9.30 Saturday morning. I’m standing outside my office building, wondering where the security guard has gone. I call his mobile, which rings and rings until I notice that it’s sitting on the reception counter, charging.
When I finally get inside, the office is more or less deserted. No-one comes in on a weekend, except to use the car park while they shop.
Some quiet time, then, for catching up on the stuff I didn’t or couldn’t get done during the week. An opportunity to build the momentum that otherwise eludes me because of the phone calls and questions and crises that punctuate and occasionally overwhelm my working day.
There are workmen down the end of the office, but mostly they just sit there reading the paper and drinking tea. Two of them look at a hole in the ceiling (which has been the subject of controversy since part of it fell in the day after we moved in to these offices), but the effort tires them out and they soon go back to the racing form.
Eventually they wander off for a well-earned lunch break, leaving me entirely alone. The motion-activated lights go off, and the building shifts and groans in the wind. Got to concentrate on my work, or the noise creeps me out a bit.
I email a couple of draft contracts to new suppliers, and get acknowledgements back from each. I’m relieved that I’m not the only one sacrificing my weekend at the altar of the protestant work ethic, but then I realise that both own their business and (in theory at least) are making money from the effort.
Now the workmen are back, in a relative frenzy of ceiling-related activity. There are strange clanking noises from the roof. Are they building a robot army?
It’s all pointless. On Monday the ceiling will still sag and leak, as it has in every rain shower for the last five years. The workmen evidently realise the futility, and it’s not long before they decamp for good.
I catch up on some admin, including a job requisition for a new role in my team. This is good, because it means sending an email to a Very Important Manger, who will feel guilty that I was working on a Saturday while he was sailing with his kids.
The phone rings across the office; someone’s optimistic, I think. I briefly consider getting up to answer it, but the plan founders on the distance and my indecision about which comedy persona to adopt.
Now I’m signing off some letters that our paralegal has drafted. This is about as mundane as it gets, but the tedium is alleviated somewhat by her apparent inability to spell my name correctly.
Suddenly there are voices. Tiny, high-pitched voices. Elves? I wonder, slightly befuddled by an hour of typos and bad grammar. No, someone’s brought their children to the office while they pick up whatever it is that they can’t do without ’til Monday.
People always bring their families with them when they drop by the office on a Saturday. Once a woman in HR brought her mother in on a guided tour, which makes you wonder what alternatives were passed up when they planned their day out.
The children are less enthralled by Daddy’s office than expected, and the interruption is brief. Silence descends once more, broken only by the sound of the security guard’s hourly trips to the vending machine around the corner (the previous one used to spend most of the day in the bookies across the road, so this represents an advance in safety if not arterial health).
Soon, however, I realise that I have essentially been filing for the past 30 minutes. As much as I don’t have the time to do this on a normal day, it doesn’t seem like the sort of task that Mrs Bizzle envisaged me doing when I told her how important it was that I abandon her to her own devices for half the weekend.
So I shuffle off, out into the fading light and the milling, sated shoppers. At home there’s a bottle of Rioja and a slightly grumpy wife, and I’ll fall asleep on the sofa in front of a subtitled crime drama.
Why do I bother? I don’t enjoy working on a Saturday, in or out of the office. And yet I’ve worked seven Saturdays so far this year, out of a possible nine (if you don’t count New Year’s Day).
Well, there’s a lot of work on, and I’ve been two short in my team since the middle of January. As I’ve written before, I don’t get cut any slack for that.
And it’s important to me that legal isn’t seen to be holding things up, and that I set an example of responsibility and accountability for my team. All of this work is important to somebody (or at least that’s what they’ve told me), so that means it has to be done, right?
So I don’t think that I’m falling into the traps identified by Tom Kilroy and Paul Gilbert, but maybe that’s the tragic self-delusion of the workaholic lawyer. Is it time to take my life back?