City Desk

The Shutdown Diaries: Disengaged

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

Today is a federal holiday. It's Columbus Day, which means no federal workers are in the office anyway. This is one of two weird holidays—Veteran's Day is the other—where few others beyond federal employees enjoy time off. Many private companies fold this holiday time into different days of the year (e.g. the day after Thanksgiving is a holiday for many workers, but not feds), yet I enjoy this time since they break up the year nicely. Granted, I haven't been in the office in nearly two weeks, but it's nice to think that is a technical reprieve from my furlough.

This was an unusual weekend because of the Bentzen Ball comedy festival. I went to shows on Friday night and Saturday night, and they were terrific. On Friday I watched a live-taping of the podcast Doug Loves Movies, wherein comedian Doug Benson and his panelists play a bunch of movie trivia games. Later that night I went to the secret Bentzen Ball afterparty, and I ran into Samm Levine, an actor and comedian who is best known for playing Neal Schweiber on the sitcom Freaks and Geeks. We talked about movies, and he failed to deliver when I challenged him about one particular bit of trivia. I'm a bit of pop culture nerd—I occasionally host trivia nights at Wonderland Ballroom in Columbia Heights, and I'm an abusive host—so this felt like a weirdly satisfying victory.

Saturday I went to the Bentzen Ball's music showcase, where comedians performed hilarious, profane songs. The obvious highlight was Garfunkel and Oates, aka Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci, who perform songs about what it's like to be a modern woman. I lost it when they performed "The College Try," a song about Riki's failed attempt at bisexuality. There was another after party on Saturday night, and it was so satisfying to see comedians and D.C. folks come together for an amazing event organized by Brightest Young Things, where I've been writing for over five years. I feel like BYT came of age this weekend, or something. I was so proud.

All this comedy was a terrific reprieve from the shutdown, which felt more like a punch line than part of my reality. This morning I went to Twitter to check out the latest. One thing I find frustrating about shutdown coverage is that it's hard to differentiate between reporting and commentary. There are some journalists/outlets that prefer to simply recount what's happening, whether it's an anonymous comment from a member for Congress or the result of a private meeting. I find this infinitely more valuable than op-ed writers who prefer to speculate on what they think should happen, and who "wins" as a result. This kind of journalism is frustrating because of the swings: On Thursday two reporters told me to expect another six weeks of a shutdown, and on Friday they reduced that number to two. This is forcing me to disengage from the news cycle. By the end of this furlough, I have a feeling I'll just check OPM every morning, and that would be it.

Over the weekend I got paid for the six days I worked prior to the shutdown. I did not expect that, and it's a welcome surprise since, well, that second mortgage payment will happen sooner rather than later. And since the weather improved (finally), today is perfect opportunity for  a long bike ride. I wonder what restaurants still offer deals, and there's only one way to find out.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post originally misidentified Doug Benson.

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