then beat it because it stopped. I might not have attended a big fancy ivy covered school of business, but I learned enough from my studies to know that personnel management model is rarely successful in the long run.
3. Guilt. I make a point not to bring the work home with me. Eight hours a day is bad enough without letting it bleed over into the rest of the day. By extension, I try to offer the job the same respect by keeping my personal issues at home. There’s some inevitable bleed over, though. Like today, for instance, when I feel an unreasonable sense of guilt for sitting here with the heating pad on and my feet up at a time of day when I would usually be at the office. Intellectually I get that I wouldn’t really be doing anyone any good sitting at my desk today when I can’t concentrate on anything that requires more than four or five consecutive minutes of thought. I’d be lying if I said I was going to enjoy this time off, but I’ll be doing my level best to get past the idea of feeling guilty for burning off my sick leave on a day when I’m not hacking and sneezing all over the room.
There’s a difference between feeling sick and feeling too sick to show up at the office. Sometimes that difference can be measured by the width of a razor blade. One thing that’s been pretty consistent in my career, though, has been my willingness to use sick days when I’ve needed them. Those tend to be days when getting out of bed or off the couch is just more effort than I can muster. Just below those days on my severity scale are days when I feel like a big steamy pile of poo, but show up in the office anyway. The problem with days like that is even before your computer boots up you know the day isn’t going to be productive. You’re going to end up pissing away most of your time alternately halfway reading articles online, coughing up a lung, and staring longingly at the clock wishing it were already time to go home. The only thing that’s really different between these type of “sick” days is the geographic location where you waste the day.
The only possible upside of being sick and in the office all at the same time is that your colleagues are likely to beat a hasty retreat when they catch a good look at the vast array of cold medicine, tissues, and homeopathic remedies piled up on your desk. If nothing else, it might buy you a little time away from them without needing to dip into your sick time stockpile. Then again, the ones who are oblivious to everything else are just as oblivious to your dripping nose and itching eyes. Personally I always try to make it a point to cough and sneeze in their general direction. At best, they’ll end up getting whatever you’re down with and at worst, I feel like I’m exacting at least some minor retribution for their failure to pay attention.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.
I was feeling fine when I went to bed last night, but woke up around 3:30 with a cough and sinus stuff going on. All very unpleasant. Even more unpleasant, of course, is that once I’m awake, the chances of actually going back to sleep hover between slim and none. So, reaching for the book I have been working on, I decided to prop myself up with a cup of coffee and read a bit. I don’t get the uninterrupted time to read that I use to, so I am still plowing through Castles of Steel, a really well-written analysis of British versus German fleet action during World War I.
Apparently, during the Great War, the Brits were working on a program that was supposed to train seagulls to poo on U-boat periscopes, preventing them from making torpedo attacks on commercial vessels making the run between England and the Americas. I’ve been working in government for a while now and we hear a lot of dumb ideas, but I’m having a hard time figuring out how someone could walk into a room of senior admirals of what was then the world’s most well-respected navy and recommend that enemy submarines could be defeated by having a flock of seagulls drop a duce right on their eyepiece. I haven’t decided if that was wishful thinking or just plain disturbing.
Oh, and for the record, I think I’ll be staying home today. I’m a half-dozen pages into Jutland and want to see how it turns out… well, that and every time I move my head I can actually feel my brain banging around. Sinus pressure blows.