There was a planned water outage at our building today. Now there are a number of questions one could reasonably ask about that, such as why this long planned outage was scheduled to begin at 7:30 in the morning on a Wednesday instead of some time during the last two weeks when the building was occupied by little more than a skeleton crew. Wednesday, for anyone paying attention to the ebb and flow of the workforce, is generally the day when the building is most densely occupied. Planning work to impact the maximum number of people feels like some solidly piss poor government decision making.
Additionally, cutting off the water supply to a building that’s still largely papered with signs reminding everyone to maintain social distance and to frequently wash their hands in order to help reduce the spread of viral illness, is one of those things that could be considered at least vaguely irresponsible. It doesn’t feel like being able to perform basic personal hygiene activities, such as using the restroom or washing your hands, should be something that echelons higher than reality decide we just don’t need to do for half the day or longer.
Of course, there was a simple and obvious answer to how this known and planned on situation could have been handled. Someone at a responsible level of decision making should have been able to look at a planned lack of running water, an easy to project inability for people to perform simple hygienic and sanitary activities, and make a decision that “Hey, this might be a good day to minimize the number of people in the building and let the majority work from an alternate location for the day.”
Unsurprisingly, the decision from management was that no, we were going to press on with business as usual. If there was ever a more neon flashing sign that the decision makers at echelons higher than reality have willfully opted to ignore the lessons of the last three years, I haven’t seen it… yet.
We had a once in a lifetime chance to redesign how work – especially information work – gets done in this country and we’ve blown it up in favor of falling back to the management principles and philosophies of the 1950s. It’s completely telling that when a service disruption at home prevents me from performing my job, I’m expected to schlep over to the office or take the appropriate amount of leave… but when the office is unable to provide uninterrupted water service, I’m also expected to schlep into the office and act as if that’s just a normal thing to do instead of going to a place where all the utilities are functional for the day.
I’d pretend to be surprised, but no one would believe me.
1. AFGE Local 1904. Here we are 11 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if 30 months of operating nearly exclusively through telework didn’t prove that working from home works. All this is ongoing while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. It’s truly a delight working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated and perfectly acceptable policy for supervisors was published 11 weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for failing their members (and those of us who they “represent” against our will) for not getting this shit done.
2. Feigned concern. Suddenly, with cryptocurrency crashed off its highs, and big players in that universe collapsing, and taking hundreds of millions of dollars in customer “investments” with them, there’s a hue and cry that something must be done. You didn’t hear much of that when early adopters were making millions off of every dollar invested. But that’s not the point, is it? Crypto, not backed by a national economy or the full faith and credit of a government, not pegged against any number of global currencies, or even backed up by a giant vault of gold, is like walking in your local casino and putting your bet down on red. Pretending surprise and alarm that the ball dropped on black, people are now outraged. Look, I still hold Bitcoin. At its high that holding represented about 1/500th of my net worth. Now it represents somewhere less than 1/1000th. If it went to the moon, great. I’d take my winnings and go home. If it collapsed, also great. It’s a tax loss that offsets a bit of earned income. If you took a 3rd mortgage on the house and pawned everything you owned because crypto couldn’t lose, well, yeah, you’re an idiot. I know there’s a subset of popular opinion out there that believes everyone must be constantly coddled and protected against their own stupidity, but damn, sometimes stupid should be painful and people should be allowed to take their lumps.
3. Singing. You know what doesn’t happen when I’m working from home that does when I’m in the office? Well, it’s a lot of things, but the one that’s currently topping the chart is the fact that while I’m home there’s no one sitting 15 feet away with their headphones on singing at full volume like they’re the only motherfucker in the motherfucking world. I was raised to believe in valuing civil behavior, but every now and then expecting a guy not to take his red stapler and beat someone unconscious is asking a hell of a lot.
1. Still waiting. Here we are 9 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published nine weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.
2. Medical records. Online medical records are great, except the part where the system used by my primary care provider and the system used by one of my specialists don’t in any way communicate with one another. There’s also no obvious way to manually upload information from one to the other. A quick call to my PCP’s office confirmed that “Yeah, it really doesn’t do that.” Super. So, I’ll just continue to schlep hard copy of reports and test results around like it’s 1957 because that’s still easier than finding and using a goddamned fax machine in the year of our lord 2022.
