What do you need to do everyday?

Work. Sleep. Eat.  Basic hygiene.

That’s it really.  When we get outside of that we get outside of the concept of “need.”  But honestly there are other things we need to feel ok.  To be normal and stable.  I don’t need them everyday, but how long can I go without them before I start to lose it?
I need to surf the internet for an un-interrupted hour.  I need to sit on the couch next to my lovely wife.  I need to read a book to my boy.  I need to pick up Joule and spin around to make my girl laugh.  I need to do some laundry.  I need to re-stock the fridge.  I need to exercise.  I need to socialize.

I’ve worked 12hr shifts for most of 4 years now.  It’s really not that big a deal.  You can’t get everything done on a work day that you probably would if you worked for the “normal” 8 hours, but that’s balanced out by working fewer days.  You settle for meeting fewer of your needs, and for only getting 6 hrs of sleep for 4 nights in a row.  Then you get caught up on your days off.

Well I’ve just gone through an outage and let me say that this pattern is unsustainable over longer periods.  From the time I go to sleep at 11PM to the time I get home from work at 6:30PM  uses up 19 +1/2hrs of my day.  The outage required shifts to double up, and the hours spent at work were more intense than usual.  Couple that with how the shifts happened to hit when we started and ended the outage and me having to cover for C-crew CRO rolling out of that and I end up working 29 of 32 days before I get 2 days off in a row.  Today is day 24 of this marathon.  The outage is over and I’m on “normal” night shifts.  I’ve missed 2 birthday parties, the pinkpalace crafts fair, and taking my zombie ballerina toddler to the haunted house.  I’m going to miss another birthday party for my nephew and will have worked all night before my sons birthday party, and then will be going back onto day shift the very next day.  I’m going to go 5 weeks without tutoring my sister in-law in physics.

And my precious wife is spread just as thin as I am.  She doesn’t get a break from the childcare unless I have time off to give it to her, and the (at most)2 hrs aday I’m giving her now is not sufficient to restore her.  It’s just enough to delay the collapse.

We’re all running around with red diamonds over our heads like angry little sims.

red diamond of misery

red diamond of misery

I can’t remember where  I put anything.  I can’t plan a meal.  If I can’t do it on automatic it doesn’t get done.  Oh sure, my paycheck is almost double what it would normally be, but I’m pretty sure I crossed the money/happiness threshold before overtimageddon.

When I was in the navy there were times when I was worked like a dog.  Times when we were preparing for an underway, or drilling and cleaning and training  to prepare for ORSE.  The hours were even more demanding.  The down time consisted of an hour I should’ve been sleeping spent reading in my rack.  Your rack barely has enough room to roll over in and I often woke with one of my arms asleep.  But in a lot of ways it was easier.  You didn’t have to think about food, and they guy the few guys that were worried about dishes weren’t worried about much else.  Your wife and kid might as well have been on a different planet.  There was a sense of purpose.  A sense that we were all in this together.  And on the worst days you’d sit around and fantasize about how good it would be to be a civilian, where you could tell your boss to go fuck himself and there was no threat of captains mast hanging over your head.

It seemed so logical that if an employer was forced to pay you time and a half (instead of owning you by the month), they would hesitate to ask you to work more than 40hrs/week.  And sometimes that seems true.  Other times it’s a farce that makes me weep with weakness.

From an economics standpoint the answer is obvious.  They value my contributions at more than 150% of my normal wage.  Clearly I should renegotiate.  However my ability to demand more money is limited by the availability of alternate jobs at similar wages.  There’s no teeth to my negotiation unless I’m willing/able to walk out if my demands aren’t met.


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