Vacation Mode

Not all work and no play. Kennywood Park on a trip to Pittsburgh.

A friend of mine at work recently left for a vacation that will see him without an Internet connection for a few days. We were discussing the fact that we thought that should be OK and then we started talking about how it’s almost like you’re never not connected these days. There was a time when being on vacation meant being out of touch, even with family. My mother used to take my brother and I and her parents to a cottage on Lake Erie every summer for two weeks. During that time, she called my dad once or twice. “I’ll be on a train” “I’ll be on a plane” “I’ll be on vacation” all used to be synonymous with “you ain’t gonna be hearin from me.”

The first summer I worked at Peat Marwick, my best friend John asked me if I had any vacation plans. I told him where I was going. He said:

That sounds like fun, but when anybody here asks you where you are going, say ‘camping’. If you tell them where you’re really going, they will chase you down.”

Then he told me about being flown by private plane from Nantucket to Hartford for a 2-hour meeting.

Not what you want to see on vacation.

Later that year, I had to travel to Sevier, North Carolina. It’s a place, you can look it up. Given the temperature and humidity during that trip, I recall thinking that it was aptly named. Anyway, I was flying US Air and I had to change planes in Pittsburgh. Back in the early ‘80s, you could delay your connecting flight as long as you wanted. Since I was leaving NC on Thursday afternoon, I delayed my connection to Hartford until Sunday night so I could visit my parents on the cheap.

I had left my luggage at the hotel, so I could change out of my suit before flying home – you know, to get into vacation mode. When I returned to the hotel, the desk clerk said he had a message for me. The message was from my boss, instructing me to “fly back to Hartford for a very important meeting tomorrow!

I looked at the desk clerk and asked: “if I were to put a twenty dollar bill on this message, would you tell this guy you forgot to give it to me when he calls back?

He looked at me and said: “for twenty dollars, I can be downright stupid.

With a few exceptions to visit cool people/places, I spend most of my vacation days puttering around the house.

OK, ‘puttering’ probably doesn’t cover things like ripping the roof off your house and replacing it with a second floor. I had to mention that or the editor would have spit coffee on the draft.

My point is that I enjoy working around the house. I enjoy construction, renovation, building things in my shop and fixing things I can fix. I won’t go so far as to say that I enjoy replacing a toilet, but I enjoy spending the money I save somewhere else.

Several years ago, I devoted all of my vacation time to the removal and eventual replacement of our roof, forever altering the appearance of our house. Someday, the space above us will be living space, but that’s a different vacation, or three. I ran out of calendar that first year. We rode out a fairly normal New England weather with our new walls sheltered behind 6-mil black plastic. Actually, not a bad look. I’ve seen worse. A lot of people just seem to consider exposed Tyvek the same as siding.

The following year, I replaced the existing wood shingles and covered the new bare spots with vinyl siding. This wasn’t as dramatic a job as ripping off the roof, but there were days when the task list had to be complete in order to secure the perimeter, as it were. We replaced a bunch of windows, added some new windows and replaced the entry door and the storm doors on the porch. Holes in the wall and my editor do not mix.

To guard against interruptions during those jobs, I was only checking work email between 7:00 PM and 6:00 AM. To guard against derailing my career, I forwarded email from a few important people to my personal account. My boss at the time, was not among that group. One day, he was grousing to his boss that I wasn’t checking my email (he had sent me a personal request). His boss said: “I sent him an email two hours ago and I got a response right away.” Busted!

It’s vacation season. The boss I ignored has long since retired. I have a bunch of puttering planned for this summer and a bit more for October – I love taking vacation in October. I will check email from key people during comfort breaks, but otherwise I will appear to be camping.

I hope you enjoy whatever vacation plans you have this year. Feel free to disconnect, those people can wait.