3. Advertising. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, I’ve once again received an email from every company I’ve done business with for the last 20 years. I don’t know what they think they’re accomplishing, but it doesn’t feel like effective advertising… unless their definition of effective is to jam up my inbox with stuff I’ll delete before reading and thereby fill a potential customer with questions about whether he wants to do business with them again. I’m sure there’s some advertising industry metric that shows why mass email blasts is a good idea. Maybe it works for some consumers, but it doesn’t do much for me other than piss me directly off.
1. I’ve seen recently about 37 iterations of the phrase “If you see someone shoplifting, no you didn’t” floating around social media. I’m forced to wonder, what the actual fuck is wrong with people? But, they say, it’s just stealing from some big faceless corporation. Maybe that’s so, maybe it’s not, but I know that once you make an excuse for some kind of bad behavior, it gets a whole lot easier to do it – and it doesn’t feel like a very long slide between “it’s just Walmart” to “It’s just someone with a big house” or “It’s just someone with a nice car” or “it’s some random person who has something I want.” Your mama raised you better. Or at least she should have. Cloak it in whatever sophistry makes you feel better about yourselves, I guess, but don’t expect me to think a common thief is anything other than what they are.
2. Still waiting. Here we are 8 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published eight weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.
3. For a hot minute there in early September, I really considered hopping a flight to London to join the queue. My long since expired passport left that an unfulfillable pipe dream. I’ve since retrieved my passport from its hidey hole and at least looked at the process for getting a fresh new one issued. I like the idea of getting back to traveling on something like a regular basis – mostly to exotic places with proper castles and good beer. The catch, of course, is even with all the other ducks in a line, I’m not in any way sure I would be able to find someone I 100% trust to take care of my neurotic dog while I was away. The cat and tortoise have proven resilient under someone else’s watchful eye for a few days at a time… but since he came home with me, I haven’t so much as left him in a different room overnight. The separation anxiety is probably as much mine as his. I’m sure I’ll spend the money and get my fancy new document, but whether I’ll ever convince myself to use it is another issue altogether.
1. Crud. Whatever standard issue crud I was run down by over the weekend continues to hang on grimly. I’m feeling mostly fine, but I’ve woken up every morning this week with a raw throat and very little voice. It’s not enough to really change anything I need or want to do, but it’s damned annoying. With as many shots as I’ve subjected myself to over the last three years, I feel like having one of them be the cure for the common cold really isn’t that big an ask.
2. Rumors. Having been moved away from my home town for going on 23 years, sometimes I forget how things work there. One thing that hasn’t changed is the rumor mill. Industries rise and fall, people come and go, but rumors fly as swiftly as they ever did. Here’s the thing… if you hear something that doesn’t sound quite right from a friend of a friend of a friend, maybe just pick up the phone or tap that message button and ask someone who would know. That way they can confirm, deny, or tell you to mind your own damned business. Though, I suppose that has significantly less entertainment value.
3. Still waiting. Here we are 7 weeks past the “end of max telework” and the union, such as it is, still hasn’t come through on delivering the new and improved telework agreement. So, we’re still grinding along with only two days a week like pre-COVID barbarians… as if the last 30 months didn’t prove that working from home works. All this while hearing stories of other organizations tucked in next door that are offering their people four or five day a week work from home options. Gotta love working for the sick man of the enterprise. There’s probably plenty of blame to go around, but since the updated policy for supervisors was published seven weeks ago, I’m going to continue to go ahead and put every bit of blame on Local 1904 for not getting this shit done.
In recognition of my first day back at the office under 2019 working conditions, I’m excited to provide an exhaustive list of things I did at the office that I couldn’t have done if I were home.
– Cleaned off a shelf in my cubicle to restock with coffee, tea, and corresponding additives and accessories. If I’m going to have to be here, mass quantities of caffeine are absolutely going to be necessary.
