Tag Archives: hypochondriacs

My day off belongs to everyone, but me

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You ever wish you had access to a guru?  Not a religious one – enlightenment should be limited to the books on tape you listen to during your commute while you’re trying to figure out what the vanity plate ‘PPLBON’ could possibly mean.  Give yourself a dinosaur sticker if you knew Jonathan Papelbon pitched for the Red Sox.  Consequently, he would not be allowed to drive a rusty Camry.  I’m not sure he can even spell his own name, but even he knows it’s dumb to have a vanity plate in New England that references a player who is now sucking fumes in Philadelphia.  So we could all use some enlightment, but that’s not the point.  The point is it would be nice to have somebody just show up one day and say “Geoff, I’ve reorganized your whole life an I actually came out with a profit of $60, 302.44.  Is it OK if I just put that directly in your bank account?”

Well, that’s not going to happen.  Here’s the reality.  You bust your butt every day.  You’re a smooth cat.  Even the auditors can’t always find you.  Todd, the Accounts Receivable contractor, is asking you for the same information you gave to the previous two contractors.  That’s annoying, but the trade off is that Todd is the weird nephew of Ray Liotta, and you get to mention you work with him at every bad party you’ve been to.  You’ve got a system at work.  While it still results in flashes of heartburn and numbness some days, on the whole it’s OK.  The problem is…actually we longer use the term ‘problem’ on this blog…the indirect cost of doing business this way is your personal life gets backed up.  Most of the time you are divorced from life outside the office anyway.  Your employer would prefer that you just paid alimony and were done with it. You’re more interested in visitation rights.  The odd compromise is the  Day Off Errand Run (DOER).  Wow, that sounds like a program HR invented when they realized it was the end of the year and they hadn’t actually created any initiatives.

Usually there is something that predicts a DOER is on its way.  Maybe you have a trip planned over the weekend to go up to Vermont and stare at trees or, simply, your shirts have become unevenly stained.  There’s nothing like being ridiculed by people who have better stains than you or who have been eating granola bars for lunch for the past week.  Yeah, those granola bars she got as a sample at that hippy-dippy concert she went to last weekend.  The moral of the story is that your boss should come up to you and put his hand on your shoulder and say “You’ve been working real hard.  We’ve all noticed it.  Let’s get you a day off.  How about next Tuesday, does that work?”  Again reality versus fantasy.  In reality you get to about 3:00 on Wednesday and you realize if you don’t see your boss about a DOER, Bernice, the hypochondriac, is going to get in there and take all the days for at least the next week.  You slink in to the office.  While he finishes up a phone call, your mind tries to reconcile the pencil cup on his desk that says “Even the successful know the value of an eraser” and the mousepad that has a picture of his baby daughter who is now, you know, eight.  What is this, an after-school special on work-life balance issues?  Well, upon hanging up he neglects to notice your head’s on all sideways.  When you mention you need a day off he probably gives you a look like he’s trying to pull off the cover of a half used paint can that’s a mix of crust and liquid at the same time.

We’ll skip the rest of the conversation and assume he relents and gives you a day off even though Bernice is already slotted in for a trip to the hospital.  There’s a couple slight chances during the weekend to stop what you’re doing and complete a couple errands, but that’s Tuesday stuff.  One time you used a DOER and got all of your errands done plus it was during the holidays.  That was a fantastic day.  But that was before the kids and the dog and it wasn’t this job so there was a little more flexibility.  Even NASA would struggle to figure how you’re going to make Tuesday successful.  It’s really just an oil change, drycleaners, library, get a gift card for mom, buy some dogfood, go to city hall, change out a lightbulb on the back porch, and maybe buy some underwear.  It really should take half a day and the other half you can spend reading a book, drinking a beer, stalking your coworkers on Facebook – whatever.  You ever notice that the people you visit on your day off never visit you on their day off?  That means the guy from Jiffy-Lube has time to drink two beers and chill out.  Maybe he and the librarian share a nice Beet and Apple with Goat Cheese salad while they discuss their mutual love for Bukowski.  Moral of the story: that’s not you.

