Candace Buckner: Facing challenge of work vs. tournament

Commentary: Candace Buckner




On Thursday morning, I woke up early for the challenge.

Rolled out of bed and hit the morning rush for a trip to the local coffee house — usually breakfast is the most disregarded meal of my workday, but this shift would be different. I would need all the energy I could get.

Cinnamon latte and turkey Panini in hand, I then hoofed it back to my living room, pulled on my tattered college hoodie and plopped down on my sofa.

The early Valparaiso-Michigan State NCAA Tournament game was about to begin, and I had to get to work.

Admit it. You, too, didn’t get much done on National Play Hooky From Work Day, also known as the first day of March Madness.

You might have occupied your cubicle in body, but your mind drifted to a far away basketball arena, hoping that your St. Mary’s upset pick over Memphis would come to fruition.

According to the annual study by the firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an estimated three million employees will spend “one to three hours” following the Tournament games instead of making their bosses happy.

Throughout my career, the first day of the Tournament meant I was on the clock. I always had an assignment to cover and a deadline to meet. So, busy work bumped my brackets. Just call me Employee of the Year.

But this time, I wanted to see how the other side lives. I wanted to become a statistic and test the theory from Challenger and the crew.

So, from 9-to-5, I stayed glued to every game while working through the day.

I know what you’re thinking: how incredibly brave of me to take on such an impossible task. But please, save the roses for a buddy of mine, Petey, who provides tech support for a leading home entertainment company. Full disclosure: “Petey” is actually his nickname — it is this column’s policy not to name victims of March Madness.

When Petey showed up at his desk just before the Oregon-Oklahoma State game, he looked over his shoulder and discovered a troubling scene.

“Get to work, find out someone is shadowing me for the entirety of the Ducks’ game,” Petey moaned. “Sad times.”

He only caught the last minute of his alma mater’s victory. Poor guy should’ve gone with his first thought and called in sick. And here I was thinking how difficult I had it while trying to carry on a phone interview in the middle of the Madness. Hmmm, wonder if my source noticed that I was trying to wrap up before halftime in the Saint Louis-New Mexico State game had ended?

Still, this was nothing compared to the trying times at the office for my guy Nick (real name).

Nick works at a faith-based nonprofit, so I imagine his job description reads: full-time do-gooder. However, before Nick could save the world, he needed to pencil in his underdogs.

“I (have) multiple projects. I’m going to start researching prospects for funding. If there was no tourney, I’d already be into it,” Nick remarked. “But first I have to drop off my last-minute bracket changes.”

Ahh, yes, the company NCAA pool. This preoccupation with seed selection costs companies at least $134 million in lost wages, or so suggests the Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. study. Also, think of all the money workers waste over these next three weeks. If I had entered The Columbian’s newsroom pool, I already would be out of it. Yup. Guess that Pitt and Bucknell Final Four pick wasn’t as clever as I thought.

Later in the day, as I yelled at the TV during the Davidson-Marquette game, I heard from another workforce warrior.

My good pal Wes (also, his real name.) A self-professed “cubicle monkey,” Wes spent his morning with one eye on his spreadsheets and another on his scoreboard app. Usually around this time of the year, Wes pulls a Ferris Bueller for a pilgrimage to Columbia, Mo., so that he and some pals can enjoy every game in the darkened delight of their favorite sports bar. But on Thursday, he remained at the desk and suffered in silence as his sleeper pick wilted away.

“Darn you, St. Mary’s!!” he texted. “Might as well throw the bracket away. I hate basketball!!!”

Valiantly, Wes shook off the stress and soldiered on the rest of the day for plenty more “cubicle monkey” tasks.

Inspired by these true tales from my fellow laborers, I knew that I would get through my workday challenge. And though the closing minutes of the top-seeded Gonzaga and No. 16 Southern game gave me heart palpitations, I found a way to focus on my job.

Through the sweat and the distractions as well as utter confusion at the “Storage Hunters” in-game promos popping up on the TruTV televised games, I finished this column.

Hard work, indeed. I think it’s time for a vacation.

Candace Buckner covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. She can be reached at 360-735-4528 or email at Her Twitter handle is @blazerbanter.