Sazae-san Syndrome

There's a cultural joke in Japan called "Sazae-san Syndrome" which refers to the feeling of malaise that generally sets in across the country at 6:30pm every Sunday. For half a century a cartoon called サザエさん (Sazae-san) has aired at half-past six in the evening every week on Sunday, chronicling the trials and tribulations of two families that live in the same home. The show is set in the late 1960s and a lot of people -- including me -- enjoy watching every week because it's a reminder of simpler times. A person needn't have lived in Japan or the 1960s to understand the situations and find them funny, either. So how is it that a popular show that's been on TV for 50 years can make a large portion of a nation feel anxious?

It's a reminder that the weekend is over and the day-to-day grind is about to begin again.

Sazae-san

Today marks the last day of my Christmas and New Year holiday, which means tomorrow is going to be an action-packed day with dozens of people demanding more time than a single person has available. I know this because I succumbed to the itch on Christmas Eve and found several dozen messages in the Inbox inviting me to high-priority meetings that were scheduled during my time off or requesting things that will take two weeks to build be completed for tomorrow morning. As one would expect, there was a lot of bluster with people suggesting that their "entire department will be sitting around doing nothing" if I am unable to have things ready for first thing in the morning, but such is life. In addition to this was a series of requests from a direct manager who knew I was on vacation, unavailable, and unwilling to forfeit more personal time to either perform a series of incredibly complex data migrations three months ahead of schedule from the old system to an upcoming one, or provide the files I had developed over a span of six months to do the job. Data migrations are complex tasks where single mis-steps can require an exorbitant amount of time to resolve … but this didn't seem to matter. The files were provided and, just as I had warned the manager in a detailed email, the migration failed for the vast majority of records because of things I described. The team tasked to do the work may try hard, but they do not have the eye to detail that is required for a complex migration involving billions of records across hundreds of objects that must be assembled in a complex series of steps. When the migration failed, the manager started sending me messages expecting solutions pronto.

That was on New Year's Eve.

Naturally I was radio silent.

Silence does not stop the mind from constructing scenarios in my head involving several days of work fixing problems that never should have existed in the first place. Days I don't have because of so many other competing priorities that were postponed in December to accommodate other teams that required complex things to be done for arbitrary deadlines that did not seem to matter in the end.

Yesterday and earlier today I looked at the inbox as well as the corporate Teams chats to get a feel for what sort of week is on the way. It didn't look pretty. From what I can tell, January is going to see about 2 weeks of overtime work put in just to maintain my current status of being six weeks behind schedule with a number of tasks that cannot be delegated.

My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. And if you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.
-- The Red Queen in Through the Looking-Glass

At 6:30pm this evening, when the iconic theme song to Sazae-san could be heard throughout the house like the chimes of a grandfather clock, a feeling of malaise descended. My chest started to tighten, the smile disappeared from my face, and Reiko noticed almost immediately that I didn't seem as much fun as earlier in the day.

I take my work quite seriously most of the time and too seriously the rest. To have the start of the working year and all the carefully constructed schedules and commitments made last year tossed out the window because a bunch of people above my pay grade cannot pay attention is really, really frustrating. This isn't the first time this sort of shenanigans has happened and it certainly won't be the last. The decision-makers at the day job are not stupid. They work hard and they try to do the best they can with everything at their disposal. What usually happens is that ideas are not thought through completely or, worse, people wait until the last minute to communicate the need for something to be done, then shovel that load onto whoever might be able to technically perform the task regardless their other commitments. As I generally have a reputation for being able to do things that others cannot (or will not), this means that I get tasked with fixing things that shouldn't need to be fixed in addition to building things that should already exist.

Sazae-san Syndrome is quite real in this house.