Good intentions, bad decisions…

There are a handful of things that I can do at the office that I physically can’t do from home. They have more to do with obnoxious and largely outdated security procedures than they do with a lack of personal ability, though.

What I think we proved today was that with the exception of those handful of things that I’m prohibited from doing at home by law, policy, or regulation, everything else can run more or less seamlessly using our electronic mailboxes, a series of various interconnected world-wide web sites, and a portable cellular telephone. It’s far from perfect and not likely something that you’d want to do for more than a day or two at a time, but as a stopgap, it works well enough – or at least better than the alternative which would have been 100% of the work not getting done. If nothing else, it gives you an option to “keep the lights on” under circumstances where they otherwise would go dark.

Now, do I think this will be the bright shining moment where the bosses realize having people willing and able to work from home is more than having a bunch of personnel sitting around with their thumb up their asses? No. No I do not. Maybe they should, but I can’t imagine a scenario where that’s actually going to happen.

What’s far more likely is they’ll race hard in the other direction – specifying new minimum staffing levels, limiting the number of people who can be on leave at any given time, and focusing on the 5% that can’t be done instead of the 95% that can. I’d like to think I’m wrong about this, but history tells me I’m probably not. My entire career has been nothing if not a series of opportunities to observe moments where good intentions gave helpful cover to bad decisions. Getting the powers that be to thinking about productive work happening outside the walls of their adjacent cubicles feels like an awfully long way to stretch given the precedents involved.

If that’s not what happens here, you’ll find me a few months from now both stunned and amazed… and it would be one of those rare occasions where I wouldn’t mind being caught off guard in the least.

​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.

The nagging cough and steady drip…

I’ve definitely acquired some kind of crud. Since everyone at the office seems to be hacking or wheezing with something, that doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Our cube set up so closely approximates a late 19th century tenement that I’m surprised there aren’t reports of cholera outbreaks from the back of the room.

As sickness goes, the nagging cough and steady drip from my nose is far from the worst thing going around. It’s enough to be obnoxious – and enough to drive me deeper into the arms of Big Pharma to find some relief. The side effect of the OTC cocktail I whipped up, though, is the really delightful feeling of being just shy of stoned through a good portion of the day. I should probably apologize to anyone who got an email from me today. The spelling, punctuation, and even message itself is likely suspect.

I don’t really feel bad and I suppose that is the small mercy. I’m already burning enough sick leave this week on appointments that I’d really like to avoid wasting more of it on actually being sick.

I do it wrong…

I’ve been told on more than one occasion I “do days off wrong.” I’m probably guilty as charged. As evidence let me walk you through an example 8 day period…

Monday. Day 3 of a three-day weekend. Scheduled root canal surgery.

Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday – Normal Work Days.

Friday. Day 1 of a 4-day weekend. Features an oil change for the Jeep and an eye exam with dilation.

Saturday, Sunday. Standard weekend procedures.

Monday. Day 4 of a 4-day weekend. Sit home and wait for HVAC service tech to show up.

Just now I’m filling my gullet with high test products from big pharma hoping against hope that I can stave off the aforementioned Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from turning into one or more days of mucking through life with whatever cold virus of the week is going around.

I miss the days when I took a day off to not do a damned thing instead of either a) hacking up a lung and feeling like ass or b) to be a productive and responsible adult homeowner.

On the mend…

The first day back to work after a proper vacation is traumatic enough. The first day back after the better part of a week out sick is something altogether different. It’s the combination of having a ridiculous backlog of work to go through, still feeling vaguely like ass, and having experienced none of the restorative effects of sitting somewhere sunny enjoying run drinks I guess.

At any rate after a week of guzzling Gatorade, more meals of soup than I want to think about, and generally feeling like so much warm death, my shoulder is back to the wheel. It’s good to be off the couch and all, but as it turns out I’m not all that opposed to staying home and dividing my time between binge watching Netflix, reading through two or three titles on my Kindle, and napping periodically with one or both dogs. Maybe that’s a good sign that I won’t be bored in retirement.

All things considered, it’s good to be on the mend… but as it turns out there are definitely worse things than periodic self-enforcing periods of general rest. Even knowing that, after a day back I’m ready to crawl into bed and sleep for a week.

Man cold…

Maybe it’s because I’ve lived on my own for most of my adult life, but when I see sitcoms or commercials making fun of the “man cold,” I really have no idea what they’re talking about. Sure, I stayed home from work, but given the shit ton of sick leave I’ve banked over the last 14 years I don’t exactly feel guilty about that.

My point here is that even if my breathing rattles like a steam locomotive, there’s mucus oozing out of every opening, and I sound like I’ve swallowed a bassoon, there are no enablers here. Meals needs prepped, dogs need tended, and there’s a household to run whether I feel great or not… so I do hope you’ll forgive me if I struggle to understand exactly how my gender is supposed to be debilitated by the average summer cold. Just color me confused.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to scavenge another box of tissues and another bottle of NyQuil.

Getting physical…

I had my first meeting with the physical therapist this past Friday. While it wasn’t as god awful as I expected, it didn’t exactly tickle. Plus, strange people touching me. *Shudder* I think the fact that I didn’t either take a swing at the guy or find an excuse to run away should be acknowledged as a major accomplishment for me.

