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I am a nonessential federal employee. This is my shutdown.
About a week ago I was out with a journalist friend of mine, and I asked him for advice about what direction these diaries should go. His reply was basically, “I want to see you in full-on rant mode. You’re nearly there anyway.” It would certainly be fun to write an angry diatribe, one where I blame “this town” for keeping me away from my office for just over two weeks. Screeds are fun for readers and writers alike, but to the chagrin of my friend, my heart is just not there. Until there’s a continuing resolution, this my life now, and it’s better to deal with it than rage fruitlessly.
On Sunday I rented a Zipcar and drove to my parents’ house. It was my grandmother’s 88th birthday, so I had lunch with my immediate family, my grandparents, and some extended family. My aunt and uncle are politically engaged—they quickly asked what I think about the shutdown and the looming debt ceiling Thursday—but there was no sympathy in the conversation. That is not to say that they’re insensitive people, or they don’t care about me. It’s just that it’s hard to muster goodwill when the shutdown is no longer new. The best comfort, unsurprisingly, happened when they joked about my furlough. If I was fired and unemployed, jokes would be cruel. But since this is beyond my control, their mockery is good-natured (mostly).
Over the past week I’ve transcribed two separate interviews I’ve conducted with comedians. One performed last week, the other performs tomorrow. I mention the interviews because they’re the least favorite part of my job (I also sometimes interview various experts as a federal worker). I hate transcribing because it’s endlessly tedious—you have to listen to the same exchanges over and over until you capture the conversation—and like most regular people, I hate the sound of my recorded voice. Somewhat surprisingly, the transcription work is comforting during the furlough. Sure, all the tedium is there, but the reward/relief that comes afterward is the closest thing I have to professional satisfaction.
I miss the routine of work. I miss my commute, and I miss the literal separation between work and play that my office provides. But most of all I miss the satisfaction of a completing my duties, no matter how ambitious or menial. These diaries and my other writing assignments are a good coping mechanism, but I still can’t shake that my life is on hold. According to the Kübler-Ross model, acceptance is the last step of loss. I’m not sure I’ve experienced grief is the model’s five normal stages, so who knows? Maybe tomorrow I’ll get actually pissed off, and we’ll get that rant that I know at least one person is itching to read.