Thursday, July 10, 2014





Will you indulge some furlough flights of fancy?


October 11. 2013 7:11PM


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It is my fervent hope that two of my closest friends will never read this musing. But in life sometimes you must roll the dice, so here goes. If they do read — across the miles? Well, all I can do is assure them that what I am about to say is said out of love. And maybe some jealousy. Nothing more.


My dear friends are federal employees in D.C. Highly intelligent, hard-working, dedicated federal employees, I must stress, but nonetheless federal employees. Which means right now they are unemployed and, as far as I can tell, not exactly happy about the mess we’re all in.


But they’re making do. And by that I mean making the best use of their time. They’re knee-deep in home renovations again. Hence my envy.


Now granted, I do not possess the impressive skill sets they do: Somehow they manage to be intellectual thinker types who also happen to know how to do things such as lay pavers. And cut tile. And grout it, too. I’ve seen the evidence with my own eyes in their impressive D-I-Y three-season room. So with plenty of extra time on their hands now, they’re at it again, ripping up and redoing, sanding and stripping and doing battle with the inevitable glitches that come with installing new kitchen finery.


The only one who appears unequivocally discontented with this all, however, is the little white dog, heaven bless him. On social media, I witnessed his sad eyes staring plaintively into the camera, atop a caption that read “Please let me have my house back.” (Apparently, it’s tough to nap through all the construction.)


Underneath, someone posted this comment, words in a dog’s mouth: “Don’t you people have jobs?”


Ha. OK, so I admit that one gave me a laugh.


But it also gave me an idea: What if all of us got to go through a shutdown once each year or even every few years? A week or so in which we lost our livelihoods — but not our paychecks; retroactive, please! — and were banished to our homes to find something different to do? Such as home improvement. Pardon what are surely flying leaps of logic, but think what such an arrangement might do for this still-depressing economy, especially if we all played nice and marched in an orderly fashion.


Stay with me here.


If, for example, my colleagues and I were home for an extra week you might not get a newspaper for that time period, but a greater good could be accomplished. If we all agreed to spend money we didn’t have (yet) to stimulate someone else’s livelihood, why we might set the economy on fire one week — one birthday candle — at a time, no? I’d consider new cabinetry, my friend across the room might splurge on a new driveway, and someone across the room from him might do all-new flooring. See where I’m going?


And we need not limit ourselves to home improvement. Someone else might decide to dine out three times per day for a week, stimulating the local restaurant scene, and still others might engage in some serious retail therapy. The only rule? You could not lie around and do nothing while on furlough. No exceptions.


Yeah, yeah, I know, I’m conveniently forgetting how the people whose turn it is to have the time off would pay for all of what they’re happily buying into, but I’m sure we can work out those little details. Especially if we all pulled together in fine congressional fashion.


Heck, my furloughed friends in D.C. not only have a wealth of time now but a wealth of offers before them when they need a break from renovation, everything from free coffee, burgers and fried chicken to free knitting classes and — my personal favorite — free graduate school. Now how do all those we-feel-your pain businesses pay for these kindnesses? By charging members of Congress twice as much for same, of course.


Now there’s an idea I can get behind. Someone bring me a couple of cans of paint and a bus full of lawmakers.




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