– T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land
So, is it me or is it getting strange out there? My batteries shouldn’t be dead, right? I just bought them. The bread from last time we had to duck and cover is still white, but it’s Wonder Bread, so was it ever food? The milk I bought last time is now a stiff solid block covered in this gray water on top. Can I get the container to the trash before it explodes? I’m not sure where I put my flashlight…. Did I use all that dried food from last time when I went camping? What do I need to buy this time? I should make sure my vintage Playboy magazines are under the bed in case the power goes out, or the Intertubes spring a leak, or a storm surge wipes out the basement or a tornado takes off the attic, or Horders cleans out my room, or Storage Wars repossess my storage bin or the bank repossess my house. How shall I spend my disastercation this time?
Disasters come with regularity, and in a way have been providing what many employers have been loath to provide… Time off from work.
Since I have worked at [redacted] in [large city] after relocating from [Boston] I have enjoyed a number of days off and found stolen time that are not part of my PTO… That is, “Paid Time Off,” a bundle of sick days, personal days, mental health days, vacation days, and sundry other time off that was usually enjoyed by the working classes hard won by unions and no longer in fashion among the Job Creators and us little tax-paying people who do all the working for the Job Creators. With the New Normal, there are now other ways of reclaiming the blue collar time away from the machines. Call it Climate Change, Global Warming, Weather Channel Storm Zelda(tm), these “weather events” and various emergencies are giving me some relaxation and allowing me some time to myself.
White as my collar is, I don’t get a recognized coffee break. Way back when, when I worked in an institutional kitchen I was made to take two 15 minute breaks. And this did not add to the time I spent working. Neither did the half-hour for lunch. That white collar is the new blue is but another post and well raked over by more prudent and literate bloggers and documented by this or that study. Thankfully, what the unions cannot provide, the New Normal does. In my building the fire alarm goes off with regularity. Sometimes this brings in the fire department, other times it is just a “drill” and once it was a ball of fire coming up from the manholes outside or when the sketchy workers repairing the roof set it on fire. Or when the pounding rig outside pounded through a gas pipe. I wish for minor civil unrest if it allows me to get off at 4Pm on a sunny day.
While at a new job few of us expect any time off right away, I did take a drastic cut in the number of days allowed off for various reasons I may need – now my sick time takes away days from vacation time. So, I plan to come in sick as a dog if that protects the one road trip a year I can take. This bundling of life events means that we all need to come into the office sick, or if we can work from home we do so even in a fog of illness, or pretend activities. I can’t really tell you what I did when I had a 104 fever or felt like a pig took a shit inside my head and my joints felt like they were drifting apart… but I did do some work of some kind. this wasn’t even self-induced alcohol poisoning… a topic of another blog as well as the weekly meetings I really mean to attend but skip. Here again, the New Normal comes in and saves the day.
We jogged down several flights of stairs since the building, which was being drilled on from above and pounded on below by two teams of workers, stopped shaking up and down and started swaying to and fro. Even those who seldom look up from their iDevices knew something was wrong. Some of us melted away within the confusion and these lucky ghosts did not return until the next day. For those of us who stayed, congregating out at our meeting points, it was a welcome break on a very nice summer day. The CEO told us that we need not return right away, but could expense lunch and work from the local cafes… this offer lasted about three minutes before the CFO rescinded this offer and demanded we return to our positions on the shop floor. For those of us who returned, we needed wait only a few says for g/G/o/_/d/s/es/ses to deliver us a hurricane. We were able to leave early the day before since the transportation systems were to shut down. This lead to a very carnival atmosphere among those of us who could ill afford to live in the suburbs and bedroom communities our High Command resides and we shuffled to whatever bars were still open, their own staff being delivered early from work. That evening we cleaned the windows to ready for the show. Stocked up on booze, and filled a few water bottles and generally made a night of it since it is rare that all the roommates are home at the same time, and I didn’t even recognize a few of them.
The morning after the storm hit, we hit the beach. This blogger owns a rusty convertible and with the top down we traveled to see whatever waves and wind we could catch. A German tourist who was stranded joined us, and again, it was a party, until I got a frantic call from a friend who lives upstate saying that trees were falling on her house… which was a buzz kill. However, in the days that followed, several of us were able to help those who were actually impacted, and work was suspended, and my PTO not affected, my precious days remaining mine to use in sickness and in health. The Earthquakeacane had given us a rest up, and we were finally able to return after a few days having rested somewhat.
