"Blood, like a crimson highway, spreading out from his forehead to the ground." - Danzig, "Twist of Cain"

Latest Tweets

Furlough Friday

Over the past 18 years that I have worked for the federal government (both as a contractor and as a federal employee) I can’t recall ever being on “leave without pay” status. Even when the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center closes due to ice and snow each winter, I climb into my truck and manage to make it into work. I was even there during the furloughs of 1995, although as a contractor I believe we were either allowed to continue working or were retroactively paid for the time.

Today though, that changes. Today, I am officially on furlough status. What that means is, one day every two weeks for the next 11 pay periods I will be sent home from work without pay. Since a pay period is 10 days in length that means I will be only be working 9 days, taking a 10% cut in pay from now until the end of the fiscal year. Since my wife is also a federal employee, she will be taking the same cut in pay. If there’s any upside to this at all it’s that at least we are getting the day off from work — I suppose they could have just cut our pay and made us keep working. Always look on the bright side of life…

There will be minor impacts on our lifestyle. In anticipation of the furloughs we have begun preparing more meals at home. Three months ago we were eating out two or three meals a day. For the most part now, we’re cooking at home at least two meals a day, usually three. It’s a-maz-ing how much money you can save by eating at home. We are literally saving hundreds of dollars each pay period by doing this. We are also looking at things like cell phone plans and other services. By making these minor adjustments, everything else will be fine. We are in no danger of losing our home or our cars or, God forbid, our high speed internet.

While most people associate furloughs, sequestration, and government employees with Washington D.C., approximately 9,000 federal employees in the Oklahoma City area are being furloughed. That will definitely have an impact on our local community. We love shopping locally and eating at locally owned restaurants and I doubt restaurants like Poquitos de Mexico, Tacos Don Nacho or Chilenos will close their doors because of this, but as we (furloughed employees) feel the pinch of a 10% pay cut, so will the places we frequent. Even non-locally owned establishments we shop at put money back into the community via tax dollars. Multiply “a little bit less spending” by 9,000 people and I think you will see an effect.

More crippling to me than the 10% loss in pay is the 10% loss in productivity at work. Regardless of what I am doing at work, typically somebody, somewhere is waiting for me to do it. When I am on furlough status I am legally prevented from doing work. I cannot use my work laptop, I cannot check my work e-mail, and I cannot answer work-related phone calls. That means while I am being furloughed, those calls and work requests that typically find their way to me will now find their way to somebody else — and, when other people are on furlough status, those calls and work requests intended for them will likely find their way to me. There are only a handful of people who can do or even understand what I do at work, all of whom are already operating at capacity. It is inevitable that we will see work deadlines “slip.” It is a difficult thing to admit because none of us like working that way, but it is an unavoidable side effect of these furloughs.

Sometimes at work I feel like Lucille Ball struggling to keep up on that chocolate factory assembly line, Taking one day off every two weeks is the equivalent of walking away from that assembly line 6 minutes every hour and being expected to keep up. Imagine what the pile of candy in the floor would look like after that thing ran for six minutes with no one watching it. That’s what my Monday mornings are going to look like. Think about how long it would take Lucy to get “caught up” with an assembly line that never stops moving.

For what it’s worth I plan on using my furlough days creatively. Having a three-day weekend every other weekend (which can be expanded by using additional leave) opens up all sorts of possibilities. I have friends in Denver, Albuquerque, Dallas, Kansas City, and all over Arkansas that I wish I could spend more time with. With a bevy of three-or-more day weekends coming up, I might just get to pay some of them (or all of them) a visit.

According to CNN this morning, the senate may be putting an end to the furloughs for Air Traffic Controllers in an attempt to avert flight delays. Anyone who thinks removing furloughs for only air traffic controllers will fix the problem does not understand what the FAA does. All the air traffic controllers in the world can’t direct a plane a take off that hasn’t passed a safety inspection. Just my opinion, of course.

Even though I won’t be working today, I can assure you I’ll be thinking about it — wondering what’s going on, what will be waiting for me on Monday, and in a weird sort of way, missing it.

Similar Posts:

6 comments to Furlough Friday

  • Deborah Husbands

    Love this write-up Rob…We get to a point that we need to worry about ourselves instead of the job and how backed up it will be. Just doing what we can and if some projects slip behind so let it be…they will wake up eventually and realize this is insane.

    Love and Miss you guys….have fun on your furlough..

    I am so glad I retired!!!:)

  • Looks like you’ve stumbled onto why I spend so much time in the kitchen. I’ve been known to sweat over the stove coming up with three days’ worth of meals at one time, as well as stuff like fruit salad and brownies and whatnot. As long as I can keep up that pace, we almost have something like a normal lifestyle. Getting the kiddo to try something new that I’ve never cooked before is frequently a problem, but staring bedtime in the face on an empty stomach usually changes that argument!

    We probably eat out once a month, if even that often, and usually if it’s an occasion like getting out of town and going to Arkadia. The rest of the time, it’s up to me to not give everyone food poisoning. I think I’m doing pretty good at it, and we’re able to get a modest amount of groceries to go quite a long way for us.

  • Susan

    Some other changes in effect: I canned my $140 every six weeks for a nice haircut and color and have moved to super it’s with a
    Coupon every eight weeks and a home hair coloring kit. I’ve started waxing my own eyebrows ($5 for ten waxes vs $25 every six weeks), and then I’ve added having to do all the yard work at a savings of $85 a week. It sucks and my hair looks bad and my eyebrows are crooked. Our neighbors are
    Plotting to do a yard intervention I’m sure.

  • Rob

    I have offered to provide all of those hair services for you, although I’m not sure what all of them are. But I’m pretty sure I could do it.

  • Mom

    LOL Morgan told me last night she needed to wax her eyebrows. I guess she’s been helping you.

  • It’s amazing how much money cooking at home (and not eating out) saves.

    The budget cutbacks are affecting government contracts, too. A lot of contracts are getting cut or eliminated. The private sector is growing (finally!) but not fast enough to absorb all of the jobs the government is bleeding. While reducing the size of the government could be beneficial, the reduction has to be done in a controlled fashion to avoid nasty side effects.

    The ironic thing is that in 2005, I got into government work because there were government contracting jobs available and the private sector was cutting. Now, eight years later, I’m looking to do the exact opposite. Unfortunately there are about 10,000 other people in the St. Louis area trying to do the same thing at the same time.