Yesterday, at 12:00 pm, PST, I lost my essence. It's true. I work for the federal government, and when it shut down on Tuesday, it classified me as "essential personnel." But yesterday at noon, after I had finished my last court hearing of the week and taken all the steps necessary to make an orderly and semi-dignified plunge (okay, it was an ungainly belly-flop) into that purgatory known as furlough, I was reclassified as non-essential. Merriam-Webster defines "essential" as "of, relating to, or constituting essence." So you see, I have lost my essence -- as a matter of law.
I'm developing a certain sympathy for zombies -- a kinship, really. Zombies aren't quite dead, but they're not alive either; they're ... undead. And I'm not quite unemployed, but I'm also not really employed. That makes me, um ... un-unemployed.
Like many of my fellow un-unemployed, I have offered to work gratis during my un-unemployment -- but alas, the un-unemployed are barred from doing their jobs. Or would it be non-jobs, or perhaps un-jobs? This is all so confusing. But one thing has been made clear to me: if the un-unemployed work, or even try to go the office or sneak their laptops home to work for free, they will be fired, and could be fined or even imprisoned.
It's the law.
If such a law seems somewhat odd to you, or even deficient, it's not: it's antideficient. The 1884 Antideficiency Act prohibits federal employees from taking actions that financially obligate the government without congressional funding. That's been interpreted to mean that un-unemployed who do not not refrain from staying home from their nonessential government unjobs are antideficient. There, that should clarify things.
But it gets even wackier than that: an un-unemployed government lawyer like me is prohibited from rendering professional services for any other client during his un-unemployment -- but may take a job at a fast food place. I'm not making this stuff up. Trust me; I'm not that creative.
Oh my god, maybe I really am one of the undead.
Thankfully, Congress is essential, so it's still on the job and will no doubt set things right in just a jiff. Since I have some time on my hands these days (give me a break; a hot dog deep fryer would wreak havoc on my delicate complexion), I looked up the definition of "congress." Merriam-Webster tells us that the term means, among other things, "coitus."
I eagerly look forward to returning to the ranks of the uncoitussed.
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