I just had to throw out that famous quote that may or may not have been made by Yogi Berra, but, like so many others, is attributed to him. But, this story isn't about Yogi. It's about potential stupidity.
It’s hard to know whether to take the threat of another government shutdown, which would result in a furlough for a majority of government workers, seriously or not. Two years ago, I was certain that they’d pull something out in the 11th hour – surely they’d learned their lesson from the government shutdown in 1995? But, no, they hadn’t. They weren’t able to pass even a continuing resolution, and so we all had two plus weeks of uncertainty before they made a deal to get us all back to work, having gained no ground on the issue that forced the shutdown in the first place, and then just winding up paying us for doing nothing for two plus weeks. It's a hell of a way to run a railroad, I swear!
Think they learned their lesson in 2013? Apparently not. “Silly season” is in full force in the District – all bets are off – anything could happen. We’ve gotten our notifications to begin preparations for a government shutdown. Last time, it felt like one of those exercises you go through to be prepared for the worst that never actually happens – until it does, and it did.
While I was so caught up in preparing my agency for the shutdown – it had fallen to me to make sure all preparations and plans were in place – what I wasn’t prepared for was, what to do with my self, if and when the government actually shut down. In my agency, the majority of the field force continues to work during a government shutdown, while the majority of those in headquarters are sent home, and not allowed to touch anything related to work. Once the shutdown was implemented, if I even turned on my laptop or blackberry, I would have been subject to disciplinary action. It was a very odd sensation, to suddenly and abruptly be cut off from your livelihood like that. You’d think it would be like a vacation or something, but it wasn’t. There was just so much uncertainty, it kind of drove you crazy.
After close to a week of the uncertainty and craziness, my wife suggested volunteering at the food bank, and I found something that has helped to sustain my need to be doing something for somebody else, ever since.
I guess it’s kind of a completion of a circle, now, as another potential shutdown appears to be looming on the near horizon. I made my last food pickup runs for the food bank two weeks ago. I can’t do it anymore, as it could create a conflict of interest for me, since I am over a regulatory program that includes monitoring and surveillance of safe food handling and practices at food banks.
This time, I think I am going to spend this weekend figuring out what I’m going to do with my time if I wind up being furloughed again. I want to be more prepared, this time, personally. Most of my program will continue working through the furlough, however, I’m pretty sure I won’t. I hope it’s all for naught, and we get to continue working after next Wednesday – but, just in case, I want to have a plan, this time.