Mawlers’ Big Adventure ’04:
Laws of Physics -- The Work Place

The first law of vacations, as discovered while contemplating a fig Newton, is that one must have time off of work (all other things being equal; i.e., that you actually have a job). Living, as we do, in the U.S., it is not customary to take more than a week at a time. I once took two weeks to travel in Mexico, the first part of which was a business trip, and my boss asked (and this is a quote): “what can you possibly do in Mexico for two weeks?” Surprisingly, Lea Ann and I found things to do.

More than mere custom, however, is the problem of vacation quantity, which brings up the second law of vacations: an employee at rest tends to stay at rest, unless plucked rudely from their Adirondack chair, slapped with the unfinished novel that had been, until that moment, lying open and unfinished and covered in drool on their chest, and summarily sent back to work. This law might be proven false if an employee were able to use enough time to actually recuperate from their mind-numbing drudgery. But I digress.

Suffice it to say, we did not have much time.

So we started planning in advance. Lea Ann and I begin by contacting our respective bosses (at the same company, mind you) a whole year in advance. At this point, our timeframes are a bit vague, to say the least, so we say things like: “I just want you to know that I will be on vacation in July. Or August. Or some combination of the two, not to exceed four weeks.” To which we receive the glassy-eyed response: “ok, remind me when it gets closer”, which is code for “I am not listening; whatever you said is so incredibly irrelevant to me right now, I could not hope to focus on it. Even if you remind me later, I will claim no knowledge and attempt to derail your plans.”

So we send email, as backup.

It should be noted that we are not actually making any plans at this point, unless you count looking at countless picture books about the Great White North, capitalizing phrases like the Great White North, and being generally dreamy about the whole thing.

It is about and we have only about five (5) months to go, so we need to remind our various levels of management that we have a month-long trip planned. Again, “planned” is a very loose term, but let us allow it for now at the risk of derailing the narrative. But we have a problem at this point: management changes.

My boss leaves the company all together. Now I need to break-in a new manager. Fortunately, this is someone I have worked for in the past, so not much trouble there.

Also around this time, Lea Ann’s staunch dedication to our company begins to waver. Within a couple of months, she has an entirely new job at another company. Her solution to the problem of four weeks off (“in a row!?!?”) is to get approval in writing before she takes the job. She does agree to take them without pay, but at least we can still go.

But wait. My entire organization shuffles again and I move to a boss for whom I have never worked. So, I launch a pre-emptive strike by sending an email to my old boss (not the one who left the company) asking to confirm the month vacation. He dutifully sends it to my new boss.

My new boss confirms the cynical statement above by reading the note, responding to it in the affirmative, and then seeing me in the office a week later and saying “I thought you were on vacation”. Consider that this exchange took place in April or May and my email clearly said July / August.

Shortly after all of this, we do manage to set the start and end dates of the vacation.

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The Laws of Physics -- Continuing Education

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All materials © 2004 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler