The Joys of Working When Extremely Tired

It's Monday morning, and I am double dog tired. I arrived to work after driving a snail-on-Valium's pace through road construction, and the road workers' baggy, half-opened eyes and the lack of jackhammer noises didn't help wake me. Crew members propped themselves up on shovels and back hoes, their heads in a dreamy daze watching each passing car as if it were a brass bed on wheels. Like me, their tiredness was probably caused by a weekend of hard leisure. But hard leisure puts me in a pleasant mind state; I'm happy to follow it with a blue Monday of easy work.

It is a joy to work when I'm extremely tired. My mind moves slow, and time moves fast relative to my level of consciousness. Hours pass like minutes in a daydream state. I arrive at work, grab a cup of water in the break area, sit, power up my computer, blink twice, and suddenly it is lunchtime. The afternoon status meeting drifts by in an instant, as if I were half-conscious from a conference room filled with nitrous oxide. I yawn, blink again, and the clock chimes quitting time. Two more blinks, and I'll be at home, sleeping in front of a TV playing reruns of My Three Sons.

My body also moves slow when I'm tired, so rushing to complete tasks is not an option my anatomy can support. I spend half the morning reading emails which normally takes ten minutes. I consume another hour recalling where I left off last Friday on my current assignment. By the time I open my spreadsheet ready to input data, it is time for my mid-day break. I return from lunch, attend my soporific meeting, and by the time it is over, I have forgotten my morning accomplishments. I take another hour to recall where I left off, and once I get started, thought is broken by the usual afternoon interruption. Except today I require an hour-and-a-half for it to sink in to my brain. When the mental light bulb activates, so does the quitting time buzzer, and I'm out the door. The resultant productivity from my extreme tired day is a solid fifteen minutes of actual work.

My body is also too spent to get stressed, and my mind too weary to care. Normal irritations like the status meeting roll off me like rain off a wax duck. Big bombshell “drop what you're doing, this is an urgent, A-number-one priority” aggravations only appear absurd to my half-functioning brain, and trigger maniacal laughing fits.

On occasion, a tired day will produce a brilliant idea, one which cannot be realized under any alert circumstance. This is doubly rewarding: first for the idea itself, and second because my state of tiredness makes any valuable output improbable. However, today is not a brilliant tired day, rather an extreme one, making a brilliant idea unattainable.

And that is OK, because when I arrive at work extremely tired, coworkers can sense my stupor and adjust their expectations of me to a much lower standard. My non-existent work output, as well as my muttered rambling, clumsy meandering, and frequent zoning-out become explainable. Likewise, my multitudinous mistakes become expected. Coworkers cover for me; it is part of an unwritten but understood agreement among peers: cover for the extremely tired guy and don't let the boss know. No one breaks the code for fear of being outed on their own day of exhaustion.

If the boss does catch on, I acknowledge my tiredness and put on a show, trekking back and forth to the coffee machine for a dose of wake-up. What the boss doesn't know is I'm only drinking decaf. No sense pumping up with caffeine and wasting the joys of a dog-tired day on a manager who does not know the meaning of intense relaxation. And if he sees the coffee's ineffectiveness on my languor, I moan, force out a dry belch, and tell him I'm going home for the day, because I must have caught some kind of flu bug. I then blink twice and find myself back on my couch, once again hard at leisure.