Whether working or furloughed without pay, each of the 800,000 feds involved have a story to tell. It’s usually not a fun one, or one that most of us outsiders, who have never gone four weeks without a paycheck, can barely understand.
The good news is that government workers know that someday when this is all over they will, eventually, get paid. The government has even issued guidelines and a sample letter to send to creditors asking for more time. For tens of thousands of federal contractors the rule is no-work-no-pay even as the government forces many of its workers to work without pay.
So what’s it like inside the shutdown? While politicians who caused the shutdown continue their snail-like effort to find a solution, here’s a report from a Federal Aviation Administration employee hundreds of miles outside the Beltway in the real world:
“I feel like I am in purgatory. I am an active worker bee who loves to work. I wake early (4:30 am) everyday as it is in my DNA. I also go to bed early, always have and always will. Even in this furlough I wake up early.
“I am a pilot and love to fly airplanes. I’ve owned a flight school; aviation has been the core for most of my life. I am now employed by the Federal Aviation Administration. I have considered this job to be the best part of my aviation career, until this current shutdown. The concern I have is not with the FAA or my managers. I have awesome management who are easy to work with and truly care about their employees.
“I am concerned I may not be able to pay my bills without obtaining a loan. I just withdrew hard earned savings to cover the current missing paycheck, and have enough to cover another. But I do not want to take money earmarked for property taxes to cover my paycheck. I am beginning to stress out over the missing pay. It hurts. I could not register for the Pan-Mass Challenge as I cannot afford the registration fee.
“No money is being spent outside of bills, and food. Each penny that is being spent has to be justified. This is not a vacation, and being in the government-induced purgatory is about as close to hell as one can get. One foot out of the federal service and the other foot still in the federal service.
“I do not want to get into how I also stress about how this shutdown is affecting aviation safety. All I can say is Washington is playing with fire and at some point the system will break down. My work just suddenly stopped along with everyone else. How does a safe system just suddenly stop all work and oversight?
“I am close to retirement so leaving federal service, for me, at this point in my life makes no sense. Plus, like many other government employees I have employment restrictions. But if I was younger, I would seriously consider leaving government service and fly for an airline as the airlines are in a hiring frenzy. I could make more money, have a better retirement, better health care, and have flight privileges for me and my family. The government pay and benefits lag behind the aviation industry.
“To cope with the anxiety I have been riding my bicycle in subfreezing weather — yup, very cold but better than stressing out. I also play in a 60-piece community band, a lot of bad notes coming out of my horn lately. I walk a lot with our dog. I have done work on my home, and now am collecting information to file the state and federal income tax. I pray for snow so I can shovel the snow and plow it so I do not have to sit around stressing about what is next financially for me and my family.
“I can honestly say, flying an inverted flat spin in an airplane is a whole lot easier than trying to understand government shutdowns and the games being played by people I only know from news articles. Do these people really not care about their employees? I am very discouraged and see no end to this game that is being played with me and 799,999 others as a pawn.
“This current shutdown, I believe, is the biggest insult to federal employees. Please do not use my name. Yeah, we worry about having that big bulls eye on our backs.”
The song “The Twelve Days of Christmas” was an English carol first published in 1780, but the version most sung today, with the two-bar emphasis on “five go-old rings,” was written by Frederic Austin in 1909 and is copyrighted.