Vacation Days 

On the first day back from work, after the holidays, the other engineers discuss how they’re going to spend their vacation time. The majority of them leave as much rollover time as possible from the previous year. They have grand plans to use it wisely. They plan trips around holidays like Easter, where they can use extra days to extend the time. Plans are made around race competitions and birthdays. They’ll easily spend half of that day in these discussions, while the rest of time is taken up by talks of (boring or not) holiday adventures and how badly they don’t feel like working. It was like that this year, last year, and two other years at my first engineering employer. 

I anticipate that is the way it will always be. But me and my contractor companions are typically left out. We don’t get the same treatment with holidays or vacations. If I take one day off, it means I get 20% less cash that week. If I want a vacation, I have to save for it. I’m all cool with that, but when you’re the only one in the room in that situation, it still sucks. I’ll toss on some Pink Floyd when I bore of it, pop in the earbuds, turn to my CATIA station, and act like I’m working. 

It typically ends up a b.s. talk anyhow. The following October, the majority of engineers will have an extra month’s worth of vacation. They realize if they don’t use it, it will waste away, so they’ll begin taking off Mondays or Fridays. Mind you, when it gets like this, there’re no plans left. They are just extending their weekends to sleep-in. 

Then, upon return to work, they’ll stay late the following day to catch-up on missed work. Thereby canceling out a chunk of vacation time. This is the reason they don’t take their planned vacations in a growing, small company. If they take a week off, they’re pretty much committed to coming in on the following Saturday (or bring the laptop home) and staying late each day a couple hours. It’s not surprising, with this knowledge, that they lose days of vacation and kick their selves each year afterwards. 

Last night, I went to bed at 6pm. I sweated all night, wrapped in a thick blanket. The fever rendered me useless by 6:30am when my alarm sounded. I scribbled a text to my manager, dropped the phone on the bed, and rolled back to sleep. There was a hesitation for a few moments. I had sat up and and thought about complaining over next week’s holiday: MLK day. Then I thought about the 20% paycheck cut for today also. Decided a day of sickness with zero energy while sitting in a bright office was not worth it. 

It is depressing to have missed six days pay for ‘holiday time’ at the end of the year. Only to return to work with a 4 day work week. Then during the following week, missing a day to sickness. And then the following week, again, to have another forced ‘holiday’. My budget is totally screwed this month. That is, even if I don’t have the same problem tonight as last night. 

It would be no problem if my spending and bills matched my income better. As of now, I typically spend more than I should in a given month. I know better, but my perception is stuck on how my income had been. I used to never worry about cash. I had so much that I could spend freely and have enough for savings at an above average rate. 

The engineer who sits across from me at work has his financial situation together and reminds me of how I was a couple years ago. He’s the only one in the room besides me with no 4yr degree. Everyone else has loans ranging from 40-70k. Heck, I do have a 7k loan due to one failed attempt at a ‘real’ degree. He can do what he wants, within consideration. The others pick at him, “can’t hide money” – they’re just jealous of course. 

That is basically how I plan to get back to. I’m just waiting for my experience level to kick-in. Knowing that one day, my income has a great potential to rise. 

I would not call it waiting, persay. I attempt to continually open my horizons by learning new concepts and listening to tales of extraordinary people. I am open to whatever comes my way, in hopes to learn from it. 

My current job is a blessing. My role of working closely with welders to provide fixturing has grown as we have expanded our capabilities to include CNC processes. This is new territory. Even though I have designed components that required milling, chamfering, and other specialties of machinists, I never could imagine the actual work. I had a view in my head of the process and it turned out that it was incorrect. For those designs, I would purely follow advice of the stress engineer or material specialist who was assigned to the parts package. My role weighed heavily on my interdepartmental research skills and advanced CATIA knowledge. Matter of fact, at around six months into my that position, we went on a field trip to see the ‘guts’ of our aircraft. We got to see examples of the brackets that we designed – as they were installed on real aircraft. Those brackets that we designed on 22″ monitors are actually tiny. I can see the thickness of 0.080″ on my screen and know it is thin, but until you touch it and realize that if you want, you could totally destroy that object with your bare hands – it is almost abstract in size. It is still difficult to look at a tube with a thickness of 0.018″ and realize how thin that actually is – 6 pieces of notebook paper. Now I get to see how the machinists prefer their tools. As of now, the ‘CNC guy’ creates the majority of his own tools (he is a toolmaker afterall). I’d love to yank this task from him fully, but I have more to learn first. 

I’ve come to find out that gaining their trust is more important than that of your management. With the welders, I had worked closely. I had an advantage in that I trained as a welder, yet if I never listened to their issues, I would have lost their respect. I had to walk the razor’s edge and remain as neutral as possible when dealing with problems. Siding against engineering is difficult when you must, but remaining trusted by the blue-collar guys in the back means they won’t be afraid to ask questions when information isn’t straightforward. 

I’ve lost all commitment to the topic in the headline. I sidelined the topic an hour or so ago as I aimed towards another subject within the same rant. I occasionally think how these posts could ultimately be cut into individual paragraphs and mix-mashed with the others into more guided topics. That perhaps doing that – along with beginning a couple new websites with better names than, could  lead to collections of stories that have the same genre as each other and lead to several trickles of constant cashflow. I also assume this blog gig will never make cash. But then, I hope to just learn from the experience and have my views written, so that one day I can look back at my pespective on life. 


One thought on “Vacation Days 

  1. Ben Dover

    Vacation days rock no matter what. There’s nothing like not going to work just because you don’t feel like it and getting paid in full.


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