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October 9, 2013

Spouses of federal workers find furlough, well, weird

WASHINGTON — On Monday morning, Susie Krasnican of Silver Spring, Md. walked in on her husband, on the floor, goo-gooing at the cat. "He was using the new toy that our cat is completely fixated on" and making vacant cooing noises that she hadn't heard since their teenage children were infants.

"It's hard to be sure," Krasnican says, assessing her husband's sudden feline communing. "But I feel that the furlough had to have contributed in some way."

She told him — and here her husband, Jeff Gates, a Smithsonian employee, joyfully remembers the exact wording — she told him: Pre-shutdown, "you used to be so intellectual."

Nationwide, 800,000 federal employees were affected by the government shutdown, worrying about jobs, back pay, a sense of purpose. Consider the collateral damage: This means there are approximately 800,000 spouses, girlfriends, boyfriends, roommates or otherwise affected parties who have spent the past week worrying about furloughed loved ones. Whether they're all right. Whether they're watching all of the TiVo'd "Homeland" alone, when they are supposed to wait until tonight. What, exactly, they're doing.

Congress, take my spouse back. Please.

"He's taken pretty much all of the CDs off of the shelves," E.L. Farris, an author in Northern Virginia, says of her husband, a lawyer who is among the shut down. She is chronicling the experience on her blog.

The moving of the CDs is part of a grand plot to arrange them by genre, then alphabetically, then by subgenre. "It's becoming a very complicated plan," Farris says. And it is accompanied by a parallel effort to organize their books according to the Dewey Decimal System.

Then there is "his whole escape plan," she continues. Which is: After nine years of meaning to, Farris's husband is compiling a first-class disaster preparedness kit. "He can finally find the time to get to Costco," she explains. And so water bottles are piled in the basement. "You know those crank-up radios? We apparently need to get another one of those. And batteries. We have enough of those to light up the whole town."

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