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  • The last thing in the world I was hoping for was to be able to implement the plan that I spent the last two weeks cobbling together. On Wednesday, September 18th, it fell to me to begin my agency’s planning process for implementing a Government Shutdown Furlough process. Of our 9400 full-time employees, all but about 800 of them are in the field, and the majority of those in the field are what we call “front-line”, directly involved in food safety inspection. In this type of a government shutdown, they are considered “excepted” and will continue to work. The challenge, then, is figuring out which of our resources that exist to support them are required to keep working during a shutdown of this nature. Only a relative handful will continue to work without an appropriation to pay them – just as our inspection personnel will be continuing to work, without pay until an appropriation of some sort is signed.

    I would have much preferred that all of my efforts for the past two weeks were a complete waste of my time, along with the many others who wound up working with me on this furlough planning effort. But, instead, today, we get to implement the plan. When I went to bed, early, as I knew this could shape up to be a long day, the talking heads were still convinced that eventually, after a few hours of shutdown, Congress would act to fund the government, after having made their points. When I awoke at 3 a.m. to see what happened, I learned that, this time, the prognosticators underestimated the haplessness of this Congress. They’re like a bunch of little kids playing around with loaded weapons. They have no idea what the impact of the trigger they just pulled is. They, and we, will never be the same. They will be forever shamed. We will have to live with the consequences of their foolhardiness. Children should not be given access to such weapons.

    So, I get to do my little part to shut down my little neck of the government world this morning, and then my government computer and blackberry become, in the words of a fellow from the department, “bricks”. I don’t touch either, and I don’t go near a government facility until Congress grows up enough to do their jobs. They, of course, will continue to get paid while they figure it out.

    There oughta be a law! Oh, wait – there is. They just don’t seem to think that it applies to them. So, after an orderly government shutdown this morning, I have an unplanned day off. What will I do with my newfound free time?

    Pray. Continue to show up, in each moment, and be there, and to trust that the universe is right where it is supposed to be.

    I would go into town and explore some of the Smithsonian Institute’s fine museums – but they’ll all be closed. Same with the National Zoo. Hey – maybe one of those senior league softball teams that play during the day could use a third baseman? I am currently being heavily recruited by their night-time counterparts. There’s a bidding war going on for my, and my fellow old geazer shortstop, Roger’s, services. Apparently, this guy who played against us last Thursday, in the all-ages league, has spread the word among his Senior league managers, that these two guys got some serious game. I acted as Roger’s agent, and got him signed on to the “Time Bandits”. He went out and played with them last night. Sounds like he tore it up with them. Now, they’re coming after me. It’s nice to be highly sought after – by someone.

    Meanwhile, the nation gets to see what life without a government at work is like. Back in 1995, a number of appropriation bills had already been passed when they shut the government down, including the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, so that shutdown was really only a partial shutdown. I was not impacted by that one. We worked through it, and got paid. This time – nobody gets paid, even those who have to work.

    I hope Congress grows up soon.
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