Let’s talk about work and the pandemic a bit more. Friday, word came down from on high that the guaranteed hours are going away. This was not unexpected. Most everything is reopening and everyone seems to want to get back to business as usual and the normal routines of life. Sure, the pandemic isn’t over, but it’s summer and nobody wants to be cooped up in the house. But that is neither here nor there. This is about me, work, and all those guaranteed hours.

What I’m wondering is, what with all my fiscal pondering last week, how did I make out on this deal? Doing the math, I come up with a total of 225 hours of guaranteed time that were made available to help during the pandemic shutdown. I went through my timecards and calculated up how much of that I took advantage of and how much PTO/vacation time I used to cover the difference. The numbers are interesting, to me anyway. Anything in my 40-hour week that wasn’t PTO or administrative would by simple deduction have to be actual time working. So how did I do?

Of the 225 hours offered up I took advantage of less than a third of the available hours, 70.75 to be exact. I was out working and earning money for the company the rest of the time. So, what does that work out to, like 31-32%. I think they made out okay and I certainly don’t have to feel like I took advantage of their generosity. But how much did I pay myself during that same time period?

Since my PTO started being impacted 3-weeks before the guaranteed hours, I’m going to calculate the possible hours for this period at 520. You take those 225 guaranteed hours away and you’re left with 295 that I was left to fill with paying client hours. What with all the closures, stay away orders, and emergencies only clients, I came up short. I used 133.5 hours of PTO to round out my timecard during this time. Some weeks there was more work than others, but on average I was using 10.25 hours of PTO a week.

The long and the short of it is that during this pandemic, which impacted my hours for the past 13-weeks. I took advantage of a third of their generosity and spent 56% of my vacation time. They’re telling me it’s over and I hope they’re right, but I’m pretty sure they’re not. I’ve still got appointment only clients, call first clients, and half my banks are still closed. But maybe that’ll change next week. Only time will tell. Later.

I want to vent a bit. I have a good job. My employer has done right by us, in my opinion, during this whole pandemic. They couldn’t lay us off, because that would most likely void their contracts with the clients who want maintenance services to be available when they need them. When something breaks, someone has to fix it, whether that building is open or not. So, while I may not be working, I’m always oncall for those clients. Even during the pandemic.

As I finalized my timecard for last week, I realized that I have reached a point where Covid-19 has taken up 2/3 of my available paid time off. All of that has gone to round out my timecard to the 40-hour mark. The pandemic started cutting into my workload on March 17th. I have managed to get some hours in each of the subsequent weeks, but I’ve only had one 40-hour week since then and that was only because of the Memorial Day holiday.

I used four days of vacation before the 20-hour guarantee was implemented by my employer, but still had to use 2.5 days of PTO to round that out to my 40-hour weekly paycheck. And even with the increase of that guarantee to 25-hours, I’m still using 15-hours a week of PTO to keep the lights on around here. My intention is not to whine or complain, but I’m just a bit frustrated.

That frustration comes, not from the fact that I’m not getting a 40-hour guarantee, but because I’m getting enough work to basically negate the “free” money implicit in that guarantee. I am working enough that they don’t have to give me any of that guaranteed money and I still need to use my PTO hours. The clients are benefiting. The company is benefiting. I’m getting screwed.

Sure, I’ve got lots of time off. But that time isn’t really mine. I mean, I’m using vacation time, but I’m most definitely not on vacation. Because all day long I’m basically waiting for the next call to come in and send me off with the van. And with the current state of things, those calls are mostly ‘urgent’ and ‘emergency’ issues that need to be responded to the same day. Even on the days that I don’t get calls, which is most of them, I’m still not out from under the shadow of work. Gotta be ready to go. Essentially, the worst of both worlds.

I’m glad to have the income. I’m glad to have a job. I’m very fortunate. But I also have other feels… like I’m screwing myself out of free money that another person would just sit home and soak in the benefit… like when I do get a call, emergency or not, I should go do that work as I’m getting paid to make money for the company… like there will be no short days, sick days, or vacations for the next six months…

I think things are getting busier and that we’re getting closer to business as usual. In the next week or two I imagine that a 40-hour week will once again be the norm. From that vantage I’ll be able to look back at the vacation I could have had with all that used PTO and free money and wonder, what was I thinking and why did I do things the way I did.

There you have it. Just venting my thoughts and feelings. Again, I think I’m coming out of this mess in great shape and wish that was the case for everyone. Still. I’m frustrated. Later.

Logged in to work this morning to check on things and found an email from somewhere up the chain. Apparently, we’re calling this scenario a reduced work schedule. Which is a pretty accurate, if you ask me. What with my workload having been reduced to nothing.

