Second day of winter during a weekend-long shift batch. Our ED augmented staffing for "surge mode" starting this month to accommodate an expected influx of patients that has materialized reliably every year during flu season.
The kids have already left for Sunday School (thank you, brilliant wife, for arranging carpool!).
My wife heads out the door to what will be a lengthy meeting for a voluntary leadership position in our community on a day she could sleep in late, proving once again that no good deed goes unpunished.
I'm in scrubs boosting my vitamin D stores beneath the morning's sunbeam allotment before heading in for a 10am "float" shift. The float emergency doc is the sponge that helps absorb excess patients when the individual geographic zones in the ED are overwhelmed.
In our collegial group culture, our unspoken motto is, "Friends don't let friends get slammed without helping." [Not a drinking reference.]
As I drain my morning coffee, I receive a text from the colleague who relieved the night shift this morning:
"Hey there, not much happening here, want to come in an hour late?"
Case reportable! 45 minutes later another text arrives:
"How about you just call us around 12:30?"
Yahtzee! Unaccustomed to such good fortune, I call in and speak to my benefactress, who confirms that the waiting room is bizarrely empty and the ED is in equilibrium (neither of us would dream of using the word "quiet," as it would precipitate disaster in the superstitious world we inhabit).
I catch up on reading and correspondence, do some small financial housekeeping, and then call in shortly before the appointed hour. All remains copacetic, and after polling a few other docs in the immediate vicinity, my colleague renders judgment:
"I'm making the executive decision - don't come in today. We're fine."
In the days when I was burnt out, this would have felt like I'd had a death sentence commuted. Since cutting back, however, I no longer dread my job. It's the best-paying hobby I have.
I consider for a moment the financial implication that working one fewer shift will have - and then I move on. We're savers, and we'll be fine. I like my job and the financial benefits that work confers, but I like owning my time even more.
My wife returns home with the kids, and both kids give me bear hugs when I tell them the news. Lately they feel my absence more acutely.
Turns out the kids both pigged out on snacks at Sunday School, so I enjoy a quiet lunch with my wife while the children disappear to do their thing.
Later, I help answer questions as my 6th grade daughter tackles her inordinate homework load.
We dine together, followed by a family game of Rummikub as we listen to the soundtrack from the musical Hamilton.
Before bed, my son and I engage in our latest pastime of gamifying real estate. We look at multifamily units and practice calculating the cap rate and the 1% rule. We can examine whether utilities are already billed to tenants as a potential opportunity to reduce owner expenses.
He's promised to help me maintain any local investments we make. In exchange, I'll fund a Roth IRA in proportion to the work he performs.
I pulled a rare winning lottery ticket.
Gratitude is foremost on my mind as I slide into a toasty bed (mattress pad warmer: best spouse/partner gift ever invented) next to someone out of my league.
It was a good day.