There are very few disadvantages to living in the Northwest.
The weather is mostly agreeable, as long as you can tolerate the rain, and the people, for the most part, are pleasant. I may tend to be down on people as a whole for the most part, but as individuals, most are top-notch citizens who are generally educated and can think for themselves. The scenery is beautiful, the beach is close by, the Quinault rain forest is near by and it is easy to get to both Seattle and Portland, Ore., for any needed urban renewals of the spirit.
But the one disadvantage I have is during the holidays – my entire family lives in California. The only ones I have here in Washington are my wife and her family, who I can safely say are certified nut cases. (Just kidding, my love!)
At work, most are Washingtonians and have family relatively nearby. I don’t. So, when the holidays come, everyone jockeys for position to get the time off to see family, friends and loved ones. And I sit in my little corner of the news room and figure out how to survive another family dinner without mine.
And that is where the two-year alternate plan came in. One year in Washington, one year in California. Simple and easy, I say.
I presented my vacation request nearly four months ago in June to my boss, the sports editor. The SE knew I was going to do this and was prepared. He’ll bring it to the managing editor later, when it is closer to making any decisions.
In August, the ME called me into his office and told me to close the door. Due to staff reductions on the news desk and the fact that I’m in the rotation to paginate news and sports pages on the weekends and because Christmas and New Year’s Day all fall on the weekend, my Christmas vacation request was denied. Flat out.
In my head, I went Defcon 5! I layed out my reasons for getting the time off:
- The city editor takes needed time off for heart surgery and I fill in the days to cover him, as does everyone else. He’s gone for 2 1/2 months.
- The assistant city editor takes needed time off for back surgery and I fill in the days to cover him, as does everyone else. He’s gone for 2 months.
- The ME takes a 2 1/2 week vacation in the midst of the sports department planning period and design/layout/writing/editing/publishing of the annual high school football special section. I fill in the days to cover him.
- Last Christmas, I worked every shift for the SE to allow him to visit his family in Seattle, including the weekend shifts after the holiday to give him a five to six day break.
- During the summer, the SE and entertainment editor, who also paginates sports and news pages, take 2 week vacations almost back-to-back. I fill in the days to cover them.
- My last vacations days were my wedding trip to Lake Tahoe, wiping out all of my meager two-week paid-time-off days for that. A honeymoon? Yeah, not with a special section upcoming…
I also threw in that they were warned months in advance and nearly two years ago when I last took that trip to California to see family and friends for Xmas.
I’m told that he can’t say yes or no, but I should have to wait to see what will happen.
This afternoon, I stepped back into the ME’s office, closed the door and asked him about any progress on my vacation… I was told there wasn’t any progress. Because of the lack of one paginator, things would be tough. I told him that I was being penalized for that and that I earned at least a vacation at the time of my choosing.
Also, I pressed the fact that my brother and sister-in-law will be giving birth to a new baby boy at or around Christmas and my presence was recommended. I also took the step to cut down the vacation to just cover one weekend (the holiday one) in order to show that I can be reasonable. (They just don’t know that I’m going to ask for 1 1/2 weeks in July to go to Tahoe, unless they are reading this… Hi!)
The cutdown was a concession that I will gain back in the future. It’ll make for a whirlwind trip to California, but I’ll be in California. Get it? Also, I’ll only lose four vacation days and will work NYE and NYD to regain time and money back.
In conclusion, I have little to no doubt that I’ll be here in Washington for the holiday. Why? As much as I believe both the ME and my colleages are reasonable men, there is an air of “If I can’t get Xmas off, why should he?” about all of this.
I also truly believe that if I do get this, it’ll get harder down the line in 2006 to do this again – kids, job, money, time, circumstance. The paper isn’t making a lot of money, enough to pay us but not enough to give us help where we need it and things may not be too different now than two years from now.
I hope this works. I really do. But I have little confidence that it will. I’ll know sooner than later. Then, I get to inform my Mom that her eldest son is stuck in Washington because of work for the holiday. I don’t wish that upon anyone…
(c) R. Burns