Monday, January 24, 2011


I spent a full day at work last Friday but it was unexpectedly atypical, reflected in part by the lack of blogging. In fact there was zero interweb screwing around on my part on Friday (blogging, e-mailing, surfing, online shopping, etc.) because I had no access to teh interwebs at all, which was my own fault. Generally when I shut down for the day I take my computer access card out of the reader and tuck it in a pocket of my work bag, so that when my work bag and I get to work the next day the card is right there waiting to allow me to log on to my computer. But for some unfathomable reason last Thursday I shut down for the day and put my access card in my front pants pocket, and when I got home I hung up the pants in my closet, and that’s where the card was when I got to work on Friday morning.

Caught without ID - how early 90s of me
When I made this realization after rooting fruitlessly through my work bag Friday, I briefly considered heading home for the card, but discarded the idea because it would have taken two hours and change to get all the way home and all the way back to the office under the best of circumstances, and on Friday I had taken the VRE to work and I’m not entirely sure that those trains run in the opposite direction in the mornings. My next thought was to call my beautiful and ever-helpful wife and ask her to possibly meet me at the end of the Orange Line and bring my card with her, so that my round-trip travel time would be more along the lines of a little over an hour. But not only was I reluctant to impose on her second day off after six consecutive shifts at work, she was already being ever-helpful in a different way because she was awaiting the arrival at our house of some professionals who would assemble the exercise equipment we had splurged on as our Christmas gift to one another. (The assembly team ended up not showing up until about 1 p.m., of course, but if my wife had bundled up the little guy and headed for Vienna at 9 a.m. they doubtless would have materialized at 9:05.)

So I fell back on Plan D. (Plan C being “throw my hands up, head home and stay home and write it off as a mental health day” which was discarded since I had just recently taken a couple of days off for little guy sick days the week before.) Without the card I was locked out of my unclassified computer, but my classified computer still only requires a password I have memorized, so I logged on to that machine and tended to some tasks I had been putting off for a while. But on a classified machine, all non-classified websites are blocked, which is about 99.9% of teh interwebs. So it was a rather productive day for me as I couldn’t distract myself even if I wanted to (and of course I did want to) and thus just slugged away at some projects that are now in better shape for it. Not an altogether terrible bright side, really.

This all would have to happen on a Friday, too, and immediately after my employer began to use a new timekeeping system as of the first of the year. Used to be that if I didn’t fill out my online timecard every day I would get a gentle nagging e-mail the following morning reminding me to get it up to date, and the only day I really had to be on the ball was every other Friday when a pay period closed and HR needed to process the data and pay everyone (which I am vigorously in favor of). The new system sends out slightly more aggressive messages if you fall behind, and on the Fridays in the middle of each pay period I am supposed to record my hours and submit the timecard-in-progress to my supervisor for interim review. (No idea why, but mine is not to reason and such.) Once I had resolved to spend the day on my classified machine only, I thought to myself that I was going to have to get online as soon as I got home, get to my timecard, and log my hours and submit them for review. Since the system is new and this additional process strikes me as so arbitrary, I figured late Friday evening would be close enough to sometime during the Friday workday.

Which turned out to be not at all the case when my contracting boss came around my desk in the mid-afternoon and reminded me that I needed to submit my online timecard ASAP. Need I mention that I hadn’t told my boss that I didn’t have my card with me and I hadn’t been on my unclassified machine all day (where doubtless he had been emailing me reminders to the same effect) and didn’t properly have access to the timecard site? I assured my boss I would do it right away and he headed back to his office, at which point I turned to one of my storage area-mates and quickly explained my predicament and asked if I could hop on his computer for two minutes, use the browser and submit my timecard, and luckily my co-worker agreed and I took care of it.

The funny thing is, I think part of my co-worker’s willingness to help me was explained when he commented “Your boss sounded really pissed off!” I suppose he did, and I further suppose that he had good reason to, since he has to shoulder even more responsibility under the new electronic timekeeping system rules, and he’s no doubt still getting the hang of it while getting pressured from above to do it correctly, immediately, and unaware of my cardlessness he assumes that I’m not only making his life more difficult but ignoring his attempts to herd me along in the right direction. Fair enough. But at the same time, it reminded of me of how much I’ve gotten used to my boss over the past year and a half, and what comes across to other people (who have other bosses) as “pissed off” comes across to me as “neutral”. That’s just the way my boss is, usually all business, straightforward and no screwing around and no compulsion to soften the edges of a totally legit request with a little joke or a faux-empathetic inquiry or whatever. And I am completely fine with that, even if the fact that I don’t bat an eye at it anymore might be yet another granule in the pile of evidence that I’ve been working here a little too long.

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