We were let out early again for the Hallosnoween. I barely remember how I used my time for this event. To make up for a previous blizzard, the city shut down expecting a version of the Day After Tomorrow. We scurried about, people were buying batteries, milk, and bread. I think I went to a party… There was some project I needed to work on, but the High Command lived outside of the city and was unable to be in communication, so this freed me up, even as I returned to work, the city barely touched by the Ice Giants who tore asunder so many communities outside of our region.
Then we slogged through work the summer of 2012, the angry clouds girding their loins and occasionally pelting rain and chunks of ice but nothing allowing us a disastercation. Tornadoes and wildfires hit across the nation, upstate New York had a burn ban early spring and the snow peas struggled from lack of snow and rain and barely… pea’d. In the city we maintained our composure, were immune to these disasters. The fire alarms continued to sound, we caught some coffee breaks, but it was several months before again we were able to take a disastercation.
We knew the drill. Leave early, hit a bar, and make our ways home to buy batteries, milk, and Wonder Bread.
Superfrakenstorm Sandy came in and delivered to us what we were spared under the reign of Irene. The office building was flooded. The power was out all over, the High Command were marooned in their bedroom communities, so many miles of commuter track and highway rent asunder. Communication with our commanders was down. The Intertubes were soggy and lithe, the trams waterlogged, the prams soaked, and there was no direct word from our High Command as to how we need order or report the time we spent. Hours turned into days and those of us who could muster an internet connection shifted from hotspot to hotspot in order to at least send one email an hour so that “work from home” could be documented…. When the call was given that this event would be carried by the company, to a person, the seldom chatter turned into a blanket silence as we took our time upon ourselves, not needing to mop up sticky water and report our next line of code concurrently, but were free to allot our time –
Each according to his own needs
– Karl Marx
Which is not very capitalist…
Since my upstate community and family were spared this time, I always reside in higher ground, and there were plenty of volunteers tripping over each other to prove they were helping rebuild the city, there was then nothing much to do but vacate the forlorn city in the same rusty convertible and head to my bunker/spider hole, and enjoy some time brewing beer, gardening, and connecting with friends I had not seen in far too long due to my work schedule.
Another successful disastercation.
It has not been so long since that disastercation that we were again informed by our High Command we vacate our workshop and move to higher ground. The Snomagedon now replaced by a tight nomenclature offered by the commercial forces of batteries, milk, and bread, we faced directly into the eyes of Ivan…. Steve… Nemo…. Into the eyes of Nemo and braced ourselves for 0-4 feet of snow, depending on the channel of one’s infotainment. Since Irene leveled upstate New York and Vermont, Superfrankenstormsandy inundated New York City, it was to Long Island and New England to receive Mother[fucker] Nature’s wrath and down upon those prudent and self-sufficient masses she dumped more snow than is seen all Fashion Week and Fourth Quarter S&P 500 week combined.
What some in my community mentioned was that this storm was in the last few hours of Friday, rather than being smack in the middle of the week. Yes, the workers now wish for a “weather event” as kids do for a snow day, for some extra time to spend resting or connecting with friends, that is, unless water is filling up your apartment, your house is being thrashed by trees, or the roof is lifting off your building.
I don’t expect this to be the final disastercation of the winter season, and certainly not the last of this year. I look forward to the next one, and hope it arrives mid-week, giving us a few days off so as not to eat up time I intend to spend repairing my car and fixing the holes in my roof I can ill afford to pay someone else. That is, unless I need to run for my life or help dig out my community. Or that I lose this PTO job and have to make due as so many more are, unable to enjoy their disastercations since they fill service-jobs, and hourly wages, and we have long since gutted any funding for those inessential positions in the event of lost wages…. But, what is the chance of another hundred year storm again? Or chance that there will be three of those hundred year storms just this year?
This is for your sins, I cleanse you
You can repent but I warn you, if you continue
To hell I’ll send you, and just then the wind blew