Shutdown Survivors: A Real Reality Show

If there is a government shutdown next month, there’s no guarantee when it will start, how long it will last or even whether workers will get paid (as they have in the past) for following orders to stay home.

Members of Congress, whose failure to approve budget-after-budget will, of course, not be furloughed and will continue to get their salaries. Logic: Who better to get us out of this mess than the people who got us into it, right?

While waiting for the other shoe to drop, we asked survivors of the 95-96 shutdown (which was followed by a blizzard) what they remember and how the coped. We got a ton of e-mails. Here are some of the first, with more to come. Remember these people were in the middle of the action:

  • “Working for the Bureau of Prisons, the agency sent out a memo…no E-mails back then, that told us to prepare for a 30 day furlough. It detailed that it would be one week at a time and alternate with employees in your department. Suddenly and without warning, the entire Central Office (Headquarters) went on furlough (Hiatus)…couldn’t get a hold of anybody. They were gone the whole holiday week. Then, as soon as it began, it was over. The budget was passed. We found out later that all of those headquarter employees got reimbursed for the week off, essentially a paid vacation. Nice, huh?” Hard Time
  • “The last shutdown actually worked in my favor as I just had my daughter on Sunday, November 12, 1995! Not only did the shut downs work in my favor, I also benefited from the snow closures so all in all my time off was extended by 3 weeks, all paid by Uncle Sam!!! I will say this time around won’t be as sweet, however I refuse to fear, complain and/or stress over the situation because the government will always do as it pleases despite the severe repercussions it would place on federal workers families, especially the well being of our children! It is what it is, I’ll simply call the creditors and tell them ‘I’m a federal worker, my bills will be late.’ ! Honestly speaking, I believe we all contributed to our fellow Americans by ‘donating’ our pay raises over the next two years, thereby doing our part, however, there are many other programs/expenditures in this Country that could be examined rather than tap the federal workforce once again. I am grateful to have a job, voice no complaints about not receiving a pay raise, yet when does the apparent ‘attacking’ of federal workers cease? Ugh remember the trillion dollar bailout to the banks who were supposed to help folk with their loans yet didn’t?” Respectfully, Federal Worker at the IRS
  • “I was working at the USDA at the time. Agriculture had an approved budget, so fortunately I was able to continue to work.” Sheila at State Dept.
  • “I work for a very small agency in the legislative branch… In late 1995, when the rest of the government personnel were essentially laid-off and at the time not sure if they would be paid during that time, our Administrative top dog declared every employee to be essential. This meant that we all had to report to work, but it also meant that we knew we would not lose pay. We ended up getting almost a full week off due to the “Blizzard of 1995″ that shut everything down most of the week anyway, but the important thing to me at the time was to not lose pay. I had just gotten married and purchased a new house. Turned out no one lost pay anyway but, I preferred to come to work and know I would be paid than to sit home and wonder.” RJD
  • “…Just prior to the shutdown I was in Laguna Nigel for 5 weeks of training. We were supposed to finish our training the Friday before Thanksgiving and fly home. However, the IRS (anyway, not sure of the rest) shut down for 3 days. We went to class Monday and was told not to come in on Tuesday. We went to the San Diego Zoo instead! I don’t recall what we did the next day, I think we just went to the beach. And Wednesday afternoon we were told to fly home. We did so on Thursday. We finished our required training in Self Study and took the test at the office. We were back to work on Friday! The IRS part of the budget had been passed. I guess if you have to be shut down, sunny Southern California is the place to do it!!” Montana
  • “…During the last shutdown I was in a self-funding DEA activity…DEA decided all field office personnel were ‘essential’…however the special agents and support personnel in the field did experience one pay period where they received a paycheck for 43 hours of work, although they worked 80. They eventually received the other 37 hours pay but I’m sure it caused heartburn…” C.V. In DoJ
  • “…I was working for GSA and my boss called and told me not to report to work but that my promotion had been approved. Now I’m back with Defense as ‘essential personnel,’ not sure that we will be affected by a shutdown. I’m ready to retire although I love my job. How does the government expect to recruit the best & brightest when they can’t even get a budget passed on time.” Gracie, DoD in Maryland
  • “I had just signed up for annual leave for an out of town family visit. Basically I got a leave-free vacation…I also had enough savings to cover my expenses for several months… On top of that we couldn’t return to work when the furlough ended because of a huge blizzard that shut down government for another week. The public was furious and the blame fell on the Republicans… People who had saved for a DC holiday vacation found all the monuments, Capitol tours and Smithsonian closed. For once the public realized that federal workers really are a vital piece of America.” Nancy Treusch
  • “As an import specialist with U.S. Customs (now Customs and Border Protection) I was considered ‘essential’ as were the Customs Inspectors (now CBP Officers). One officer was pulled off his honeymoon and told to report for duty. One of my colleagues – in the interest of adding some humor to the situation – changed the screensaver marquee on his computer to say ‘Will Work for IOUs’.” Customs In Cleveland

To reach me:


Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

MentalFloss nearly staggers the mind with today’s NUF:

    Thanks to the work of dogged bellybutton researchers like Karl Sven Woytek Sas Konkovitch Matthew Kruszelnicki (better known as Dr. Karl) of the University of Sydney and Georg Steinhauser, a Project Assistant and Chemist at the Department of Radiation Physical Analysis and Radiochemistry at the Atomic Institute in Vienna, we know the following:

  • Bellybutton lint consists primarily of stray fibers from our clothing mixed with some dead skin cells and bits of body hair.
  • Contrary to many people’s expectation, these bellybutton lint building materials migrate up from underwear rather than down from our shirts, the result of friction between body hair and underwear fiber.


How to manage under budget crunch, potential shutdown
American University’s Robert Tobias says tough budget times are an opportunity for federal managers to rethink how their agencies meet mission goals.

Air Force awards $35B tanker contract to Boeing
The announcement was made at the Pentagon late Thursday afternoon after the financial markets closed. It was certain to be welcome news in Washington state and Kansas, where much of the work on the tanker will be done.