– Cleaned out a drawer in my cubicle that was filled with crackers, ketchup packets, and sundry foodstuffs that mostly expired early in 2020. Mostly this was just gross. For the record, I should note that mustard packets absolutely do not age well even when stored in a cool, dark place.
– Found two banker’s boxes with lids that someone was sending to recycling. Banker’s boxes are great for book storage. They’re now stashed in my cubicle awaiting a dry day when I can liberate them.
– I spent an hour in a meeting this morning. It was probably one of only 3 or 4 meetings I’ve attended in person in the last 30 months. I have no idea why I was invited as none of the topics were anywhere close to my lane. But there I was, because that’s where Outlook told me to be at 10:00. I could have dialed in for this meeting, but since I was there in person, I’m claiming it as an accomplishment for the day.
– Pushed the button to unlock our room door thrice. As far as I can tell, this is in fact one of my mission essential tasks. In light of that I’ve begun tracking how many times a day I push the button. If it’s going to be the thing that keeps us here in person, I want to make sure I get credit for it on my next performance appraisal.
– Got to listen to at least one person hack up a lung in each and every room I entered today. No idea if it was flu, cold, allergies, plague, or some new and exotic illness, but there they were, spraying the room and everyone in it with their aerosolized gunk throughout the course of the day. I’m just going with assumption now that the office is 100% where the Great Plague will finally catch up with me.
– It was Taco Tuesday featuring a selection of hard- and soft-shell tacos, homemade empanadas, all the appropriate toppings, and a selection of deserts. It was one of the rare occasions when I willingly violated my personal rules against participating in lunch events in badly lit conference rooms.
There you have it. That’s what extra value you get for your money when I’ve schlepped over to cubicle hell instead doing business from the ease and comfort of my office at home. I’m sure it was all very “value added” or “synergistic” or “team-focused” or something.
1. Protests. I’ll be honest, I can’t remember a sign waving, getting in the way of things protest that I’ve ever knowingly supported. The tactics most protesters employ seem almost perfectly designed to guarantee that I’ll either quietly oppose them or openly mock and deride them. The small “r” republican protestors who have been popping up in London this week aiming to disrupt the most solemn state occasion of the late Queen’s funeral are probably exactly the kind of friendless cranks you might expect to engage in that kind of ill-timed, boorish behavior. I’m not saying the Crown should necessarily haul them off to the tower, but if the rest of the populace got together and heaved them directly into the Thames, I’d likely look the other way and then have a good laugh about it.
2. Lindsey Graham. For the last six months every Republican who could find a TV camera earnestly declared that abortion was an issue that should rightly be resolved by the states. That the federal government has gotten too large and overreaching is a reasonable argument. The remedy, of course, isn’t to hand that misbegotten power to the states, but rather return it directly to the people, who are the font of power under the American system, and allow them each to decide based on their own particular light. But then here comes Lindsey Graham, boldly introducing a bill that not only flies in the face of small government orthodoxy, but which will be wildly unpopular with 60% or more of the electorate. It might buy him some votes from the Republican base in South Carolina, but otherwise it makes him look like a fucking moron.
3. Eyes. My eyes suck and have since I was a kid. Take away my glasses and I could probably squint my way through things at very close range, but forget about telling the difference between a car and a cow more than a couple of dozen yards away. I’m headed off to my annual eye exam tomorrow, where I plan to spend my hour griping and complaining that by 8PM, my eyes are shot. It’s a situation that’s beginning to interfere with my evening reading and that obviously can’t be allowed to stand. With the return of wasting hours of the week commuting to the office for reasons that defy logic, but make perfect sense to management on the near horizon, I can’t afford to lose another hour or two in the evening with my eyes running everything together into lines of black smudge.
After a week off that was decidedly not a vacation, I’m back to work. Admittedly, it’s working from home, so it’s not nearly as onerous as it could be, but I wasn’t in any way ready to come back to the world of answering emails, fighting online systems, and generally being a productive and responsible adult.
Look, there’s nothing inherently bad about my particular job. I’m not out there laying asphalt in 100-degree heat or slinging hay bales into the loft. I’ve got a decent chair, a good desk, and a couple of monitors that bombard me with information for eight hours every day. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s not usually particularly hard work, even if it does demand pretty close attention to detail and some higher order processing skills from time to time.
