The hardest part of coming back to the office after a telework day is obviously coming back to the office. That’s the fact in the most absolute sense. Trading home for office goes against everything I really want to do in my heart of hearts. If it weren’t for the mortgage and random astronomical bills related to the care and feeding of an English bulldog, perhaps things would be different. I suspect to one degree or another, that’s probably true for most of us, but it’s not one of the topics we discuss in polite company because realizing everyone else is in the same boat would be altogether too depressing to contemplate.
Aside from physically making the transition from working at home to working in the office, the most difficult part of these days is really just in dealing with the environment. Like so many drones, my “official” place of duty features open cubicles, a regular stream of people coming and going, endless interruptions, as many as 30 phones ringing, and the impossibility of getting away from being audibly assaulted by multiple simultaneous conversations at various volumes. I don’t care what the research says. I don’t care what the efficiency experts tell you. Open cubicle work space is a disaster. Sure things get done, but as often as not it’s things getting done in spite of the working environment as opposed to because of it.
Comparing that to my home office within the comfortable confines of Fortress Jeff with its comfortable chairs, expansive desk, fluffy animals, and relative calm and quiet, well, there’s really no question why I do more and feel better at the end of a telework day than I do on any other weekday. The transition between the two realities is jarring and decidedly unpleasant. Short of staring my own business to dispense sarcastic comments and inappropriate remarks, cubicle hell feels like a reality for at least the next seventeen odd years.
It’s kind of nice knowing there’s a better option. Of course it would be better still if it actually weren’t that way, but I’m a realist.
No good day starts with the boss wandering by to see you and starting off with the warning, “Well, you’re not going to like this…”
Yeah, some people have a real talent for understatement. I’m not going to get into the how and why of not not like “this,” because it’s not all that important. I mean it’s bad enough being served a double helping of shit sandwich without recounting the experience in agonizing detail. Right?
I’m also not reliving the experience because the insult added to this particular injury was as bad if not worse than the “this” that I was sure not to like. You see, I walked through the entire first half of the day thinking that it was Thursday and that only a “make up” telework day stood between me and the weekend.
Realizing my my error well into the day, I just opted to give up all hope… because other than meaning another day of not living under a bridge, I’m not going to like any of this.
The older I get the more I realize exactly why keeping whiskey in your desk drawer is frowned upon. Sigh. If only I didn’t have to avoid unemployment and the inevitable poverty that follows.
So Wednesday has now come and mostly gone. I could say that something significant happened – that there was some high or low point that distinguished the day. I could say that, but I won’t. That’s mostly because when you stack today up against every other it was probably within spitting distance of perfectly average.
I should probably be celebrating that it wasn’t a crisis every 37 minutes, but the best I can manage is a solid “meh.” Believe me when I tell you that there is no one happier that the wheels didn’t happen to come flying off today than I am. I’m also realist enough to know that just because today was perfectly average and my lunch was not eaten by some unplanned and intensely problematical event, there’s no reason to believe that tomorrow will be more of the same.
Living day to day in a place that manages by whatever happens to be the crisis of the hour, seems to breed a cynicism that’s deep and probably fundamentally unhealthy. It leads the average days to feel like bad ones and the good ones – those days when you walk away feeling like you’ve accomplished something in spite of the system become almost mystically non-existent. They’re spread so far apart that they couldn’t possibly be real, but rather just a figment of our collective imagination.
It was a perfectly average day and should probably be glad of that… but in the back of my mind I’m stuck wondering what fresh hell is gaining strength unseen somewhere in the Land of Tomorrow.
Over the last couple of months I’d rather gotten use to Monday being my transition day between weekend and work week. Finding myself spun directly back into the office this week has been something of a shock to the system. Even with the extra day off tagged on to the front end, I wasn’t prepared for the arrival of an unwelcome weekday. I don’t suppose anyone ever is, of course, except maybe those happy few who seem to have been born to do whatever It is they find themselves doing. Then again, I’ve long been of the opinion those people are inherently dangerous and not to be trusted.
