The Thinker

The Rest of the Story

I try to keep this web log focused on my what I hope are interesting and perhaps even profound observations. I try not to put in it all the trivialities of life that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. But I thought maybe for a change I should fill in some of the gaps so you know just what it is I DO during the days and why this web log stays blank for days at a time.

I’ve been especially busy this week, although I did manage to take yesterday off as a day of much needed leave. But even on my day of leave I was busy keeping doctor’s appointments, shuffling my daughter to summer school, buying bulk items at the superstore and picking her up at a remote friend’s houses. I just didn’t have as many distractions, and for that I felt blessed.

My workdays start at 5:20 a.m. when the alarm clock goes off. I dress in the dark while my wife snoozes, eat a hurried breakfast and I am out the door by 5:53. I need to be at the Reston South Park and Ride commuter lot by 6 AM to catch a vanpool that takes me to work. We sail down the Dulles Toll Road and with luck and the wind at our back I am in my office at 6:45 AM.

This week though I had to relocate to a new office. We were abruptly moved to another building in February 2002 and since then we’ve been gypsies. For three months due to lack of space I shared office space with another guy. When a small office (no door) opened up I pressed my case and with some politicking I was able to inhabit it as long as the lady whose office it was (she was on a long term detail) wasn’t inhabiting it. It was a neat little office: I had a commanding view of the National Archives. I’m unlikely ever to get a better view in the remainder of my career.

But the lady is moving back and I had to relocate. The division that I work is currently scattered over three floors. Once upon a time we were all together in one place – imagine that! We were promised that we would be brought back together again, but strings of promises went unfulfilled. Now I hear that in about three months we’ll be consolidated back in the same area I just vacated.

But I elected to move upstairs to a nice cube along a window that had been long vacated and it seemed I had all the permissions. So Tuesday morning I moved up there only to discover someone else had plans for that cube. So I was shuffled to another larger area, with no window, that is pretty nice. But I also know it will be a transient place.

But if that weren’t enough no sooner had I moved into THAT space when I learned that my move was causing inter office political ripples of some sort. My boss wanted to know if I wanted to move back down to the sixth floor: several offices were vacant. I asked: if we’re moving back there permanently pretty soon would this be my permanent space? Well, no. So I opted to stay where I am and I’m still not even sure this space is semi permanent. But at least I am with my own kind. Room 702 is full of IT (Information Technology) folk. And knowing the way things work in our agency I could be where I am now for years so I might well be in my new permanent space, I just don’t know it yet. Clearly space management is not one of our organization’s strong suits.

As a project manager I shuffle a lot of projects. With a recent degree in Software Systems Engineering it would be nice if I did some of it. But no, my main task at the moment is honchoing an IT opportunity fair for the Department of Health and Human Services. So about 70% of my otherwise busy day is clogged with that: questions from vendors, watching our appointment and registration systems book up, attending meetings, holding conference calls and basically just trying to get other people to do things in a timely basis. What I really do is manage chaos (yes, I know that is an oxymoron but it fits). Ideally I like to get some exercise time during my lunch. But there was no chance for that on either Monday or Tuesday. And no chance to do it at home either.

Meanwhile, other projects are coming due. A long overdue assessment of some enterprise reporting solutions needs to come to a conclusion. So I spend time meeting with the testers and going over issues, pros and cons, and working on PowerPoint slides for my presentation on Monday. While trying to do that email streams in and the phone (once it was reconnected on Wednesday) starts ringing often. Usually phone calls are from vendors with questions about the IT Opportunity Fair. I am the casualty of the moment of the profit motive. As the new outreach coordinator (a position to which I did not aspire) every vendor smelling profits wants to talk with me. I really wish I wasn’t paid to talk to them because I got other crap to do which seems a lot more pressing.

In short there is almost no time for a respite. It’s go from the moment I get in to the moment I leave. And every day I have to sit and judge what I’m working on. What is really important today and what can I safely slack off on? I decided this week I can slack off on finishing the quotes I need to renew some service and support contracts. But that will hit the fan soon too.

The van comes by and picks me up about 4:30 p.m. I am usually home about 5:30. (And on Thursday I was drafted to drive the van; that meant long walks to and from the Department of Agriculture, where the van resides during the day.) But no rest for the weary for this parent. It’s usually something. One night it was take Rosie to see a doctor. The other night it was take her to church (both directions) where she is participating in a play. This usually means I grab a quick dinner by myself after I get home.

So when there is free time it is an hour or so in the evening to catch my breath. You’ll forgive me if I am not up to blogging; at that point I just need to veg a little.

Now I hope I don’t sound like I am whining. I am paid very good money and my days may be long but I have a good job and I tend to work pretty close to 40-hour weeks (although add on commutes and it is more like 60 hour weeks). I have time to attend to both my daughter and my wife and I’m grateful for this too.

Still, as busy as these weeks get sometimes, there is something about the awful franticness of it that invigorates me. I got home from work on Thursday close to exhausted but exhilarated in some sense. I wonder if a juggler gets the same thill when thrown one more ball and still managing to keep them all in the air. It is better to feel exhilarated I guess, than annoyed. Much of this sort of work is boring but if it comes fast enough I don’t have time to notice it.

So I’m recharging this weekend, or trying to. I will leave shortly to go running, but I have already spent close to two hours taking my daughter to the orthodontist and now she is at church again practicing for the play.

And that, as Paul Harvey would say, is the rest of the story.


One Response to “The Rest of the Story”

  1. 10:03 pm on July 2 2004, Ed Judd said:

    On Friday, July 2, 2004 on Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story we missed the last of the broadcast because of a bad road. We would love to know what the person in London invented or did. Sure hope you can help us find out. Thank you. Ed

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