Take Me To The Volcano

I've got a problem at work -- I need to take a vacation.

Here's the thing. For years I worked jobs where there either wasn't any sort of vacation at all (temp/contract work, my time as a DJ, roadie work) or even better where your vacation was built into the job itself (teaching). But I can only think of like one or two gigs I've ever had where I actually accrued vacation hours and then had to turn around and declare that I wasn't coming to work on such and such a day.

And even then just because of some of my ..spotty history of getting fired from stuff for dumb reasons, I honestly think I've become a little gun shy when it comes to not being around when I can be at my desk instead.

Which is kind of funny to say out loud, because as many of you know -- few people are more slack at the office than I am.

Not that I don't do the work that I'm responsible for, or that when the time comes I can't put my nose to the grindstone if I have to -- but more that I've become sort of a jedi over the last few years in being on vacation while I'm at work. 

It's sort of a sad thing to say  ..but I don't always mind being here.

I never really envisoned myself ending up as experienced a corporate drone as my resume suggests that I am, so I guess I still view most of what happens around here with a sort of detached shrug. I do good work, and people can count on me -- but when you get right down to it 90% of what my company (or any company, really) does is push paperwork from one side of the table to another, so it's hardly worth busting an ulcer over.

I have a coworker named Frank -- just this old, irascible barnacle. The guy has been here for ages, and has seen it all. Before he came here he apparently worked at the Pentagon for the Navy in some capacity -- which means in all likelihood he's seen some things that would make the rest of our eyes explode. But what it translates to here in real time is that even if what we're working on seems important to us, it doesn't really impress Frank at all.

So if you're one of those guys who's pushing to get things done fast and needs to know exactly when things will happen and who do I need to talk to so I can get that date to happen faster, you fucking hate Frank -- because he flat out doesn't give a shit.

Even better though, he'll tell you that right to your face.

"Bring me a body," he'll say. "This is a surgical supply company, wheel the patient in here on a table that needs this paperwork to be done now, and I'll hurry up. Otherwise, get in line with the rest of the jokers."

To be sure, part of this act it is just an old man making his fiefdom harder to travel through just because he can, but I've always sort of loved the fact that Frank takes his role as the bad cop so seriously. Time and time again he will tell you that when things get hurried under pressure, that's when the truly big screw-ups happen. His whole thing is that it's better to slow down and get things right instead of throwing it all against the wall and then cleaning up the mistakes better.

It can be a frustrating lesson sometimes, but he's ultimately right.

The point of all being that most of what we do at this office isn't worth rushing over. And if the IT department doesn't seem to mind a little time spent on the web, or taking care of personal business between 8-5 -- why not back off the tempo a little, take some time to smell the flowers and slow jam the job?

But now we're subject to this whole new vacation rule where earned hours are now "use it or lose it" hours -- where after a certain point if you haven't used your vacation it becomes forefit. And my boss is on me.
You never take vacation.
So I check the hours in the system and I indeed have available vacation time. Like tons of it. And I have a rapidly approaching deadline that I have to call out when I'm gonna use it, but I just look at the thing and think to myself, "I don't even know how to begin thinking about this."

My workload is project based. Fires crop up and I get assigned to put them out. I don't know when that's gonna happen. So it's hard to look at what seems a wide open summer and just block 3 weeks or so of that out without worrying that I won't be able to use it.

But when I really start to think about it -- it's like there's actually something deeper going on here, something perhaps I don't like to admit: Maybe it's not so much that I never take time off of work as much as it's the fact that I don't really know how to take a vacation.

Just because I'm a slacker, does that mean that I actually know how to relax?

I haven't traveled nearly as much as I wanted to in this life. I've always claimed financial troubles or obligations at work, and while that was sometimes technically true -- I'm starting to think more and more that there's something else behind my hesitation.

Whether it was the fact that for a long time I haven't had anyone to go with, or really the fact that I've often felt like I really didn't have anywhere to go -- maybe the whole idea of planning a vacation, actually trying to envison a life separate from the one I have day in and day out was sort of a mirror that I wasn't always eager to face.

Like I'm really good at coming to my job and making it feel like a vacation.
But do I really know how to not be here and have a good time?

[Now Playing:  The Bangles - "Walk Like an Egyptian" ]


Beth said…
My job is a use it or lose place so over the 12 off and on years I've been here I just sprinkle the 4 weeks of vacation time throughout the year. I'm all about 3 or 4 day weekends. Is that not an option for you? Do you have to take your vacation in 1 block?

My old dept I couldn't take off at the end of the year new dept I can so I stay my ass home at the end of the year and do nothing.

I'm a homebody so taking a real vacation longer than a day or 2 is really foreign and scary to me. I quickly miss the security of my bedroom. I've been known to panic if I'm away from home too long. Strange person I am...
Hex said…
Beth -- It's more that I haven't taken any of it yet and all of my use it or lose it time is stacked up and the deadline is racing up on me to the point where if I don't move now I won't be able to take it and it will all fizzle away.

Even I realize how pointless that would be, it's just that I'm so locked into this habit that I'm starting to wonder where it's coming from, you know?