There is, however, a long weekend on the horizon… which is important because just now I’m not sure I’m of a mind to have the goal posts set much further away than the next weekend. If I can hit the small targets, the big ones should generally take care of themselves. That’s the theory I’m operating under at any rate if only because they’ll have to tend to themselves until I’ve managed to gin up enough energy to do something else with them.
I’m never quite sure if it’s some general funk in the air or if it’s just me slipping into a periodic low energy mode. In any case these moments rarely make for the best of times as they usually further sour a mood that’s usually less than sunny even on my very best days. That old ebb and flow can be a real bitch sometimes, but after all these years of living inside my own head I know the malaise never lasts long. In a few days at most something will come along to catch my interest and reset the “introspection” switch to neutral. Until then it’s just a matter of selecting the rabbit holes I choose to fall through a bit more selectively than usual.
There is the occasional rare day when I can sit down and focus on one or two major projects and feel like I’ve mushed the ball forward even if it’s only by a little bit. Today wasn’t that day. The fact is, I don’t remember much of what I worked on today. I try very hard to do a mental dump on my way out the door in an effort to not drag any additional jackassery back across the river with me at the end of the day. Maintaining that massive, immutable, and nearly impenetrable wall between work and “everything else” might just be the most important thing I do on a daily basis. It’s the preserver of my sanity.
I vaguely remember that at one point or another today Outlook tried to trick me into a meeting I didn’t need to go to, and someone wanted me to fix a broken folding table, and there was a very serious discussion about where to store 30 outdoor umbrellas for the winter, and picking 8 people to take a bus ride to DC next week fell squarely on my desk. Those are exactly the kinds of things that end up being the reason actual work ends up being so often late, halfassed, or just completely blown off. You’re just going to have to trust me when I saw it’s almost never intentional.
Maybe tomorrow I’ll get some of my real work done… but I’m not overly optimistic. Some week’s just go like that. Although past performance is not a guarantee of future results, it’s often a healthy indicator. With this week so far as a guide, the best I’ll likely be able to manage is keeping my head down and trudging on towards the weekend. At least it’s no longer in any way surprising that this is how the “real world” works.
1. Brain fog. Perhaps worse than actually being sick is the pharmacologically induced brain fog that comes from trying to stave off the more obnoxious effects of the human condition. It makes everything happen just a little bit slower and makes it well near impossible to craft well formed and coherent sentences. Don’t even ask how badly it tends to mangle spelling and grammar usage, which isn’t a particularly strength of mine to begin with. Despite the annoyance, I’ve got a few more days of self medicating left before letting the stuff work its way out of my system. Until then I’ll continue to be the poster boy for short attention spans.
2. Two months. We’re still two months from the 2016 presidential election. I usually like this stuff, but I think at this point I’d rather take a jackhammer to the side of the head than listen to another day of the back and forth.
3. Afternoon television. It’s something I only notice the once a year or so that I find myself home and otherwise unengaged between the hours of noon and 4:00 pm, but there really is absolutely nothing on television on a typical weekday afternoon. Which makes perfect sense when you consider that most of the people who have jobs to earn disposable income are at their jobs earning disposable income instead of home watching television. Still, I’d like to note how wonderful it is to live in an age of Netflix and Amazon Prime. They saved me from endless hours of crap programming on the networks and cable providers this week.
The niceties of Veteran’s Day aside, it’s placement this year smack in the middle of the week is just bloody inconvenient. Just as I found myself getting settled in for the evening I remembered that this isn’t the weekend and there are still two more days to slog through between us and Saturday. That’s hardly the end of the world, but it still doesn’t do much to improve my opinion of these “floating” holidays that are tied to a date instead of attached in lockstep to a weekend.
Now, please don’t take that as any criticism of the holiday itself. Anyone who knows me will tell you that my absolute favorite kind of time is time off and that I’ll take it wherever I can find it. If I had a little more leave in the bank this year, I would have proactively resolved the issue on my own. Alas, the home buying and repair have eaten up way more vacation time than I would have spent in any normal year.
Today was an anomaly, an irregularity, a one day only special. I’ll take it. Gladly. But don’t for a minute think that’ll keep me from bitching about it.