City Desk

The Shutdown Diaries: Now Accepting Pity Food

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

It was kind of inevitable, but now my friends are making me food out of pity. Yesterday I biked from Columbia Heights to U Street to meet my friend who made me (delicious) gluten-free macaroni and cheese, as well as beef stew that I'll probably have for lunch today. On Monday another friend wrote me on Google chat, "Alan, today's diary entry is depressing me. You're coming over Wednesday so I can make you a nice dinner, OK?" This kind of support is heart-warming—I couldn't ask for better friends—but not entirely necessary. In its own weird way, the furlough is fun.

For all intents and purposes, I'm on a forced vacation. Yesterday I was day-drinking at Mellow Mushroom with another federal employee—we got nerdy about how our two agencies interact—and there was exactly zero shame in ordering another beer, just one, before the beer special ran out at 3 p.m. I've become much more casual about deals for federal employees: rather than use the City Paper guide to deals, I just go to bars and restaurants and ask if they have any specials. This is how I found that today Mellow Mushroom is giving away a free slice to the first 60 people when the restaurant opens at 11:30am. A tip to those who are spending their shutdowns out and about: Even if you're not entirely sure whether an establishment will offer you a discount, it never hurts to ask.

My mom called me again yesterday. In typical Mom fashion, her sympathy toward me turned to mild, gentle annoyance. She told me I should go visit the house during the week since my dad doesn't work; he'd love it if I stopped by and we went to the movies. She also suggested I go visit my brother who just bought a place in Baltimore. These are both good suggestions—I may see if my dad wants to see Machete Kills on Friday—but they get in the way of my shutdown quasi-routine. I like waking up the morning, writing for a while, then biking around the city. Sure, it's a wasted opportunity if I don't travel or go out of town, but I can't shake this strange loyalty to the city. It's as if I want to prove that goods things can still happen here even when 800,000 federal employees aren't working.

One downside of the shutdown is how I'm sometimes disconnected from the world. It's not like I have a vacation reminder for the furlough, and email starts to pile up when I spend my time outside my condo instead of on the computer. There is a struggle with ongoing responsibilities and gleeful abandon, and I need to remember that deadlines, bills, and social obligations don't stop just because I can wander around without impunity. This is why the weekend still feels like the weekend: Unless I actually travel, professional purgatory does not keep me in isolation.

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  • lisa


  • Andrew

    Is anyone else getting a little tired of the furloughed Federal worker thing? The fact that whenever the shutdown is restored, they will all receive back pay. So all of us private sector workers are subsidizing their paid vacation. Granted it isn't the workers fault that Congress is incompetent and that bars are offering deals; but the more I hear the insufferable diatribes from these people the more I am in line to abolish the Dept. of Education, Labor and HUD right away.

  • Peter

    I'm with Andrew. If you're expecting to get paid by the government for your time away from the office, spend the time doing something that will make you a better public servant when you return to work. Pick up a topical book, take a MOC, attend some think-tank events, or meet with a co-worker over beers, not just friends. Whatever you do, don't complain about spending your time drinking with friends.

  • Typical DC BS

    @Andrew: YES. Once again, the federal workers are in lalaland if they think anyone with a private sector job empathizes with them. Would LOVE to have a couple extra weeks off, even with the delay in pay, if I KNEW that these bozos on Congress and our President would pay me because of their soft-headedness.