Village of the Darned Week

Friday - 12/23/2011, 2:00am EST

This column has been updated from its original version.

There are two really rough periods in government when people are stretched to their emotional and physical limits. When they are asked to endure the unendurable. When some people abandon all hope. They are:

  • The last week in August which is, unofficially , Rocky Horror Show time. That's when summer-weary feds (and private-sector types) lose it. They cash in their dignity chips. They toss style, taste and articles of clothing to the wind. It is a time of tank tops, spandex and other mind-numbing attire. Some ignore this period, or muddle through it. Most survive. A few crack, and are never the same. (As you might imagine it is much the same if you work in radio.)

  • Secondly, there is the second time of horror. It is what is probably the least productive period in government (and nonretail parts of the private sector). It started today. And it will run through, at least, Jan. 3. It is the time when your workplace becomes a minature of the Village of the Darned. The week between Christmas and New Year is when offices are largely staffed by people who are either:
  1. Essential to the health, safety or security of the nation.
  2. Workaholics, or
  3. Avoiding visiting in-laws, or
  4. Those damned to work because they ran out of sick or annual leave.
By now most people have figured out that the White House is not going to give workers the Friday before (that would be today). Feds do get Monday the 26th off since Christmas falls on Sunday this year.

When people in mid-summer started asking Federal News Radio if we had heard anything about a bonus holiday we started asking the people who would know what, if anything, they knew. Not having a direct pipeline to the President's thinking they could only guess. But all of them guessed — correctly as it turned out — that there would not be any bonus holiday. Unemployment remains high. Some people who took pay cuts two years ago (to keep their jobs) are still working, but at a reduced rate. Some companies have dropped matching contributions to employee 401(k) plans. Congress has left town without completing its work. Everybody is still waiting for the other shoe to drop!

Bottom line: This was not a good year to be asking about a bonus holiday.

Maybe next year. Meantime, if you are off next week, enjoy yourself, buckle up and drive safely. If you are working, whatever your motives or motivation , enjoy the reduced traffic.


Iron Man Retires

After a mere 44 years, nine months and four days, Robert A. McFarland is retiring from the Defense Department. He started at the old Army Map Service in Brookmont and later transferred to Mount Weather as part of the transportation division. So why the Iron Man title?

Well, last but definitely not least, coworkers said he NEVER — as in EVER — took any sick leave. That leaves him with a balance of more than 4,500 hours. Maybe a record?


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

By Jack Moore

Good news parent! Teenagers who "talk back" to their parents are actually less likely to be influenced by peer pressure, according to LiveScience. But it's not just any kind of backtalk — it has to be "productive arguing," involving reasoned arguments rather than insults.


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Will 2012 be any better for federal workforce?
Reviewing the ups and downs of 2011, Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, expects more of the same in 2012.