Black Ice Death Day: What’d you do Tuesday?

The majority of Washington-area feds were allowed to report to work two hours late on Monday and to stay home Tuesday. But most doesn’t mean everybody. Thousands of designated emergency workers had to make the trek in, on time, to do whatever they do — which is sometimes pretty essential stuff.

Tens of thousands of telework-designated feds also slogged on, albeit at home. And there was no day off for people on official travel. So to say the federal government is or was closed, ever, is wrong.

There is always some confusion — and lots of comment — when the biggest concentration of federal workers in the world gets a day off. Often it is a weather event. Usually in the winter, there’s a heavy snowfall (we had a one-day, 33-inch event a few years back). Or worse, an ice storm.

Politicians, especially those from places with real gut-freezing winters, love to make fun of D.C.’s frequent, but temporary, unconditional surrenders to Old Man Winter. But after awhile in Washington many of them go native. They dress like the rest of us, and tell their always boring when-I-was- a-boy-back-in-the day stories from the comfort of the bar at the Hay-Adams.


D.C. is a multistate area with many counties and lots of different terrain. One of our most urban counties (Montgomery in Maryland) is also very, very rural in large areas. Silver Spring, Bethesda and other urban areas may get only a dusting. But pupils and teachers often don’t live near their schools and buses must operate (or not) on a countywide basis.

When schools and the government are closed (meaning operating with a minimum staff), it does wonders for commutes of those who don’t get the day off. Tuesday — which the media had designed as Black Ice Death Day — was perhaps the easiest trip I ever had because traffic was so light and the road crews could salt and sand with ease.

Each time there is a snow day, verbal fights break out among federal workers and between private-sector friends, neighbors and relatives as to who is doing what when! Many employees — those committed to telework or designated as ’emergency’ workers — resent it when the media says THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS CLOSED. Because it’s not, ever.

So the question much of America is asking is: What did you do on the Dec. 10 snow day? Doesn’t matter where you live and work. Just tell us what you did — up to a point!

Being smart, energetic and, uh, imaginative, we know that not everybody stayed home Tuesday to shop online, address cards or darn socks. So just what did you do with your mini-enforced holiday? We’d love to hear your reports of life-without-work activities. Let us know and we’ll let folks know that feds can be fun and inventive, even when they don’t have to work.

Send your reports/confessions/updates to me at me at


Compiled by Jack Moore

A recent economics study suggests that allowing foreigners in Japan to work as sumo wrestlers has made the quality of native wrestlers’ skills decline.

(Source: Improbable Research)


Lawmakers in fed-heavy districts signal support for budget deal
Lawmakers in districts with large constituencies of federal employees are signaling their support for the bipartisan budget deal announced Tuesday even though it would require new federal workers to contribute a greater share of their paychecks to their retirement benefits. The alternatives — another government shutdown or a second year of the steep across-the-board sequestration cuts — would have been worse, they argue.

Under budget deal squeeze, will future feds opt out of TSP?
If the proposed budget deal becomes law, new federal workers will see a total of 10.6 percent of their salaries automatically withheld from their paychecks to cover their retirement benefits. That could lead to them contributing less or not at all to their voluntary Thrift Savings Plan accounts, experts said.