Wednesday you’ve got work on your desk, your boss is aggravated, everybody’s asking you what you did on your magical day off (except for Bernice who has a bronchial thing).  All you have to report is that you somehow came out of the DOER with more things to do than you started with and less time off to accomplish all of these tasks.  Wonderful.  What do you think?  Does this pretty much sum it up?  Anybody have some handy-dandy tips for actual success?  Any epic failures out there like you went to pull weeds and got poisoned oak all over your body and upon telling your tale a thousand times the next day you were permanently nicknamed PO Boy and shunned by everyone including future interns who weren’t even there?  Just checking.

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Office onset flu-like symptoms; you’re not sick, just delusional.

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Outside the office today on the East coast of the US there’s an amplified heat that feels like wearing vinyl to Death Valley, but I bet there’s more than one of you who still has their space heater on in the office.  Maybe it’s just a favorite sweater that helps warm that tan you got over the weekend.

There are a million people out there fighting against global warming and looking for a fix to the environment.  Some of them are riding deer to the Poles with ropes and cool looking snow gear to save the ice as we speak.  You’re fixing a cup of coffee while wearing the fleece pullover your company gave you a couple years back that doesn’t really fit.  Well, I’m fighting for you, friend.  Maybe fight is a strong word.

I once worked in an office where, in my section upstairs, the heat was broken.  How broken?  As you stepped on the fourth stair it went from about 70 to 85.  Evidently the owners had done an analysis and realized paying for someone to fix it would be more expensive than just paying for the extra heat.  Of course, they made this decision in their wool suits downstairs.  Have you ever seen a sheep sweat?  No, because they don’t put sheep in 85 degree carpeted offices.  Trust me, we all had a look at that dial to see if we could fix it.  Well, not the ladies who thought it was great.  Let’s just say buy in for the audits of fisheries and meat packing plants suddenly rose to an all-time high.

In most offices the heat is not broken it’s just controlled by a fairy – the Heat Fairy.  Imagine if your office was a democracy and everyone had a vote as to what the ambient temperature should be  – whoa, bad idea.  Sometimes you know who the Heat Fairy is.  Usually it’s because they made a scene – they built a blanket fort on their body to prove that they were cold.  They use the word ‘dying’ often when they are hot.  They are sadly not good enough hypochondriacs to just call out sick.  They’d rather roam around and infect everyone with the notion that illness and potential death is only avoidable if they are allowed to adjust the thermostat.

Some places, though, the Heat Fairy really is a fairy that you can never quite catch.  Yesterday it was 62 degrees in here.  Today it is 75.  How does that happen?  Why is the AC on in the middle of February?  That’s assuming you have consistent heat across your whole office, but there are mysterious zones.  Do you guys have the one meeting room that is an icebox?  When you see it on your schedule you know you have to bring a sweater with you – it’s like an outing except you’re in the same office and your boss has about 50 slides to run through.  He’s got the projector light to keep him warm.  What do you have?  An ill-fitting sweater and your touchy-feely co-worker, Phil.

I would also recommend not working in a building that is cursed or the owners got a really good deal on.  Here’s the story.  You make the call which of the above led to this:

One day the partner heard a noise above her head.  It was not an accountant trying to escape through the heating system, but something.  She called an exterminator who used his masters degree  to explain we had a mouse problem.  He did not have a degree in psychology though, so when the mice started falling through the ceiling tiles onto desks and floors we were less than consolable – really just paranoid.  You know, if you could fall from eight plus feet, land, and bolt away you’d be in the Olympics.  You can’t and mice can.  We told the exterminator to stop thinking and just start shooting.

It was proven that mice cannot land in your hair unless maybe if you had a Don King afro.  But flying ants can do everything! And they’re creepier than those little cute mice.  Maybe we should have looked into replacing the ceiling after the mice incident because not long afterwards ants started falling.  You know how you get the first drops of a summer rain that peck the dust and you’re just waiting for it all to pick up.  Well, a couple dazed ants sauntering across the floor were noticed.  They had wings which was pretty awesomely scary.  Soon after they were plopping on desks, landing in hair, walking everywhere.  The exterminator was called again.

If you want to be distracted from work maybe a change in the temperature will do the trick.  If you really want to test your mental toughness add some animals into the mix and see how much you get done.  Faithful readers, migrant internet searchers tell us some stories.  You can stay anonymous if you’d like, but me making up comments on my own blog would be the saddest thing ever. Share!