The good news, no layoff. The bad news, half pay. I’ll take that. It’s not the best situation, but it’s better than the alternative. Basically, we’re going to get 20-hours even if we don’t have any billable work in any given week. Which allows us to maintain our status as full time employees.

Obviously, this is temporary and is due to the pandemic crisis that is impacting everything. And they were very clear in the email that this could change anytime, at the sole discretion of the company, and that this does not guarantee continued employment. i.e. if this doesn’t work out, we’ll be going to layoffs. Which is completely understandable. It would suck. But, I get it.

I appreciate what they’re doing and it just goes to showing why I’ve been happy working for them for the last 12-years. They may or may not be a giant evil corporation, but they treat me well.

I haven’t done the numbers, so I’m not sure how this impacts my bills, but it will keep me from burning through all of my PTO. Well… It will extend the amount of time I can survive on my PTO.

Let’s get this pandemic under control, because, I’d rather be working. Later.

gif by google photo

Well, it was bound to happen. I may be considered an essential worker, but most all of my customers have instructed that I should only respond to emergency work orders, and there haven’t been any of those in a while. Today, two things happened. The first, was that I finished up the last three outstanding work orders that I had for the only customer who hasn’t imposed any restrictions on site visits. And the second thing was, the only customer who hadn’t imposed any restrictions on site visits imposed site visit restrictions. I’m both out of work and out of customers.

What does that mean? No answers for that, just yet. At this point they still want us to be available for emergencies, so layoffs are kinda out of the question, but paying us to stay home and do nothing but wait, is not a thing. I’ve done all my training courses, so that’s not an option. Until I hear otherwise I’ll be doing the worst kind of vacation. You know, the kind where you use your PTO hours while still making yourself completely available to go on a call.

I’ve got a good bit of PTO, so I’ll be okay for about 4-weeks. But then there will be no other days off for the rest of the year, the family vacation will get missed, and I’ll have to not get sick. It’s better than getting laid off, at least this way I keep my benefits. Oh well. Like I said, not ideal. But still, better than a lot of folks.

I’ll be very glad when this is over.

If you were wondering where I was for the last 10 days or so, or maybe just why there were no posts for the last little bit, I’m going to address that in the next couple posts. If you really need to know and don’t want to wait, here’s the condensed version. I took some PTO to indulge in a birthday, anniversary, vacation, and being sick. If you want or need more, keep reading.

I took a stretch of PTO to encompass my birthday and wedding anniversary (not the same day) and extended to a weekend trip with the family to Hocking Hills, Ohio. Last year my mom set up a trip to Mackinac Island here in Michigan and my brother hooked us up with a nice condo on the island. This year my mom found us a cabin at Trickle Creek, so I loaded up the arohen family and set off to meet up with the same crew that was with us last year.

Three of us packed up and hopped in the car to pick up our fourth on the other side of the state. We were on the road before nine and had the whole crew together and on our way toward Ohio by eleven. The youngest of our brood was feeling a bit under-the-weather, but he persevered for the sake of a free vacation.

The trip there was mostly uneventful. We missed one turn on the GPS and it recalculated our route before we realized we’d missed it, which led to a long trip across Ohio through farm country, nearly running out of gas, and then stopping for gas at what was probably the only gas station in 10-miles or better. Seriously, they were 3-deep waiting for gas on a Friday afternoon. It was kinda crazy. We had one stop for lunch at what I thought was an unknown BBQ joint. Turns out it’s a chain and I’ve eaten at the one in Jenison, Dickey’s. Not bad. Not great. We finally arrived at the cabin and into the arms of our waiting family just about 5:30 PM. We watched a couple of my mom’s vacation videos, had a chicken dinner, played some apples to apples, and just caught up with everyone’s lives to finish out day one of the trip.

There were eight of us in total and the cabin was plenty roomy for us all. Two decks, a fire pit, hot tub, and even a tabletop shuffleboard and bumper pool tables. There was a decent sized kitchen, a grill on the deck, and a big farm-style dining table that fit everyone. It was very nice. A good choice on my mom’s part.

Saturday morning I made coffee and started breakfast with a little help from the middle-child and everyone else; eggs, meats, potatoes, and breads. Then we split-up into two cars, hit the Hocking Hills visitor center for some touristy information, and then made for Ash Cave. We went for a short hike, saw some amazing rock cliffs, and what passes for a cave in Hocking Hills. Really, more of a rock overhang. I’ve been to caves. This, a cave, it is not. But still very cool and very inspiring for wilderness adventures.

