My plan was the same as it had been the past few winters: to take no time off during my busiest time of year so that I could take more time off during my slowest time of year, which is summer. Thanks to my company's time-off program, I'm allowed to work holidays if I want to. I often work on all holidays except for Christmas, the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, and New Year's Day. I don't get paid extra for working on days such as Patriot's Day, but instead of taking a cold and blustery day off in the middle of the winter I torture myself with no time off throughout the rawest months. I then enjoy the low-crowd random summer weekdays under the warm sun instead. It's a deliberate decision with a concrete goal, but this year would be different.
It was early February and I was already beginning to feel the stress of a job that was quickly tiring me. President's Day was approaching and I couldn't help but think of how nice it would be to take a mental day off. I struggled with the thought of giving in so early in what would be a long and difficult annual project that was just beginning to stab its heels into me. I knew the day off would allow me one day of rest before the hard stuff began, but I also knew that I needed to prepare myself - to get over the hump, so to speak - of what would surely be long, intense hours of pure analytical tedium. I was slouched in my chair and twiddling a pencil between my fingers when the phone rang:
- Me: Hello?
- "Jello": Hey what's up?
- Me: Hey man, not much. How are you doing?
- "Jello": I could use some time off.
- Me: Couldn't we all?
- "Jello": No seriously, I'm stressed beyond belief, I haven't had a day off in months, money is pissing me off, the house is more work than I thought it would be, and so I was thinking of taking time off around my birthday at the end of March.
- Me (worried that this might eat into my plans of no time off during the winter): OK.
- "Jello": Yeah, so, how does Arches sound?
- Me: You mean, me flying out to meet you there?
- "Jello": Um, yeah. Why the hell else would I be calling?
I knew I was toast. I never had a chance. There I was contemplating taking one day off against my plans and here was "Jello" speaking of warm sunshine and a significant distance, both in body and mind, away from work.
- Me: Well, that's really my absolute busiest time of year. I'm usually jam packed in wall-to-wall meetings during that time. Some of those meetings are necessary and insanely difficult to schedule, too.
- "Jello": What do you want me to do about it?
Yup, I had no chance. He'd made up his mind. He (we) was (were) going to Arches sometime at the end of March. The dates hadn't been set yet, but that was the plan.
- Me: OK, let's talk more in a couple of weeks. I have to figure out my schedule. I'm still in the early stages of setting up my timeline the next few months, so I think I can work this in.
- "Jello": Cool. Just let me know.
We hung up and the phone rang again. The caller ID screen told me it was someone I needed to speak to. Her input was vital to my work, so I turned to my computer and started searching for flights.