Saturday, March 04, 2023

Sudden Silences

 One of the unusual things following the essential completion of my project at work is that I rather suddenly have a great deal of "free" time.

It is not surprising of course:  When one is on a single project, especially at the end, one's time becomes consumed with meetings and follow-ons and timeline updates and e-mails (the bread and butter of the project manager).  

And then, very oddly, it all stops.

It is an odd silence, the silence of the power going out at one's home:  one almost realizes it as an after effect, that thing in the back of one's mind that is not immediately obvious: "Why is the refrigerator not running?", and then it hits one that all the little bits and pieces of an electric home - not just the refrigerator but the appliance clocks and power indicator lights on smoke alarms have all suddenly stopped working.  

It is very much like that.

The first few weeks are not too odd - there are still items to closeout and files to be filed and timelines to be updated.  But all to soon, those tasks are done.

Where the calendar used to be chock full of meetings - 7 + hours a day - there is now only maybe 2-3 hours at best.  E-mails slow to a handful, to be immediately responded to and filed. One starts to catch whiffs of other ongoing projects that themselves have taken critical path of which one is not involved in, mentioned in passing references with colleagues or "we will discuss it at XXX meeting" references in other meetings.

Snow brings silence.

Above is the approximate view from the office window at The Ranch.  This is about as deep as the snow got (5"/12.7 cm) today.  This is my view every morning that I work from here.

Stepping outside to just watch it (I could watch it fall endlessly, but then again I do not have to deal with it as anything more than a novelty), I am always struck by the silence that snow brings.  Part of that has to be due to the fact that when it is actively snowing (at least here), not much is going on.  There is even less traffic from over the hill than usual.  The outside animals one can here - dogs, chickens, cattle - is gone.  There are no birds about of course, the only thing on the wind are the flakes which fall, more quickly or slowly as the wind moves them.  The snow seems to eat the sound.

Why is it that one set of silences disturbs me while the other is soothing?  It is not as if the snow is "task free" - for all of my sitting here watching it, I will need to go out soon and shovel it to make sure I can get out the following day to get back to the airport.  At the moment the snow is as omnipresent as my continuing seeming lack of work - yet I accept the shoveling and preparation as another task to accomplish.  The work situation has equally no tasks, yet I cannot escape the guilt of not having tasks in my mind.

The e-mail box behind me sits and shimmers, a white screen with files that does not change.  The snow equally sits in front me - not shimmering, but almost glowing as it continues to gather on the ground.

Only the fire pops in the background, quietly burning low.


  1. Nylon128:16 AM

    Perhaps snowfall is natural where a project is man-made, just my two centavos worth.

    1. Fair, Nylon12. Most of the stress really does come from the man-made portion of my life.

  2. Filthie9:15 AM

    Periodic booms and busts are the way of things up here in Alberta, TB. And the layoffs crashes. It forces you to plan and think about finances and such. It’s easy to take it too personally especially if you have a work ethic. It drove me bonkers too.

    1. Glen, in my line of work - biopharmaceutical/medical devices - all but one of the companies I have worked for is small (< 250 people), which generally means they are always about two years away (on paper) from not having enough money. On one hand, you learn to live the fact that you are always almost "on the edge".

      On the other hand, I have (since 2020) become highly attuned to shifts in the work environment. A reduction in workload, or finishing projects without replacing them with new ones, can be a predecessor of either being let go or encouraging you to find a new job on your own. I do not believe this is the case now, but it has definitely perked my ears up.

  3. When I hired on at my last job, the first six weeks were so slow. Training on their systems, and no one to train me. Being the boss's secretary for a while. I felt guilty not being productive. I was told not to worry about it. "You'll eventually pay for it." I remembered that one night, about the third trip from dispatch to the tower site to see why the new modems weren't linking. I wound up sleeping in the network room on some packing material about 0430, after reverting to the older modems that worked. The morning shift showed up at 0730 and woke me up.

    Maybe you can move all the abacus beads to one side (factory reset??), or polish the three handled family gradunza. Warp speed cometh nigh... And that right soon.

    1. It is a good point STxAR - I actually just finished a really big project which, if successful, could change the company's fortunes. So it is not as if I have been doing nothing all this time.

      I did speak with a colleague about this. Her opinion was that this sort of lull happens from time to time and not to read too much into it.

  4. I never worked anywhere, where I only worked on a single project at a time. More often than not, I had a handful or projects going at anyone time so as one tailed off, I just put more time in on another. The benefit was that there was never a time of silence. The drawback was that there never was a time of silence.

    1. Ed, when I worked in Quality it was very much the same - there were always balls in the air. In my current role, we have a limited number of projects (due to the amount of time to get it to that status and money, of course), so at the moment I at the point that my projects are in the maintenance phase, which at this point involves one to two major events a year for the next 1-3 years.


Comments are welcome (and necessary, for good conversation). If you could take the time to be kind and not practice profanity, it would be appreciated. Thanks for posting!