How weird was Monday’s trifecta? First work day of the calendar year turns into snow day, and a serious one at that. This while the COVID pandemic rolls on. In the D.C. area, if you watched football all day Sunday, you took the trash out while it was still balmy. Then you woke up to an old-fashioned snowfall.
Some employees got automated phone calls from their agencies. These came late, like 11:15 p.m. on Sunday. And if you hung up on it —I mean, you could get the idea in 15 seconds — it called you back to make sure you heard the whole message. Diehards who watched the Packers beat the Vikings might have just dozed off.
Don’t blame OPM if your agency woke you up, though. It published the closure at 9:45 p.m. The agency has come a long way from the hesitancy days, when the closure word wouldn’t come until some employees were already stuck on the 14th St. Bridge.
I can’t help but thinking, though, how much less meaningful a one-day emergency office closure has become. In the past two years, the government, along with nearly every knowledge-based company, has invested heavily in both the technical and cultural sides of remote work. People joke about Zoom and its competitors, but they’ve provided effective enablers of remote work.
In my own work, which includes making sure there’s a fresh Federal Drive on the air every working day, working from home was unthinkable just a few years ago.
Monday, I looked out the bedroom window at 5:30 a.m. and saw snow had already whitened the roof of my shed. I thought, meh, I’ll just work from home today. Throughout the pandemic I’ve actually gone into my corporate studio for all but maybe five days. In fact, it’s more for snow than COVID that I maintain a nicely equipped home studio. Credit also goes to the electrical utility in my part of Maryland. Power used to go out if you sneezed too hard. Now it almost never does (typing with fingers crossed).
Author’s postscript: Finished the day at the office. Shortly after filing this column, Exelon, which provides reliability somewhat better than you find in, say, Baghdad, pooped out after all.
Now, my main worry is whether the snowblower will start. Or if the gas in it has turned to goo.
A big snowfall also brings to mind colleagues whose jobs require them to be on location regardless of the weather. Law enforcement, park rangers, air traffic controllers, TSA screeners, postal deliverers, medical people all form a long list. They’ve got to travel through, or be out in, the weather even when they don’t want to. I was thinking Monday, if I was retired, I’d take a nice, long walk through the snowstorm. But that would occur by my choice.
Somehow a snowstorm on the first Monday of the year reminds us of how little events we can control. At least now many people have more options on how to deal with a Monday like this.