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.”
He is growing, she says, a furlough beard.
The furlough beard, that scourge of the furlough spouse. As the shutdown continues, the hair grows on the faces of housebound government employees around the country. It has become a movement, with a name: “Shaveless Shutdown continues to day 7,” a furloughed employee writes on Twitter. “If this doesn’t end soon, my wife may divorce me.”
The furloughed, according to their spouses, are sometimes not changing out of their pajamas until noon. They are eating all of the cereal or buying weird things for the house.
Some also are becoming industrious: finally cleaning out the storage room, picking up the kids from school, baking furlough desserts. Were it not for the uncertainty of it — the vagueness of when this will end, and whether back pay will come through before the next mortgage payment is due — it could be a lovely thing to have a furloughed spouse at home.
“It feels like an endless weekend,” says Krasnican, an artist who works from home. In good ways and bad. Her husband has been able to explore hobbies and pick up day-to-day slack around the house, but the ambiguity of the shutdown’s duration prevents him from tackling longer-term projects.