The Thinker

My Hum Drum but Remarkable Workweek

Something amazing happened last week at work. On the surface it was just another workweek. I came into the office every day, did my duty and went home. In that respect it was no different than any other workweek in my federal career.

The amazing thing was what didn’t happen getting to and from work. I wasn’t up before the crack of dawn, as I have been for the last 23 years of my employment. I wasn’t trying to get my sleepy headed daughter out of bed, pushing her to get her to eat a piece or two of toast, then running her out the door so she could meet her 6:45 a.m. bus. I wasn’t tearing out the door at 5:53 a.m. as I did for most of 1999-2003 to meet at some cold commuter lot in a predawn bleakness. I did not jump in a passenger van and end up at my office at 6:45 a.m., bleary eyed, still half asleep and trying to focus my mind on the day ahead.

Similarly in the afternoon I was not waiting to be picked up by my vanpool. I was not crammed into a tight seat and elbowed by my fellow commuters. We were not fighting traffic on Constitution Avenue. Where the van would normally unload, I was not there. I was not waiting three minutes for the light to let me out of the commuter parking lot. I was not navigating the back roads to avoid the crushing press of traffic on the Fairfax County Parkway. I did not arrive home drained of all energy and wanting to curl up somewhere and go to sleep.

Instead it was Spring Break week. My daughter had no school and got to sleep in. So I didn’t have to hassle with her in the morning. And since I now work three miles from my home this meant that I could choose to get up when I wanted to. I could choose to go into the office when I wanted, without the mad morning constraint of trying to beat the overwhelming Washington area rush/gridlock hours.

I slept in until 6:40 a.m. every day of last week! I arose then because that’s when my wife gets up. I could have slept in later but her up and moving around would have been enough to get me up anyhow. But it didn’t matter. Rising at 6:40 a.m. on a weekday seemed decadent — almost sinful. So I dressed, ate an unhurried breakfast, drove leisurely to work and was fully awake and at my desk at 7:30 a.m. I left work around 5 p.m. and was home ten minutes later.

In the evenings I was not getting the yawns about 8:30 p.m. I was not half into bed reading by 9:30. Instead – oh the decadence – but I stayed didn’t bother to get ready for bed until 10 or 10:30 p.m.

Each morning I woke up feeling well rested. Each evening I had plenty of time to relax and putter.

I don’t know how many of you have jobs close to home. I think long commutes during rush hour tend to be more the norm now than not. This is a circus I have spent my adult life trying to escape. My new job at the U.S. Geological Survey let me escape this madness, at least partially. Rising at 6:05 a.m. was a huge improvement over rising at 5:15 a.m.

But last week I rose at an hour that accommodated my natural body clock, instead of at a time dictated by the demands of a modern urban society. It was not quite as good as my Dad’s work life, which consisted of being at the office at 8:30 after a three mile commute to work.

But perhaps I will sample that life this summer and see what it is like.

It is wonderful to do things at a time of my choosing. Life is good.


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