Anyone who thinks New York is the only city that never sleeps hasn’t spent any real time in Washington, DC. Here the lines between work and home are blurred for many—and despite the protests about being too busy all the time because of their work schedules and demands, people like it that way.
This past week we were reminded of just how strong the workaholic culture is here. Jonas, otherwise known as the blizzard of 2016, came roaring into town on Friday, January 22nd. There was ample warning that this was going to be a blockbuster event that would cripple the city. In response to all the hype and dire warnings, Washingtonians planned for Armageddon. The hordes descended on grocery and hardware stores, cleaning out every shelf, rack and compartment until there wasn’t a loaf of bread, a container of milk, a battery, flashlight, or a snow shovel to be found anywhere. Then they hunkered down in their homes, voicing their glee at having a real break from their normal lives and demanding careers.
Fast forward a week, and folks were practically ready to chew off one arm to free themselves from the restraint of long, unscripted days at home. People were working long hours to shovel themselves out, many were helping neighbors who couldn’t get their walkways and drives cleared themselves—and many neighborhoods came together to shovel out their streets when the plows were slow to come or just hadn’t shown up at all. Metro rail and bus got a lot of criticism from closing down their whole system for two days, and everywhere people were lamenting how impossible it was to drive or park anywhere. The nation’s capital was unfavorably compared to other large cities that handle snow emergencies in a way that allows life to continue somewhat normally—something we said we wanted a break from, then were miserable when we got it.
All of this just demonstrates what insiders here know all too well—we are addicted to the hustle, the adrenaline rush, the challenges, and the sense that what we do is so important that it can’t be left undone and can’t be done without us. We don’t know how to be still and quiet—just existing in the moment and allowing ourselves to unwind and unplug. Just imagine if there had been widespread power outages as widely anticipated—imagine the collective meltdown of adults crazed by endless hours with no smartphones, computers, TV, or other electronic devices to connect them to the outside world they say they need a break from, but almost break when they get it.