Monday, March 4, 2013

Arrivals, departures, delays

I am entrenched in the cubicle farm once again today, which comes as something of a mild surprise. This past weekend was plans-free by design, and my wife and I were as mentally prepared as we could be to pop in to the maternity ward, but the need never arose. We did manage to get a few more significant items crossed off the to-do list, though. My wife singlehandedly brought order out of the chaos heaped behind our daughter’s closet door, which is both good in its own right for the little girl’s sake and yielded up a fair amount of newborn clothes which can now be laundered and set aside for Baby #3. I assembled the spare changing table, now installed in the master bedroom for those middle-of-the-night changings so as not to intrude on the little girl’s bedroom while she’s sleeping. And we tidied up the rest of the house and did major grocery shopping, as we do most weekends, as if the coming week were a normal predictable one like any other.

A few weeks ago I was e-mailing with a friend of mine who lives in California and I informed him that here in the mid-Atlantic region we were having quite a mild winter and amidst all the other things I might worry about as far as going about my routines with a nine-months pregnant wife on speed-dial, and bracing myself for being awoken in the middle of the night by the legendary freight-train momentum onset and rapid progress of labor for the third child, at least I didn’t have to worry about racing to the hospital in a blizzard. Which of course means that the first significant snow accumulation of the winter around here is being forecast for Wednesday, just as my wife will be rounding the thirty-eight-and-half week mark, and everything has the potential for major disarray. More likelihood than mere potential, really, since they say that major changes in barometric pressure can bring on the birthing. So that’s what I get for invoking the bright side.

But since I’m here now, I’m doing what I can to ease my own temporary transition out, summarizing all of my current projects and e-mailing my notes to my boss and the person most likely to cover for me. The last time I went on family leave, the whole agency moved offices on me, which was odd; nothing so drastic is in the works this time, but I do still have a major, open-ended task which relies on numerous other people getting their acts together and pushing forward. There has been precious little progress on it lately, but clearly if I do end up driving my laboring wife down the highway in a snowstorm, there will simultaneously be a breakthrough on my task just as I become unavailable for weeks. (But it will be waiting for me when I get back. And last week my fellow contractors and I were required to perform the segment of our annual review cycle wherein we set goals for the coming year, and you had best believe that I made dragging this project across the finish line one of my goals so that I will get full credit for it whenever it finally goes down.)

The only other thing that could prove strange and noteworthy is the fact that a couple of my co-workers have been talking an awful lot lately about leaving. They’re both older women, and they’ve both been here much longer than me, but one of them has serious health problems which apparently are starting to take such a toll that her doctor is essentially mandating an early retirement, while the other is (understandably) kind of sick of the way contractors fill the rented mule roles in government agencies. That latter co-worker has a husband who unfortunately suffered some health problems of his own which stand a good chance of winning him a malpractice settlement of some kind, and she makes no secret of talking about how quickly she would give her notice when/if that windfall should happen. So it’s at least within the realm of possibility that I could take a few weeks off to be with my wife, our kids and our newborn, and return to the office to find some empty cubes on either side of me. Still, there’s nothing for it but to ride out the storm (hopefully only metaphorically).

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