I am a nonessential federal employee. This is my shutdown.

The federal government has no dress code policy. I learned this when I attended mandatory sexual harassment training earlier this year—-or was it last year?—-and the equal employment opportunity officer explained we could wear whatever we want. The only rule is that we don’t violate the Hatch Act, which says that federal employees aren’t allowed to participate in certain political activities (i.e. I cannot wear clothing that endorses any candidate for office). Even though there is no dress code, I generally wear a dress shirt and slacks to work. But the government shut down early Tuesday morning, so I found myself wondering, “What should I wear when I’m literally not allowed to do any work?” I settled on jeans; it’s not like I’d be at the office long.

Earlier this week my boss came to my cubicle and explained that, absent a continuing resolution, I’d still need to come into the office for “shutdown activities.” I asked my boss what those entailed, and she wasn’t sure. It turned out yesterday that I needed to submit my timesheet, secure my laptop, and cancel any meetings for the day (I didn’t have any). We weren’t supposed to be in the office longer than four hours, but I left after two hours and 15 minutes. The only reason it wasn’t sooner was because our internal time-keeping Web portal kept shutting down; all my colleagues were logging in at once. Going in was an utter waste, so I killed time by joking with my co-workers. The guy who sits next to me said he wished he brought his copy of Settlers of Catan.

After I biked home from the office, I debated how to spend the rest of my day. I didn’t want to stay at home, so I figured it was best to take advantage of all the free food and drinks around the city. I headed to Z Burger in Columbia Heights, and the line was out the door. I had a short conversation with the two feds behind me: We were excited by the novelty of a free burger, and were apparently not the only ones (the line was even longer when I left). The mood was similarly whimsical at Kangaroo Boxing Club, where I headed next. The deal was $3 screwdrivers, and the bar was slammed with day-drinkers. Like my fellow furloughed employees, I was learning to embrace the shutdown. The vibe is almost like the Snowpocalypse, except the weather is gorgeous.

I talked to workers today from the Federal Trade Commission, the Government Accountability Office, and the Department of Defense. Everyone is in good spirits, but we all agree the mood can’t last. It’s just a matter of when.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery