There is something uniquely demoralizing about spring when you live and work in the North. About waking up in the morning, putting on your boots, and setting out for the day only to realize your vehicle is under a foot of snow. Or after having reintegrated your spring jacket into your rotation, opening your front door and discovering, not unlike a cat dropping a dead bird at your feet, that the darkest depth of January has returned to gift you a week of -20°C weather that you did not ask for.
It’s the inconsistency that is so frustrating. At least we all know what we’re getting from Old Man Winter. He’s mean, he’s stubborn, and he is the sort of person who yells at his television.
But spring is a far worse personification. More like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend than an actual season. Mostly cold, with massive mood swings and tons of mixed signals. The kind of person who would no-show for a date with a lame excuse about having to work late, yadda, yadda.
The emotional pall that falls upon the North this time of year may speak to a much larger need within all of us: the desire to have things we can count on. To go to bed at night and imagine the next day, what it will be like, what to expect, how to go about solving the potential problems in our work life. And although some of us can—and do—thrive in a chaotic environment, I haven’t met anyone who enjoys living in one 24/7.
In the world of labour relations within which I work, inconsistency can be a huge issue for us and our members. Sometimes, it’s not that a worker necessarily disagrees with a rule or policy. But the moment that it is enforced inconsistently, it becomes instantly resented. Something as arbitrary as bumping a start time for the day, or changing where the marshalling point is going to be. If it’s done in a way that comes out of the blue and unexpected, it almost invariably results in backlash.
In my job, I have had to move the goalposts of what to expect day to day. I plan for it to be a bit messy, with conflict and trouble, and victories and meaningful successes.
Sometimes, what I assumed was an office day turns into termination meetings all day at a site. Sometimes, those termination meetings result in grievance meetings well into the evening.
If you really think about it, a measure of unpredictability is found in almost every profession and every workplace. Where we can save ourselves some disappointment, though, is by determining between the things that we can and cannot control. You know, like the weather.
Maybe I would do well to remember this when I’m scraping ice off my windshield on the first day of spring. That despite how the rest of the world has determined March 20th as the end of winter, we up North are very much within its cold, frozen grip, and will be for quite a few more weeks—no matter what I expect.
But, man, I sure can’t wait for summer.