Our next stop was a bit more elaborate welcome center and another hike, this time to Old Man’s Cave. Just as we headed out towards the cave the park rangers raced past us and we heard enough to know someone had fallen. Turns out it was a 22-year-old man who fell 75-feet somewhere by the upper falls. We didn’t hear the details until later, but we saw him brought past on a stretcher and heard the helicopter come in. Sad to hear that he died the following wednesday. Honestly, I’m surprised he didn’t die on impact. Everywhere we walked was rock and falling 75-feet onto limestone is no laughing matter. The trails here were a bit rougher than expected and my folks were convinced to turn back, though they did venture down and then back up a very dark carved staircase. I don’t fault them in the least, it was something of a struggle to convince my lovely wife to take a few of those trails and she’s got 20 years on them both. We backtracked and walked some of the smoother trails, saw more amazing rock faces, and wished there was more water rushing over the falls. Probably the early spring, during the snow melt, is the best time for that vista. It made for a nice day.

Afterward, we went back to the cabin for a afternoon cocktail and then split into smaller groups. One group went to a moonshine distillery tour, split again, and one group went fishing and the other went grocery shopping. I stayed at the cabin with the folks and visited, moonshine and gout don’t really get along well together. Once we all reconvened, our aspiring chef prepared hamburgers for dinner. A bit later we did s’mores around the firepit and even later still, after I was asleep, there was some drinking and hot tubbing to finish out day number two of the family vacation.

Sunday morning I made pancakes, blueberry and pineapple upside down, along with some help making the rest of the feast. Afterward, mom passed out a couple Christmas gifts that she found in her garage for Lady Ronn and myself. Which was unexpected to say the least. Then we loaded into the cars and headed to Rock House. Which is a real cave and not much of a house, though it’s not a terribly big cave. I’d say it’s bigger than a house, but with far less level floors. Again the path got rough and we split. I took the boys and went up to the Rock House and over the ridge trail. The rest of the crew turned back, which after forging the trail I think was for the best. There were some serious steps going up to the top of the ridge. Once we were done at the park we went to see a glass blowing show, but they weren’t blowing on Sunday. Which kinda blew. And then we stopped at a big flea market for browsing and lunch before heading back to the cabin. We finished the last of the cocktail, had an afternoon snack, and listened to a lively debate between two individuals 60-years apart in age. The day ended with us leaving, but it was great to spend time with the family and we had a great time. I only wish we could do this sort of thing more often.

We had the cabin until Monday morning, but the arohen family had to leave Sunday evening so that one of the boys could get to work and Lady Ronn could start the Fall semester at GRCC the next morning. We left closer to 7 than 6 PM on Sunday, stopped once for gas and food, and made it home at 4 AM. School was at 9 AM, work at 11 AM, and I slept in until noon. Ain’t vacation nice. But then, by Wednesday evening I knew I had contracted whatever plague the youngest boy had brought with him on the trip. I’ll write about that next. Later.

My back is very sore!

That is all. Have a great day.

drop ceiling / soffit
drop ceiling grid / soffit
wiring straightened
wiring for lights
put wall back together
tunes, tools, and time off to relax and enjoy life

Just kidding. Lots of drywall mudding, sanding, seeing errors, mudding, and sanding. But pictures of that are boring and hard to see any change. Maybe once things are primed. The ceiling grid is up, but it’s not hung from wires yet. I spent an hour in the garage yesterday trying to find my hanging screws and the special bit that goes with them… How can I never find what I know I have in my garage? Anyway, I’m not making a run to Home Depot just for that. Wiring for the shelf lights is done and the wall at the bottom of the stairs put back together. I decided against rerunning the three electrical wires that run across my basement and opted instead to just straighten them up. It’ll have to do. I feel really close to being done with the drywall.

I’m sure primer will change that opinion. I’m going to go eat and let my back freeze up nice and tight. Oh, btw, thanks to my neighbor, Ted, for saving me a trip to the hardware store and for giving me a piece of ceiling grid.

I’m out of here. Later.

Yesterday did not feel like a productive day. I did a lot of stuff and was working until after 8 pm, but it doesn’t feel like it.

More spot fixes of the drywall. Hung one light and rehung another. Finished building my suffit. And then at the end, because things were getting out of hand, I cleaned up my workspace.

a little something to hide the plumbing

I need to pick up some 2-foot long cross-ties for the ceiling grid. I’m going to put a light in that space next to the main plumbing drain line.

things got worse than this before I cleaned up

I cleaned out and started working on the laundry room today. But so far, the absolute biggest pain and least fun thing about this has been finishing those shelves I built net to the stairwell. So many corners and so little space to work.

Lunch is done, back at it. Later.