60 thoughts on “Vacation Mode

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  1. Great post. Is that you in the last picture? I believe so. To be honest, I did that couple of years ago when I and Sarah just disappeared for 3 days. Only my brother knew where I was, my smartphone was off. The place where we stayed had no TV, no internet, no radio as well. The room just had a bed and a earthen water pot. It felt so good. The days were longer, the conversations were meaningful, the nature around was just beautiful and I had so much time to reflect on my actions, my past, my present and what I want to do in the near future. I am planning something similar this year as well. Well, of course, the only piece of technology that goes with me is my digital camera.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That is me in the picture. My wife took hundreds of pictures during that project. Disconnecting may be even more important for people your age than people my age. You have spend so much of your life connected in ways we (at best) only dreamed of.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah. Actually, I am more of a loner Dan. After my parents died, I actually had no one to talk to for around 4 years. Even today, I prefer to stay away from parties, social gatherings. I only talk to selected few, I don’t know how I select them. It just happens. I love craft work and that’s pending for a quite long time. During my school days, I used to make lamp shades and other artifacts in my spare time. I was a failure in school, no interest for reading and writing.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It looks great but when you take on a project you look for a PROJECT. I remember the days when you left work, waved goodbye and never saw or talked to anyone for a week or two, then we moved to the paging system and you wouldn’t respond unless you got a page, and then we moved on to hand held devices that received email and it was downhill from there for working people taking vacation. Enjoy your puttering just don’t push your editor over her edge. :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All projects are cleared with the editor. Some grow from their original plans though. It’s true what you say, working people today don’t have a chance of really escaping the reach of the mother ship.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Having a company cellphone and too much PTO time…not a good thing. I change my email to “out of office’ but still receive emails (yes, I do check even on vacation) saying, “Hey, Lois, I know you’re out but I hope you’re reading this….” Camping sounds great. :D

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do check email, but I tend to only glance at the inbox and delete the stuff I know I don’t want to read.I try not to open any during the day, but some people are important enough to matter. We’re a very small company, so there are times that an answer from me can help someone make progress. Quick answers don’t feel like work, it’s when someone wants me to do something that vacation mode is in jeopardy.


  4. Enjoy the puttering and stick to the plan on the emails, please – just to prove to me that it’s possible.
    I’ve got a week off booked for when I get back from our tradeshow at the end of the month and I plan on not checking office emails at all while I’m off. Honey is taking bets on how long I’ll hold out :-)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My wife likes to refer to that as “over a mile of lumber” which is accurate if you were to line up all the dimensional stock end-to-end. I’ll give that or her, as that’s how we had to move it. Thanks for dropping by.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yeah , that’s what would happen . Oh , well ! Power tools and beer do not mix well .Wouldn’t be that bad , though , now that I think of it . You’d have to help me with the explanation to my wife , probably . .

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, what an undertaking! He-Man has taken vacation to re-roof the house, and paint, but he wouldn’t think about doing the kind of construction you’ve done, but we’re living through our construction project pretty well. Thankfully we’re not the ones doing the actual building! :)

    Cruises are good for unplugging. we only check emails mid-way through the trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Now you know why I am so fond of your construction posts and pictures :) Actually, my friend that I was talking about at the outset here is on a cruise. That may be the last bastion of privacy, but only because they seem to charge so much for Internet access.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Your home is lovely and, as I’ve said before, I’m envious of your skills. That is one huge roof you worked on. Who helps when you need a second pair of hands or heft? (certainly not your photographer!)

    It’d be hard for me to wait for those ‘someday’ new rooms on the second floor since my puttering is more in the pile formation and half-finished art/writing projects which have been known to bow our walls!

    Take a look at your photo that begins “The plastic is gone; the holes have been cut … “. Your inadvertent typo (widows instead of windows) makes it sound like you’re looking for a few good women to chuck through those holes!!

    I know you’ll be chafed about the typo, but I am constantly trying new writing styles, and that entire line struck me as a funny and quite intriguing opening line for a humorous essay, short story or play.

