City Desk

The Shutdown Diaries: A Trio of Firsts

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

Yesterday I attempted my first furlough nap. This somehow seems significant: Last week, I did my best to take advantage of my free time, whereas now I'm eager for it to pass quickly. I couldn't get a wink, of course. I've never been good at naps, so instead I grabbed my phone and read through articles about the shutdown, the upcoming debt ceiling quagmire, and who is "winning" this stalemate. On Sept. 30, I remember watching the cable news networks with unusual attention. The news can be damn suspenseful when your job is at stake, but now all the analysis reads like a grim post-mortem.

I have a friend who works at Bohemian Caverns, a jazz venue on U Street NW, and yesterday they closed because a car crashed into the building. As a result, she's not working there for the rest of the week, and at this point that seems like a saner reason to miss work than a furlough that's lasted nearly a week and a half.

Yesterday, I also rode the Metro for the first time since the shutdown. The trip was from Columbia Heights to Rosslyn, and it didn't seem like the transit system was largely abandoned. There were plenty of people on the train, particularly at Farragut West, and I even had to struggle to get off the train at Rosslyn. While I usually avoid Metro because I find the whole process dehumanizing, it was a weird comfort to deal with the same problems as the other commuters in an immediate way.

Dinner with friends (an engaged couple) was delightful; Swedish meatballs were on the menu, complete with onion and mushrooms in a cream sauce. We drank a couple bottles of wine and chatted about weddings, stand-up comedy, and our eccentric relatives. The shutdown is stressing out one friend: He works for a company that represents government contractors, so the shutdown has counter-intuitively given him much more work to do. I think he's partly jealous about my forced vacation, but he didn't say anything about it. I wouldn't have minded a joke or two; mutual mockery helps define our friendship, and a furlough is the absolute worst reason for it to stop.

Yesterday was the first time I considered ending this shutdown diary early. It's not as fun to write when the novelty is gone, and this very paragraph teeters on the edge of becoming the navel-gazy Thought Catalog bullshit I thoroughly despise. But then I get a torrent of texts from a grad school pal who now lives in Dallas with his pregnant wife. "I can definitely note the change of one," he wrote, but then added, "Your [posts] have this interesting impact: making me miss the city, despite your travails." That's enough encouragement for me to keep going.

The rain outside is awful, and it's almost like a dare to get increasingly sullen. This is my shutdown, dammit, and I can chose to make it productive or even fun. Expect a rosier entry tomorrow.

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