Monday, January 23, 2012

Annual Existential Dilemma

I had my face-to-face annual review at work last Friday, which is just one of many milestones throughout the overall annual review process which takes something like 3 months of real time total, and in and of itself it went absolutely fine. My contracting manager continues to appreciate my contribution to the gig (however little he himself may understand exactly what technical wizardry I purport to practice in fulfilling my job duties) and he gave me relatively high numerical scores and positive comments. The strangest aspect of the whole experience was that my boss had swung by my cubicle on Thursday to ask if I was planning on being in the office on Friday, because if so we could grab some time for the face-to-face. I agreed I would be around and that sounded good. So on Friday he buzzed my cubicle again and said “Ready to talk?” and I confirmed I was and started to get out of my chair to follow him to an empty conference room … at which point my boss said, “Or, like I tell everyone, you can just skip this part if you agree with everything I wrote about you and don’t have anything to add.” A problematic lob to volley back for the following reasons:

- My boss has a notoriously dry sense of humor and plays his cards very close at all times, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned a time or two before around here. So was he serious about skipping a mandatory part of the corporate annual review process? Or was he joking? Virtually impossible to tell!
- If he were being serious, though, was there some kind of test hidden in the ostensible offer? Is my seriousness as an employee and team player (particularly one who recently expressed interest in potentially moving up the management ladder within the company) something which would take a hit if I opted out of the face-to-face?
- But at the same time, I really did agree with everything my boss had included in my review and had little if anything to add myself. So there was at least a hint of plausibility to it as well.

But then again, I was already out of my seat. So we proceeded to the conference room and went through the review very quickly, mouthed some platitudes about job performace at each other, and spent a few minutes actually talking about, if not substantive matters, maybe the anti-substantive? Basically I caught him up on projects I had picked up but then been specifically asked by my government boss to abandon, the kind of stuff that would never make my weekly status updates because they ceased to have any official status. And before we finished my boss let me know he had been keeping an eye out for potential project management tasks he might be able to steer my way, so if nothing else that made me glad I had taken the time for the actual sit-down, at that.

Still, there was a weird bit of cognitive dissonance for me with the whole rigamarole, simply because it’s strange to be praised (however formulaically) in one area of my life when I feel like a gibbering idiot in another. This would be the home maintenance area which I alluded to late last week, and which I will further now specifically identify as a plumbing problem, or rather the culmination of several plumbing problems. The litany goes like this: when my Little Bro and sister-in-law visited a couple weeks ago, he alerted me to a dripping leak in the basement Dork Room which was serving as their guest accommodations. I had noticed some water evidence when I was replacing ceiling tiles in that room, but I had assumed it was leftover damage from the ol’ dishwasher malfunctions of late ’11. Not so, apparently, and some eventual testing revealed that the leak was only noticeable when the main floor half-bath toilet was flushed. Only a few drops at a time, but still, kind of unsettlingly gross. Meanwhile, the toilet in the upstairs hall bathroom was prone to running at odd times due to a slight flapper leak which let the tank empty just enough to need intermittent refilling. Fixing that was on my to-do list, but shutting down, dismantling and reassembling a toilet even for a minor repair requires more child-free time than I’ve had access to in a while.

Now on top of that the same upstairs toilet got a little bit clogged, some time mid-last-week, which I noted and resolved to attend to … sometime … soonish? The issue was forced, however, when the fill valve in the tank simply expired Thursday night, causing water to run incessantly, even though the clog prevented it from rushing down the pipes, and thus there was a minor flood which covered the bathroom floor and ended up coming through the main floor ceiling in the foyer. You can imagine the ensuing scramble: water shut off, towels sacrificed, mops fetched, pots placed strategically beneath steady drips coming through light fixtures (circuit breakers turned off, for that matter) – and the next day, of course, the services of a plumber beseeched with all due haste. The plumber came out on Saturday morning and the good news is that everything is fixed (at the moment) – or I should say all of the plumbing is fixed. The main floor toilet had a bad wax ring under its base, that’s been replaced, no more leaking into the basement. The upstairs toilet got snaked and needed almost every moving part inside the tank replaced, all of which was handled as well. The outstanding issue at this point is the foyer ceiling which was seriously saturated with water and needs to be replaced – something we had been meaning to do anyway because there had been some minor damage pre-existing when we bought the house, and now we just can’t put it off any longer. (Well we will probably put it off another two weeks or so for scheduling purposes but you get my meaning.)

Look if I'm going to make poop references I might as well go all the way.
The total cost of all the plumbing repairs was pretty minor, especially in comparison to the hardwood floor replacement and the HVAC replacement both still fresh in my mind (my in-laws very graciously gifted us with the HVAC funds, and the hardwood was mostly covered by homeowners insurance, but still). But the fact that it was the third major calamity in a row rankles a bit, as did the specifically earthy nature of it. A while ago I joked around to a friend of mine in an e-mail about how between two kids in diapers, two dogs that get walked every night and cats whose litter boxes need frequent changing, a disproportionate amount of my time is spent dealing with biological waste matter. Ha ha ha, just a little potty humor there, love my kids, love the pets (mostly), don’t mind me. But last week the toilet misery was actually coming on the heels of an incident in which one of the cats (we think? Though we don’t know which one? Possibly a sign we do have too many pets?) peed all over the bedclothes of my wife’s and my bed, plus the little guy’s recent bug-induced gastrointestinal distress which also caused him to undergo a bit of backsliding in having daily accidents even after the illness had passed … it’s a strange span of days indeed that make diapers, doggie-doo bags and litter boxes the paragons of longed-for simplicity. And you can see why on Friday I was a bit too shellshocked for regular posting. Aren’t you glad you asked?

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