Monday, July 1, 2013

Fourth quarter

The last three months of the calendar year are quite possibly the easiest ones to get through in terms of the workaday routine, mainly because said routine is frequently disrupted by holidays. In the first half of October there’s Columbus Day, and in early November there’s Veteran’s Day. I grant that these are not always faithfully observed in the private sector, but in the government, and particularly the DoD, they tend to be days most people stay home one way or another. Between those two falls Halloween, which doesn’t merit any extra paid time off but at least stands a good chance of seeing an office party taking place to break up the monotony. Then there’s Thanksgiving Day and the Day After Thanksgiving, the only time of year where two consecutive days of rest are guaranteed to always create a four-day weekend. And Christmas and New Years, falling a week apart, create an annual terminus dead zone where people either blow their remaining vacation balance to bridge the two, or show up to work but don’t expect to get anything done because everyone else is on vacation. Throw in some very unofficial days off, for college homecoming or emergency-pre-Turkey-Day-guest-arrival-housecleaning or last-minute-Christmas-shopping, and all in all it’s pleasant enough.

The last three months of the fiscal year (a span which, not at all coincidentally, starts today), on the other hand, goes nothing like that. We get the Fourth of July this week, a holiday-free wasteland in August, and Labor Day at the beginning of September, and man that is it. And if, like me, you have some reason or another not to take a week off for a beach getaway or somesuch, it is a long hard slog.

And this year, we have the budget sequester to contend with, which entails the furloughing of government civilian employees for a few months, generally in the form of forcing people to take a day off without pay every Friday starting now and going through some time in the fall. Actually, not starting right now, which is the real kick in the painful-parts; the furloughs go into effect as of July 8. So do the government civilian employees get a four-day weekend for Independence Day, albeit with one of the two weekdays unpaid? No they do not! They all have to show up on the 5th, but then the Friday after that (and every subsequent one until further notice) they get to hang around the house brooding over their 20% pay cut.

As I’ve mentioned before, the sequester doesn’t affect me quite the same way because I’m a contractor. The assumption at this point is that the furloughs will be painful and the longer the summer goes on the more pressure will build for Congress to get the budget sorted out or at the very least pass some revisions which allow entities like the Army to re-distribute reduced funds according to their needs instead of hacking exactly ten percent off every line item in their budget with no regard for strategy or sense. My contract runs through the end of the fiscal year and my boss has already let it be known that the agency wants to renew it for an additional year and is working on allocating the funds to do that, and the closer we get to the deadline for funding the more likely that the obstacles currently in the way will either be removed or be understood well enough to be worked around. So there’s that.

I’ve been saying lately that the summer is my favorite time of the year, and that is true as far as it goes, but it doesn’t go so far as to include my 9-to-5 gig as such. That probably goes without saying, but now I’ve gone ahead and said it anyway.

(And also needless to say, I’m ruminating on generalities here because I am still awaiting any kind of specific progress on my much-delayed, forever-in-limbo big project, the laughable deadline for which is the day after tomorrow. Oh, the fun just never stops.)

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