    “The plastic is gone; the holes have been cut. We need widows – NOW!” 😀👏

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Sammy – I will correct the caption later but that’s funny. No, we do not need widows (‘cuz that would mean I’m gone). The upstairs rooms will be more important when I retire as we need a place to put me :)

      I was able to do most of the work myself. I had some equipment that helped lift stuff up to me, and the Mrs took care of the ground portion of that operation. She also carted all of the debris from the old roof into the dumpster. 9 tons, although I think she prefers to say “eighteen thousand pounds” – in any case, when I did the siding, I was mostly on my own for dumpster duty. My neighbor helped me on a couple of days. It was with work that I could do alone, but having two people made it go so much faster.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. She’s a warrior! 18,000 Pounds😀

        Sounds like you two co-operate on ‘most’ home projects better than some couples! (Or your editor is adept at red-lining the horror stories!)

        Liked by 1 person

        1. She is a retired warrior. She has no appetite for such projects in the future and that one was very taxing, as it required more work than I imagined. We have completed a lot of projects together. I can tell the horror stories, but I prefer to dribble them in over time. It is true that I could never have completed that project without some amazing ground support from my sweet wife.

          Liked by 1 person

  7. Vacation is for whatever you like to do to relax. And I don’t think any boss should be able to get a hold of you either. Geez. Did you see Bletchley Park? I loved that series on PBS about the women code breakers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I totally agree. Yes, I did see Bletchley Park. I had one free afternoon in London and I chose to take a train out to see that. Many exhibits were still under construction but I had a wonderful time. Most people criticized my choice to avoid the typical tourist attractions for that, but I did enjoy it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would like to see it too. I started reading a book about that history but the author was too dry for me. I like reading about the women because they were not given any recognition for their contributions and they were sworn to secrecy so they couldn’t talk about it for years.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Always amazes me that your editor gave the go ahead to rip off the roof. Great post Dan. I had a boss who was the CEO of the company. I ran off to Mexico where the closest phone was in town at a sister hotel from where I was staying. I came in from a swim near dinner time and there was a handwritten note from him (delivered by courier) hanging on my door. The essence of the note was to get back to the office since all hell has broken loose. The real issue was he missed me. I called him from town (19 miles away from my hotel) and spoke for two hours. he felt better and “allowed” me to return on my original flight which was three days away. This was in 1988 before we all had cell phones. (dark ages)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How did we work for the same guy and not know it John? Did he also pressure you to use your vacation time or lose it? In many ways, the dark ages were better. I feel like everything needs a “Stealth Mode” button on it these days.

