Saturday, September 4, 2021

Retirement, At Last

I have signed my exit papers and my last  day at work officially is October 2nd.
Between now and then I work a few more days and then burn off my accumulated leave. Essentially I am done and am turning my attention to helping Layne complete the packing and sorting the innumerable details of separation from daily life and working for a living. 
It would be invidious to go into the reasons, and there are several, why my wife and I decided to push the process up. One big consideration  is the rampant spread of the virus and the contact the police department will be forced to have with the Fantasy Fest super spreader event. Partial cancellation won't do enough to limit crowds and may only damage the incomes to be made from an event that seems startlingly out of touch with the spread of the virus. 
My wife and I are fortunate we can protect her weakened immune system from a lot of potential exposure and it seemed silly to go on risking transmission for no clear reason. I signed my retirement paper with a mixture of sadness and elation.
It has been a fortunate career for me but the employment situation in Key West is such that working permanently short staffed with people half my age who have a different work ethic to me has been wearing me down.  It startled me but my wife confronted me at home after my last shift and said you need to retire right now. I guess she noticed me falling asleep earlier and earlier and me dragging my ass more and more. Working two person shifts was wearing me down after years of expecting three people to be in the room. The stress is increased exponentially.
I am grateful to my wife for insisting we get jobs with pensions and I am grateful to the city of Key West for the chance to work in such a place with the opportunity to learn skills I never imagined I would learn. I can now speak "police" a language I never expected to need to know. I understand the difficulties of police work a lot better than I did two decades ago and my respect for the work that has to be done, in the face of the bad publicity from the big cities, has not diminished. I know I completely lack the patience required of a police officer in the street.
But I am also very much aware I am a dinosaur in a dispatch center full of dispatchers who seem to lack the basic skills of cherishing each other and working together. If someone needed a day off we used to club together and figure out coverage to help a colleague see a doctor or have a chance to swap a shift to be with family. I don't see that collegiality among my younger brethren and I blame myself for expecting too much of people who work and live and speak in a  culture different from my own. I simply don't fit in, and perhaps I never really did but Key West used to allow you to smooth over rough edges and we got along. Most probably I am just old and weird and out of touch and they are happy in their world of dispatch. I hope so because answering 911 is hard enough and doing it permanently short staffed is exhausting.
Finally I have to admit I am also old fashioned inasmuch as I have plans for my life. We always plan and try to follow the plan rather than just pile on debt, work and hope it all works out. My reward for working too much isn't an expensive car or jewelry but a vacation, a journey, something different to remember all winter long.  My wife and I are both passionate travelers and we know what it takes to get on the road. We have been discussing our post retirement life for the past five years  and staying in the Keys was never on the cards. It's not just the expense, its the return on investment. For us the lack of access to services, from plumbing to medical was going to be an issue. Road access is growing annoying as traffic gets heavier and slower with every passing year on the highway and the drive to build up and limit access to public spaces seems a constant feature of life in these islands. The latest census shows 10,000 more people living here and thousands of wealthy demanding middle class suburbanites have replaced the drunks and idlers and pirates of common myth. Besides I do not enjoy fishing or drinking so for me there is every incentive to leave once the anchor of work is removed. There is a world of fog, mountains, towns, forests and coastlines to explore and photograph.
I have long said Key West is an enchanted place if you can find satisfying work that pays well, and I did just that, pretty much by accident. And my wife the lawyer turned teacher did too. For us it was magical to get to work and play in an endless summer. Consider this:  my wife commuted the seven mile bridge for years one of the most iconic views in the Sunshine state! We were lucky to have serious jobs we liked and to be allowed to work the daily grind in a community where eccentricity was once prized and a point of view was simply the basis for a friendly conversation over a con leche. Incivility in a small island community was social death.
 The content of this page will change and I hope become more interesting even though it will obviously no longer be about Key West. I have felt for a while the burnout must be apparent but I would not wish to disappoint so I have done my best to find material to write about without sounding repetitive but it hasn't always felt successful. My plan is to change the name of the page to The Golden Van and I have purchased thegoldenvan.com which if you type it in even now will redirect to this page. However the underlying url to all of this is conchscooter@blogspot.com which isn't changing.  You will still be able to type in Key West Diary as I also own keywestdiary.com and have that address redirected! 
I may not be able to post an essay a day after November 1st as there will be no more sitting at a desk growing fat and restless, besides I will be dependent on a Verizon wireless signal to be connected. But I will keep posting pictures and commentary here for what I hope is an adult readership that is interested in more than what I had for breakfast and the view I saw out the back doors of the van. Van Life at my age is a tool to explore, to see and to learn. Video is too labor intensive, time consuming and band width sucking for me to want to get involved with YouTube.  So the more things change the more they will stay the same here.

Expect US travels visiting friends for a few weeks followed by a  winter spent exploring Baja California I hope. Next summer we plan to drive to Alaska before seeing how the virus will impact an attempt to drive to Patagonia. All is dependent on our health, the health of the van and whatever else may be going on in the world. There is always lots to see in the good old USA, though if it were up to us we'd like to do that when we are older and less able to cope with adversity than we are now.  I find US travel very low stress and easy.

That's it for now, my life may be changing but yours isn't necessarily so enjoy low stress with much fun whatever you are doing, and if you are in the throes of change you have my sympathy because change, as much as it may be desired, is by its nature disruptive and therefore hard. Speaking as an almost former dispatcher, stay away from Covid, even if it doesn't kill you it's nasty. Vaccinate, wear a mask and think before you act. 
Best wishes
Michael.
The Nomad. Panama 1999