One advantage to my current workplace is that I can bike to work. (And, though I’m in the D.C. area, I don’t have to worry about the government shutdown/Capital Crescent Trail closure since I work in Maryland.)
When I first got this job, I was moving from a downtown area near the White House to a place that’s only four miles and change from home. It’s a route I routinely jog and know well—how many times have I been passed by cyclists on the same route? I figured I could do active commutes going forward and duly asked my husband for a birthday bike. He thought it was a great idea and spent a nice chunk of change on buying and tricking out a new bike for his wife.
I love my bike. So much. I want to hug it. And I want to apologize to it that I haven’t been able to use it as frequently as I’d like to.
My job has made it nearly impossible to set a consistent active-commute schedule. Because of the unpredictable nature of my boss, I never know if, as I’m about to leave at 6pm, he’ll call me or dash out of his office and demand that I stay to edit something right.now. Never mind that I’ve been here since 8:30am, 9am, and he’s had all day to reach out to me. No, he needs it now.
Or, better yet, major projects will be due, I’ll know nothing about them until the day or week of, and I’ll end up working until 8:30pm, 10pm, sometimes 2am. I’ve pulled 16-hour days here quite a bit since I’ve started … and I used to work in disaster management and event planning. It was never like this.
For the most part, I put my foot down and say that I won’t be staying late. Or that I’ll work from home, please send me the document. But it’s wearying, having to constantly fight for the boundaries, so there are times when I completely abandon my bike or running shoes and bus or drive in to work.
And it’s hilarious (in a way that makes you want to cry), because my boss likes to test me. After working nearly 30 hours of overtime over the last week, I left on Monday at 5:30pm. I had come in at 8:30am to work on a last-minute proposal. I had worked 10 hours on Sunday. I had decided I was biking in on Monday because I needed to move. What does this asshole do? Call me at 5:34pm. I didn’t see the call until I came in on Tuesday, but really? You’re that petty, checking in to see if I go back to my normal, sane routine after all the work I’ve put in for you?
But Tuesday I also biked in. There is nothing going on. The company lost all the contracts it bid for this year. The government, its biggest client, is shut down. What the ever-loving fuck is needed?
Oh, the need to control me. That’s right.
When I interviewed, I was told that their office culture was routine and typical; 9am to 5pm, sometimes 6pm. When I arrived and stuck to that schedule, my boss sat down to talk to me: I needed to come in from 9am and stay until 7:30pm, 8pm. I gave him a bright smile, said that did not work for me and my husband, mentioned it should’ve been discussed in my interview (implying gently that I would not have taken this job with such unrealistic expectations), and stated I would stay no later than 6pm every day. My compromise was that I would check my email periodically until 7:30pm once I got home. After that point, I was off the clock so that I could spend time with my husband. And of course, with any major deliverable, I would contribute as much as everyone else. My boss agreed to this arrangement, but still likes to test me periodically—even after putting in mondo hours. Son of a bitch.
So the bottom line of this post, which started out in praise of my bike and has ended up as a rant about my work, is this: another advantage that I thought was a part of this job is not present. Besides not being the manager than I thought I’d be, besides there not being a stable editorial process, besides not having any control over my workload, there’s also the fact that my hours are erratic. It leaves me tired, unhappy, unable to motivate myself to actively commute into work. I do my best to put myself first (and try to hit the gym before work), but what I had envisioned has not come to pass. It’s so frustrating.
Being so close to work, I mirror the previous editor (who was here for a decade). Everyone says to me that “Bob kept crazy hours. He would go home, eat dinner and come back!” To which I always answer, “I’m not Bob.” I think my bosses thought they were getting another Bob. Instead, they got TTC Writer, who likes to have a work-life balance and will fight tooth and nail to have it. Which I’m hoping is not long as I’m actively searching for a new job. I’ve already had a few bites.
This means that I probably won’t be biking after I leave as I’ll probably end up downtown, and the idea of biking from Maryland to D.C. still scares me (but maybe one day I’ll get there). I will, however, get back the three-mile walks I did every day, which kept some weight off.
(And that weight has crept on given my erratic schedule. So not only are they making me crazy, they’re making me fat at this company. Goddamnit.)
I will get out. And I’ll continue to use my bike as much as possible. But I really wish I could use it more than I do now.