      As for the editor ant the whole permission thing, there wasn’t much choice. the previous home owner had done a very bad job of upkeep. If we had tried to simply replace the shingles, we would have ended up replacing a lot, if not all of the plywood and many of the rafters. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that she was in favor of the project, but her support was essential.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes I had to take vacation as an example to those who reported to me (HR procedure). My editor gets nervous when I need to change a light bulb. I am gaining some cred though. I replaced a faulty wall plug and did the porch work. Funny thing she had great confidence when I tore a car apart and put it back together. I guess it is a home thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow. I’ve never been bothered during a vacation. In fact, at a law firm I worked at, my boss was all, “If your flight comes in on Sunday, just stay home until Tuesday.” One of the things I loved about this vacation was that I never opened my laptop the entire time. I took it everywhere, like a writer should, but I never took it out of the bag. I also didn’t crack a single book the entire time. My vacation was about people, and I enjoyed the people :) At night, when we got back to the hotel(s) I’d play on Twitter or like a WP comment or post our location for certain people, but I really enjoyed not being connected all the time. The one outlet I loved during vacation was Instagram.
    I will say, one of the things I struggled with was how many people wanted to meet up while we traveled through. I think most people were understanding that we don’t see our big kids or my parents very often, but I can tell some feelings were hurt.
    When our babies were babies, sometimes our parents would take them for 3-4 day trips and we’d do a home project or I’d scrapbook, and I loved those mini vacays, even though people said that wasn’t a vacation. (Usually people who didn’t have any kids, let alone 4! haha)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Taking the laptop and keeping it closed the whole time is commendable! What you do on your vacation should not be subject to outside influence. There should be a shield of privacy around those decisions.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. $20 for downright stupidity. What a bargain! Ha, good post, Dan. I know what you mean about the need to unplug every now and then, but it’s remarkable how hard it can be to do that. We get so much information through our devices, and it runs the gamut from fun to serious. I was on vacation recently, and it was tough to never check the phone. I mean, what about baseball, you know? But seriously, it’s good for the soul to do it, even in small doses. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We just got back from a vacation where disconnecting didn’t even enter the conversation. :) If fact, we made sure the hotel had reliable wifi and all that stuff. Not sure why, it wasn’t for work, just to “keep in touch” I guess.
    That is some serious work there. best of luck with all the projects.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Dan, I think this was so amusing learning how even when people didn’t have cell phones their bosses would try to find workers!
    The time you had a desk clerk “paid off” so you could stay and spend time with your parents was also funny.
    I like hearing about your home projects, Dan.
    I love trying hard NOT using my cell phone now that I have Internet on it. I liked the original idea when I became single 9 years ago. (No house to putter around but some good alternatives.) Downsize my life, unclutter my space and no major expenses. Going to the library takes me only 3 minutes on foot. (I can also go to post office, sit under an arbor on OWU campus and read a book. I may eat at 8 restaurants or buy coffee at 3 places. :)
    Now, with my purse episode, I use my phone to blog and go to library less. Not comfortable knowing thief is allowed to still go there.
    I have already requested last week of October off, since Mom’s 87 on Nov. first. I love Autumn!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The cell phone is only today’s technology Robin, people haven’t changed. I’m very sorry that you have to be concerned about going to the library, that simply shouldn’t be the case. I hope you have a good vacation, October is a great time to be off from work.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I had plenty of fun for my end of June thru July week off in warm (hot) weather. I look forward to my crisp, fragrant and colorful fall vacation. But I won’t wish away the days in between, Dan. I am sure you feel the same way about time. Hope it will go s-l-o-w-l-y! :)

        Liked by 1 person

  13. Good post! We try to take time off in October (birthdays and favorite time of year), May, and after December 20th. Being small business people we answer the phones (MUST) because we want to have projects to come back to! Because of what we do they do not ring off the hook, and we will take some time from the phones (like for a walk on the beach.) This old beach gurl needs to get her feet wet in salt water. Being out in nature (NOT camping — walking) and being creative and wandering and napping and staying in pj’s and my good cooking are all part of the program. We’ve had a project together that we hope to finish this year — a fictional book that is a mystery. The story is a mystery, not the book is a mystery to us! I really think young people more than older need to learn to unplug and be with their loved ones — whomever they are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That all sounds so relaxing Kate, I want to do that:) I think you’re right about young people, but some of them have always been connected. I wonder if they know what they’re missing. My daughter disconnects at times. We get nervous but we understand.


  14. There is a friend of mine who is reputed to be very good at his job. I don’t know what he does exactly because he works in the bank. The interesting thing is: his boss doesn’t want him out of the office, even when the boss has gone for a vacation. When he began working there, he was nice, compliant, never complaining. His first leave never happened. The boss called him just after one day, and he was innocent enough to say that “I’m just at home.” The next thing he knew he was on his way to work. His second leave as well. So these days he has two phone numbers. One is strictly for leave days and holidays. The other is for work.
    But the strangest thing right now is: if I went on leave now, so many projects would be stopped that we’d make an irrecoverable loss. Some are beginning, others are ongoing, still others are yet to be commissioned. So I have to be there, designing, installing, supervising, commissioning.

    And, Dan, I think you are doing a great work with that roof. It’s wonderful to see you up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. thanks Peter. I am old enough to remember going on leave (vacation) and being able to count on someone else keeping your projects on track. These days, you’re right, they stop when you do. It’s sad. I tell the people working for me that “you work to finance your life. Don’t let your work become your life.”


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