Kirby: Let’s furlough those responsible for budget mess

By Robert Kirby

The Salt Lake Tribune

Published: March 12, 2013 12:13PM
Updated: May 28, 2013 12:00PM

I called my editor and volunteered to be furloughed. One day a week, but two if they really needed to save money.

Lots of other people are getting furloughed because the federal government has either run out of money or it’s wasting it on congressmen.

I figured it would eventually happen to me. Why not save my employer money that could be spent on real journalists?

Note: Also, I wanted the time off to drive to Texas with Sonny and settle a bet on whether it’s possible to shoot a tomato juice can filled with drywall patch clear through a pig.

Unfortunately, my wife had already called and begged my boss not to furlough me. According to her, there are people still alive for no other reason than because I have a job.

That’s a lie, of course, but you’ll never convince anyone who has ever been in charge of seeing to it that I spend my time constructively.

Maybe that’s why I’ve been furloughed from every job I ever had except this one. Furlough wasn’t the technical term in these cases but it amounted to the same thing.

In elementary school a furlough was called “being sent to the principal’s office.” The first time was in the third grade when I drew a detailed picture of either a badly shaved baboon or Mrs. Miller stark naked.

Granted I wasn’t getting paid to attend school, but I still had to stay after and learn fractions to make up for the time I spent talking to the principal and then a therapist.

In high school, furlough was called detention. You had to do the necessary homework, only first you had to make up the time sitting on a chair in a holding pen. It was like having your free time cut.

The Army called a furlough an “Article 15.” They’ll give you one for bringing live ammunition back to the barracks, or for returning from a three-day pass in a state known as “Where are your pants?”

Later, on my LDS mission, I was furloughed for three days in the mission home after Elder Barkus kicked my dog and I flushed his favorite tie down the john. It was three days off with no blessings.

Turns out it’s even possible to get furloughed from a marriage. I was furloughed for two weeks straight the first year I was married.

My wife says it’s because we ran out of money after I accidently shot a window out of her car, but the truth is she just temporarily ran out of affection because of it.

In police work, a furlough is called being “suspended without pay.” I was furloughed here several times, the most egregious of which was writing “void” on some idiot’s LDS temple recommend when he handed it to me during a traffic stop.

Here’s the thing: All of those furloughs were my fault. I did something (a lot of things, actually) for which I was punished by having my pay, time, or blessings docked. In short, I had it coming.

But the people getting furloughed now — government employees — are having their pay cut because somebody else did something wrong. And not me this time. Congress and the president.

Because the two sides can’t agree on a budget, people who’ve done nothing wrong except work for a living are the ones being docked.

It took me a long time to understand that time off can be very instructional. You just have to do it to the right people for the right reason.

I’ll bet we could solve this current budget stalemate if we furloughed the people actually responsible for it.

rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.