I sequestered myself today; 2% across the board

This sequester chatter has been all-encompassing this week.  So in the spirit of shared sacrifice (and let’s face it what is more up lifting than sharing in misery) I sequestered myself today.  I wanted to know first-hand just how draconian and painful a 2% cut can be.  It was an across the board cut too – I wasn’t about to allow any easy off ramps.  There were times I wasn’t sure I’d survive the day.   

I typically go to bed at 11pm and wake up at 4:40 am.  That’s 340 minutes of blissful sleep that I selfishly consume each and every night.  But if you are really going to embrace sequester, you’ve got to start your day right – with a savage 2% cut.  So I got up seven and a half minutes early this morning.  When my alarm went off at 4:32, I was surprised that I felt fresh.  I quickly thanked God for our public servants in Washington and then hit the showers.

A guy doesn’t need a ton of time to shower.  I can usually knock it out in 10 minutes.  Get in there, lather up and rinse off.  There is no need to rinse and repeat – forget the conditioner.  I am all business.  600 seconds and I am ready to tackle the day.  However, today I had to take a sequester shower.  How could I possibly get clean with a 2% cut?  A 2% cut with a meat clever off of my 600-second shower is 12 seconds!   So somehow, I managed to get my 10 minute shower done in just 9 minutes and 48 seconds.  Sometimes I surprise myself with how resilient I am in the face of horror.

Off to breakfast.  I keep it simple; a couple bowls of cereal and a couple of cups of coffee is all I am really looking for.   I checked the label on the cereal and did some quick calculations – two bowls of cereal with milk was coming in at 280 calories.  That meant I would have to drastically trim my breakfast by 5.6 calories in order to be sequester compliant.  I figured that was about one spoonful of cereal.  It probably would have made the most sense to eat all the cereal except for that last soggy spoonful, but what kind of sacrifice is that?  Instead I took the first scoop and dumped it straight in the trash.  It hurt to see that nice crunchy cereal go down the disposal, but I felt pretty special when I choked down that last mushy scoop of Cheerios.

The coffee was a bit tougher to calculate:  two cups for a total of about twenty ounces.  I was going to have to find the strength to trim two fifths of an ounce from my java intake.  Sure, it was less than a gulp – but it was brutal to dump a teaspoonful of hot coffee in the sink.  I had some real reservations about whether I’d be able to function after enduring such a massive cut from my caffeine budget.

My commute to work is about 30 minutes (1800 seconds).  It’s not so bad when you have the radio on.  But today’s commute was the dreaded sequester drive and required a 2% radio cut.  So, I slashed my radio listening by 36 seconds.  I know.  You are thinking – “how could he put himself through that kind of torture” but you haven’t heard the best part.  Rather than employing what the news media calls a “targeted cut” and turning off the radio during a commercial, I indiscriminately turned off the radio during a great song.  I didn’t even allow myself to whistle or hum during that interminable half of a minute.

By the time I reached my desk, the personal sequester experiment was taking its toll.  What kind of maniac could endure a two percent cut?

In a typical day, I’ll get at least fifty e-mails that need a response.  But this was not a typical day.  In order to cut my e-mail responses by two percent, I would have to ignore one of those fifty e-mails.  As my computer came to life I made a commitment that would make a white house budget analyst proud.  I decided the very first e-mail of the day – no matter how important would simply be deleted.

Imagine my surprise when I saw the subject line on that first e-mail:  HOT!! Budget Sequester Guidance

To make matters worse it was from my boss.  I suppose some will say “gee, how ironic.”  But all I did was mindlessly delete that e-mail.  No sense in actually looking at my entire inbox and picking the least important e-mail to delete.  Where’s the shared sacrifice in prioritizing?  Besides, I would have missed an offer for free Cheesy-Bread from Dominos.

I think you are getting the idea.  My work day under a 2% personal sequester was a living hell.  I had to cut my water intake (normally 3 quarts) by a whole two ounces.  My lunch hour was hacked down by 72 seconds!    Instead of using 6 post-it notes (54 square inches) I had to trim a square inch off one of them – I used a hatchet to do the cutting for dramatic effect. 

When I got home I tried to explain to my wife just how brutal my day was under a withering 2% across the board sequester.   But how do you explain the impact of such inhuman austerity?

We ended up watching a movie tonight  – one of my favorites actually, Hoosiers, starring Gene Hackman.  It’s a great basketball story with a thrilling ending.  But its 114 minutes long – so I couldn’t watch two minutes and 18 seconds of it.  I know – you are thinking “well the credits of a movie usually run a couple of minutes, so just skip that.” 

Do you still not understand sequester?

I intentionally turned off the movie near the very end – before anyone could find out if Jimmy Chitwood hit the winning shot; before anyone would learn if little Hickory High School won the state title.   

Boy!  Was my family ever angry!  You guessed it, the kids all yelled at me.  “Dad!  What are you doing?!”  

I answered them calmly – “Sequester kids; had to cut the last two percent of the film.  When you grow up and learn about fairness; well, you’ll understand why it had to be this way.”

“It was the best part!” My son protested.

All the more reason to cut it, Son.”

You’re right.  No one is talking to me tonight.  I am winding down my personal sequester day alone in my living room.  I’m sitting here drinking beer and typing.

I decided to not cut beer the two percent.  That’s an entitlement program – and not subject to cuts.

But I am coming up on 1200 words in this little story.  So now I am going to have to cut 24 words from my conclusion.

A real pity because I am just getting to the best part.  The most important thing about the sequester, that you all need to know is….

-cj cheetham

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