The last thing they handed me before turning me loose into the world was a schedule for future appointments. That’s fine. Although it would have been nice, I in no way anticipated this being a one-and-done kind of endeavor. I didn’t expect, though, that this was going to be a 3-day a week kind of effort. While that’s bad enough, the very best part is that my scheduled start time on most of those days is the same time I’d usually be leaving the office. I’m sure blowing out the door early three times a week for the next four weeks is one of those things that will further endear me to the bosses.

If there’s any bright spot to the next few weeks, it’s that at least for the moment the joys of physical therapy won’t be sucking every minute of free time out of my evening schedule. If that costs me a couple of days worth of sick leave over the course of the month, that’s probably time off well spent. At least it is to me. Like I said, the powers that be are sure to be less than thrilled with this turn of events. This is one of those times when they’re just going to have to learn to live with disappointment, because when it comes to sacrificing my time or theirs, well, it’s not really a contest. We’ll just have to see how well that theory holds up on Monday when a sheaf of leave requests land on someone’s desk.

Flat out thinking…

There are always stories circulating about people who retire with thousands of hours of sick leave on the books. That’s good for them. 3000 hours of sick leave gives you a hell of a lot of credit towards your total years of service. As great as that sounds, I know I’m not going to be one of those people. I’m not an iron man. I don’t play hurt when I can avoid it and I don’t go in when I’m hacking up a lung. For one thing, I know that I don’t bring my A-game when I’m sick or hurt and for another it only seems decent not to wander in and infect everyone else with whatever crud I happen to have come down with. This week has been an object lesson in the former; a great primer for why I avoid playing hurt.

It really boils down to a matter of concentration and focus. When part of my brain is focused on just how damned uncomfortable I am, I’m not doing my best work. Chances are, I’m not even doing good work. I’ll probably never get nominated for employee of the quarter with that attitude, but it is what it is. One of the key lessons I’ve learned on the job is if you don’t look out for yourself, there’s no one else going to take the time to look out for you either. Long story short, yesterday’s post talked about the inevitable guilt that goes along with the sick day. I had plenty of time after writing that post to put some real thought into it – since laying flat on the floor isn’t good for much else than giving you time to think. It’s safe to say that after really reflecting on the last decade, I’m utterly cured of whatever misguided guilt I was feeling for staying put and taking care of me.

The job is happy enough to chew you up and grind you down. It’s your job to do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen. Here endeth the lesson.

Sick and tired…

I complain alot about Uncle Sam’s half-assed approach to managing his people… and God knows I’m not going to withdraw any of those previous commentaries. They all have the convenient aspect of being statements of fact rather than simple opinion. The one thing, though, that I won’t fault Uncle on is his policy on sick leave. We rack up 104 hours of sick leave every year and the unused balance rolls over from year to year assuming you don’t use all 13 days earned. Not a bad deal compared to some of the paid-time-off schemes out there.

The only reason I bring it up is I’m currently on the second day in a row sitting here on the couch alternately burning up and shivering. It’s good times. Really. I heard from several people yesterday that men are babies when it comes to dealing with the average case of “sick.” Maybe it’s true, maybe it isn’t. I tend to go with the latter. I’m still keeping up with feeding and watering the zoo, taking care of the three S’s every morning, and making my own trips to the drug store. I’ve even managed to feed myself for the last 36 hours – which has been pretty easy since the only flavor I can really taste is salty. I even think I’m getting along with a minimum amount of complaint.

Maybe the deciding element for “being a baby” has to do with not feeling the compulsion to go sit at my desk while I’m hacking and wheezing all over everything. I know some people do, but I just can’t see any up side to it. If I’m going to spend the day shooting weird neon colored snot out my nose, blowing through two boxes of tissues a day, and generally feeling sick and tired, I’d rather do that in the privacy of my own home than have ten people listening in on my progress. If that makes me a baby, well, fine… but I’d go more with responsible adult.

Now if anyone needs me, I’ll be watching House reruns and trying to diagnose myself.

That old, unpleasant “off” feeling…

I’m a guy. I don’t do “sick” well. It’s just one of the charming aspects of the gender that I know all the women-folk out there enjoy. In keeping with that theme, one of the things we guys like to do is complain loudly and at length about how bad we feel. Since this is my megaphone of choice, that means you all are along for the ride.

Let me say for the record that I don’t feel awful, just not as good as I think I should. Not achy and full of snot. Not shivering and covered in blankets. Not sneezing and yacking up lunch. It’s just a more generalized “blah” kind of feeling that lets you know something in your system is minimally off. Since there’s no real symptoms besides this generalized blah, there’s really nothing to be done other than load up on fluids and vitamin c, try getting to bed early, and hope to wake up feeling ok in the morning. Even if I wake up feeling less than ok, this isn’t a good week for it. Tempting as it might be to spend the whole day on the couch watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (my go-to sick on the couch activity of choice), I’ve done a far too successful job of hoarding information this week and have, unfortunately, made showing up at work tomorrow not an optional activity. That one part of my conscience that isn’t dead or numbed out by life won’t let me throw someone under the bus if I can avoid it.

Since tomorrow is a work day whether good or ill, I’m going to go heavy on the hope that this is a passing funk that will clear the system overnight so I have some kind of chance of being at least a marginally productive employee. In case you’re wondering, that’s about as selfless a statement as you’re every going to drag out of me, so go ahead and enjoy it.