I’ve been doing some variation of it since January 2003. By this point, there’s not much new under the sun. Sure, some of the details change. When I started, Iraq was the talk of the town. Now it’s Ukraine. Different players, same game. The broad strokes have changed very little. Do any job long enough and I suppose you’ll find a rhythm in it.
So, I’m back at the keyboard. I’ll do the work and I’ll do it well, but I won’t pretend to be thrilled or excited or meeting a great new challenge every day. I do my part to keep the gears of the bureaucracy grinding along because I seem to have a, perhaps unfortunate, talent for it. I’m trading my time for their money and will keep after it until I hit my own magic number and don’t have to do it anymore.
I’m most definitely a creature of habit, but this is one I’ll be happy to break out of at the first financially responsible opportunity.
1. Random IT issues. I was issued a perfectly decent laptop a month or two ago. When I shut it down Friday evening and tucked it away for the weekend it was running just fine. For some reason, when I booted it up on Monday morning, I found it had turned into an underpowered and sclerotic piece of shit for no obvious reason. Opening files or programs took minutes. Some, like VPN never did work. I managed to limp along using webmail for a while, but eventually that too stopped working. After some begging and pleading to pull my helpdesk ticket forward in the queue and making an unplanned trip in to the office for our IT types to poke and prod at it a bit, the issue “seems to have resolved itself.” Look, I’m thrilled and happy to be able to function again, but I have no confidence at all that this has been a one-off incident and won’t now start happening at the most inconvenient possible moments.
2. Jorah. Before anyone gets up in arms, let me explain… I love my sweet, slightly neurotic boy, but the least little unanticipated sound sends him rushing the front window in a fit of barking rage. That’s fine enough, if not something to be outright encouraged most of the time. Where this tendency of his gets us into trouble is when the people across the street are in the middle of a major project to re-landscape their front yard. Then, it’s constant noise and movement that draws his loud and undivided attention. This, of course, does not bode well to how he’s going to respond when all the banging and foot traffic is coming from inside his own house. Yeah. That’s gonna be some good times.
3. Erdogan. Turkey’s president is threatening to torpedo the application of Sweden and Finland to join NATO. He’s accused them both as being “home to terrorists.” I’m not an expert on Turkish terror, but since it’s Erdogan doing the talking, I can only assume what we’re seeing is a good old-fashioned shakedown. Now that Turkey’s president has planted his flag, I’m expecting that way below the radar, someone from the State Department will swoop in with a big bag of cash or a novelty-sized check, and for reasons that aren’t discussed in front of the media, Turkey will quietly reverse its position. Failing that, there’s always the option of going with a stick – where the U.S. will have to threaten to withhold something that Erdogan wants in order to get his capitulation. Maybe it’ll be a combination of the two, but letting the tin pot dictator of Turkey dictate terms to the rest of NATO just feels like bad policy overall.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve been spending a bit more time in the office than I have been since the outbreak of the Great Plague. What I’ve observed in that time is that Jorah, my wonderfully loyal, if slightly neurotic dog, has unexpectedly developed an ability to tell the difference between my go to work khaki pants and my stay home jeans.
On mornings when I’m working from home, Jorah joins me in the kitchen while I’m having my coffee and puttering around. He’ll stay put there until we head back to the sunroom to get the telework day properly started. For days I’m scheduled to schlep over to the office, instead of hanging out with me and making himself comfortable on his bed in the kitchen, he detours back the hall and sprawls out on my bed. He’ll stay there until it’s time for me to leave… When I’ll usually have to lure him out with a peanut butter stuffed Kong before I head out for the day.
The only real difference between home days and office days is the pants I wear. If I pull on a pair of jeans, all is well. If I pull on my khakis, the fuzzy little bastard pouts… as if spending all day in cubicle hell is somehow my idea of a good time. I think the implication here is pretty clear. I’m going to have to declare myself his emotional support human and just start toting him along wherever I go and can avoid having him abandon me on what are already the worst days of the week.