City Desk

The Shutdown Diaries: A Comfortable Cushion


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

I forgot to turn my alarm off this morning. When it comes to my alarm, I'm usually a little masochistic: I set it to a blaring ring at 6:45 a.m. with the intention of slamming the snooze button at least six times. This is my way of forcing myself into the reality of the day—I don't feel rushed when I get out of bed—but today, there's nothing be feel rushed for: It's my first full furlough day. I turn my alarm off, but not before grabbing my smartphone to check my employment status at and the website of the agency where I work. Unsurprisingly, both sites suggest I refer to the other for more information, like a Möbius strip of bureaucratic disarray.

This may be confirmation bias at its finest, but today I experience none of yesterday's camaraderie. For one thing, I don't leave my apartment until just before noon. The morning is meandering and stupid: Twitter and cable news are depressing—and National Journal notes there's no end in sight to the shutdown—so I flip channels and catch up on email. My mom writes and suggests I call my dad, who's worried about me, perhaps prematurely. On the phone, he sounds angry and bewildered, plus a little shocked that I feel so cynical and resigned about the whole thing. Bitching about a forced vacation just seems like a waste of emotion when I can still enjoy the novelty of day-drinking.

My first stop is at Granville Moore's, a Belgian restaurant on H Street that's serving $1 cans of Stella Artois. I arrive at 12:30, and there's nobody there except for two women who seem like they're in a middle of a work lunch. The drink special is even better than yesterday's at Kangaroo Boxing Club, so it's a jarring that no one is out celebrating. Part of me wonders whether the collective mood turned for the worse overnight, but I won't know for sure until I bike through the city and chat with other furloughed employees.

Weirdly enough, today I also submit my first ever mortgage payment. I closed on a condo at the end of August, and some friends ruefully joke that the shutdown couldn't have arrived at a worse time for me. They're completely wrong, of course: When you buy property, the first payment isn't due until after you've lived in the new place a month. I've effectively had free rent for September, and I got my security deposit back from my old apartment. Since I'm also single and healthy, I have a comfortable cushion; meanwhile, other federal employees have to worry about medical payments for their children or elderly parents. It's unfair for all of us, but I doubt I'll reach a place where I feel truly desperate for a resolution.

Tomorrow I hope to recapture some of yesterday's measured joy. Today D.C. feels like a shell of itself, and I'm certain that'll be the prevailing mood if the shutdown lasts into next week.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery

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