Starting somewhere from the time that folks get back from their summers in early September and the time that their kids vacation in December are some of the most demanding work days of the year. The people that I work with seem to have acquired the urgency of a species of bird that migrates down to the south lands every year - and nothing stops that ride.
“Are we on track ... your project will go red ... we’ll have to utilize the weekends ... call them at home, this is urgent ...,” I can’t say how many times on a daily basis these words fly through the air at work like so many dodge balls aimed at random players just trying to avoid humiliation and elimination.
And the games don’t stop at sundown. The pager and the cell phone can go off at most any hour on most any day. In fifteen minutes or so, I’m supposed to be on a call with our counterparts who work on a side of the globe where the sun is shining just now. I feel sometimes like technology and the stock market cycles have stolen the quiet that used to come with the shortened days of fall and replaced it with the work equivalent of 24 hour news.
All of which makes it that much more difficult to dedicate time to spend with the kids on a daily basis. I try to leave home only after I’ve spent time with my kids in the morning and leave the office early enough to be home for bath and story time.
“Is today a swimming day,” my daughter has begun to ask each morning. Saturdays we go to swim lessons at the YMCA for her and she knows these are days when I don’t work.
“No Sweetheart,” I’ll say with a sigh, “Today’s a school day and a work day.”
“Will the day after today be a swimming day,” she asks again hopefully. I try to let her down gently on the days when this is not true.
“Okay Daddy, maybe we’ll go for my birthday,” my daughter responds. She has some concept of time, but anything further away than tomorrow becomes far enough away to be her next birthday.
“Okay Daddy, we’ll go when I’m five.”
Sometimes it feels like it might take that long.
Thanksgiving, though is only a few weeks off, and that usually offers a brief respite before the final rush into December. By the middle of that last month of the year, the all consuming fear seems to have finally drained out of the workplace like poison from a snakebite. And it doesn’t matter at that point what the result of all our efforts has been - good or bad. It’s as if we’ve all returned to college and will take nearly any grade short of a rock bottom F as a sign of completion.
“What are you doing for the holidays,” is what I’m longing to hear more than anything. That and to see the normal humanity that I think most people want to display start to appear without apprehension in their faces.
“Your kids off from school soon ... will you be traveling .... going home at all,” the hallway conversations and phone calls become so much more pleasant. I start to feel like a person again, and not just a drone in a work camp.
The weather will be colder. There will also be that mania that seems to drive everyone to distraction with the shopping. But the demands that drive the pace at work will have subsided and retreated like an army wintering away from the battles.
I’ll look forward to those changes and the extra time that comes when things slow down at work. I’ll take the last two vacation days that I always save for emergencies or for the end of the year.
“Swimming day today,” is what I'm wishing I can say to my kid on a weekday, “It’s a swimming day today little Sweetheart.”