I’ve put it off for as long as I reasonably could, but today was the day that I finally was forced to send my venerable Dell Latitude E6540 into retirement. Sure, it was five year old tech cobbled onto a platform that’s design traced back to the early 2000’s, but I legitimately liked the big brick of a machine (when it wasn’t hopelessly crippled by security patches and software updates). Over the last dozen years I’ve probably had five different variations of this model and as much as it was big and heavy and generally clunky, it was a workhorse. I toted the E-series all over the country. The only times it ever crapped out on me was when I was working at the office… Which makes it about as reliable as any other coworker, really.
OK, so I’m just trading it in for a newer series Latitude from the same manufacturer and this updated unit as a few extra bells and whistles – some of which the powers that be who run the network haven’t decided to eliminate yet – but I don’t have a bond of trust with this generic black machine idling on the corner of my desk. I don’t have the same level of trust in its quiet, differential being that I had in my obnoxiously heavy silver companion.
It’s probably a better machine on all fronts, but the real problem is every time someone has given me a new computer, something horrific happens during the transition – half a decade worth of saved email disappears, the contents of My Documents disappears, various drives stop working, or the internet becomes “unfindable.” I’m waiting to see now what the form of my destruction this time around will be. Who knows, maybe everything will go swimmingly and the transition will be seamless… although based on historical experience that really does feel like the least likely of all available options.
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.
Well, it’s been nice pretending that I have all the time in the world to dink around the yard, troll every junk shop in three counties, and put my feet up to read whatever happened to strike my fancy. However, due to the completely unreasonable need to generate income in order to continue to provide food, shelter, and medical care for myself and my four-legged dependents, time is about to return to its usual status as my most precious commodity. Maybe that means I appreciate it more, but it’s a theory I’d be perfectly happy to put to the test as early as practicable.
I’ll be back at it tomorrow, making the devil’s bargain of time for money. I know I needed the down time, but I’m equally sure that whatever restive effects I’ve earned will be reduced to near zero sometime before the clock strikes noon tomorrow. It’s about as unavoidable as the rising sun. At least that first roll of the eyes won’t arrive as a shock. I know it’s coming.
Until then, I’ll make the most of the peace and quiet and enjoy one last afternoon unfilled with total asshattery. If there’s anything that long stretches of free time teaches me it’s that I can’t value those highly enough.
This is the first time in about a month that my laptop hasn’t followed me home. It’s the first time I’ve even attempted to restore the hard earned balance between the quiet, peaceful, sustaining world of the homestead and world across the river that would happily eat up all the free and easy moments if given half a chance.
Already in just these few minutes I’m feeling less submerged in the deep water – far happier for being now surrounded by my animals, my books, and no hint of a self-inflicted crisis with which to be dealt. I won’t pretend that this is anything approaching a controlled environment, but the common problems are swiftly put right and order, such as it is, reigns. Those problems that rightly dwell on the other side of the river, are less apt to be corrected no matter the time and resources brought to bear against them.
No one knows better than I that control is an illusion. Even if it is a fiction, it’s a happy fiction, and one that I’m pleased to let have its way here inside my own four walls. I’m in a slow recovery from the week and months that were. I feel better now than I did ten short hours ago, so that’s something – a good sign perhaps. Throw in a few days of real down time and I might have a fighting chance of really feeling like myself again. A boy can dare to dream.
Well, you can tell by the vacant look on my face, raging headache, and random moments of blood pouring from my nose that we’re in the shit now. The curtain goes up in a little over twelve hours. It’s officially the time that no matter the eagles, stars, horseshoes, or clovers on your collar, there is virtually nothing you can do to adjust the trajectory or outcome of that which you have set in motion lo these many months ago. It’s simply too late. You have run out of time.
It’s going to roll forward as if it has assumed a life of its own. Some of it will be good, some of it will be bad, and (not) soon enough it will be over. In a week, the whole thing will barely be a whisper of a memory.
It’s probably a good time for all involved to take a breath and be reminded, however gently that, “Remember Caesar thou art mortal.”
It’s one of those weeks where it would have been far easier to pick out that which did not annoy me than that which has, but I’ll give it my best effort.
1. The last minute. When a large group of people have been working on a project for a very long time, what you shouldn’t do, unless you outrank the people in the room by a whole shit tonne, is show up to the very last meeting making suggestions and trying to change the world. Fuck of with that jackassery.
2. Just (not) doing it. At the moment I’m tracking approximately 4,746 moving parts across a dozen different organizations that all have to mesh close to seamlessly in order to avoid looking like amateur hour. If you are responsible for 1 of those 4,746 things – and only 1 of them – it doesn’t feel like too much to ask that you at least half ass it instead of needing me to call down the whole mountain on your head when we’re measuring time in hours instead of days. Get in the damned sea.
3. New computer day. I’m as big a tech head as anyone and you can count on exactly one finger the times I’ve turned down a new computer – especially considering the elderly and decrepit state of the laptop I’m currently using. The only time I’m going to raise a stink and scream and yell is when you tell me New Computer Day falls right in the middle of the biggest work effort of my year. It would be like taking your accountant’s computer on April 14th and telling him he might get it back in a few hours or maybe a few days depending on “how it goes.” Just no. Not today Satan. Not today.
We’ve reached the fun part of the “planning” process that I fondly like to think of as the day I stop doing any critical analysis of requirements and just start reacting to inputs based on a vast reserve of institutional knowledge, gut feelings, and guesswork. It means being a decision maker when you have no formal authority but a metric shit ton of implied responsibility. It means hanging your ass way out in the wind in hopes that someone from echelons higher than reality doesn’t notice what you’re up to and ends up chewing it off.
It’s a state of affairs that I can only assure them that I don’t like any better than they do… but one that is absolutely necessary in a universe where getting an official decision could take a week when you need it made in minutes.
In the absence of permission, I’ll just be over here mentally preparing myself to beg forgiveness. I’ve reached, it seems, the point where I literally can’t even.