Today was another one of those days. You know, the kind you spend dashing from Very Important Thing to Very Important Thing without ever slowing down to do any kind of analysis about what you’re doing or why you’re doing it. Those days are becoming more and more common lately. My read of the future is that they’ll probably become the norm rather than the exception and that it’ll happen sooner rather than later.
I’m not saying I want to be one of those occasional government employees I ran across in DC who unfolded the Post when they got in and proceeded to spend the day reading it from cover to cover, but it would be nice to be able to do more than race from one meeting to the next until they all start bleeding together into one great endless timesuck. I’m a little envious of the people who seem to be able to sit through meetings and digest all the information on the fly, compiling it into some intra-cranial database with perfect recall of how it fits in with all the other information from all the other meetings they’ve sat in. My brain, of course, doesn’t work like that. I process information best when I have time to think on it, write things out, and then aggregate it into a comprehensive whole. That’s why given the choice I’d be better served sticking with PowerPoints and information papers and distilling big ideas down into their essential elements. Needing to do it on the wing quite literally makes my head hurt.
Based on the way the last couple of weeks have gone, I’m projecting the need to lay on a bulk supply of aspirin. As “those days” become the new normal, I’m going to need them. There are a number of management philosophies that apply here – some say do more with less, some say do less with less, the one that seems to be in play at the moment is “do more and quit your bitching.”
Rest assured as long as I have a blog and an internet connection they may be able to make me do more, but I will never, ever quit my bitching.
Two weeks ago while I was sitting on the beach, somewhere between my credit union and Visa the auto pay that pulls my credit card payment every month got switched to the off position. This is a fact of which I was unaware until I got this month’s statement and the bill was about 2.5x what I was mentally prepared to see. After ten minutes of chasing down what happened and another 20 minutes on the line with the credit card company, I think we’ve gotten things sorted out, reversed the late charge, and paid the overdue balance.
I haven’t had something like that show up on an account since I was in broke ass college student shoveling cash out the door faster than it came in. Still, I want the record to show that I’m not blaming the credit union or the card company for this one. Sure, auto-pay is theoretically a convenience that shouldn’t just turn itself off, but my name is the one on the bill and that makes me responsible for seeing that it gets paid on time. I didn’t do that last month and wouldn’t have argued too strongly of they insisted on letting me take my lumps.
Fortunately, they were readily willing to work with me and cut me a break. I appreciate that. I guess having an account in good standing for the better part of 20 years is good for something after all.
It occurred to me this morning that there’s probably a deep psychological reason I’m so adamantly opposed to wearing a tie. Sure, I could give you the usual song and dance about them being constrictive and uncomfortable or about them serving absolutely no purpose in the modern world, but deep down I don’t think that’s the reason at all… even though those are all perfectly valid issues with the standard necktie.
The real problem with these damned decorative bits of fabric is that I never wear them on good days. I pull one off the rack for funerals, court appearance, work, and weddings – for good or ill, those aren’t what I consider the red letter days of my life. Those days are largely depressing and/or expensive hassles in which I’d probably rather not participate. In my near 40-year life, ties always come out for the pain-in-the-ass times.
The good times are marked with jeans, tee shirts, shorts, and muddy boots. They’re ratty clothes covered in dog hair and smelling of wood smoke or of diesel fumes and salt spray after a long day on the water. Never once on one of these good days did I sit back quietly and think to myself, “Wow, this day would have been so much better if I had on a tie!” On the other hand, nearly every time I’ve ever put on a tie, I know the day would have been better if I was somewhere else, wearing something different.
So there it is in a nutshell, my basic belief that ties aren’t just a pointless throwback noose we’re supposed to willingly put our necks into every morning. In fact, they’re basically nothing more than a visual cue that you’re about to experience a wasted day.
Thanks for stopping by tonight. This has been one of those occasional posts I make to give you a little insight into what’s churning around in my head while I’m standing quietly off to the side of the room observing the world around me.
Forty-five years ago today Americans walked on the moon. Let that sink in for a minute. Three guys strapped themselves on top of the largest rocket ever built and were blasted away from the surface of the earth, traveled three days, and then landed for the first time on an alien world. Every other human being alive or who had ever lived was 238,900 miles away. If that’s not the stuff heroes are made of, I don’t know what is.
Today, we can’t even get a man into orbit without bumming a lift from a country who seems determined to start World War III. Seriously. What happened, America? In the last century we freed Europe, decisively crushed the Japanese Empire, and then raced into the heavens as a victory lap. Today, we can’t seem to find our collective ass with both hands and a flashlight. What happened?
This country has done great and remarkable things. We can do them again. If only we could find a leader or two who weren’t out playing small ball while Rome burns.
Sweet Jesus what a difference 45 years makes.
1. Being a ping pong ball. After many years of attending far more meetings than I want to recall. fortunately in that time I’ve cultivated a lead ass and a steel bladder, making it possible for me to endure just about any time suck thrown at me. What I don’t think I’ll ever get use to is the sheer volume of the damned things they throw at you while expecting you to get actual work done in the few minutes between them. Two before lunch, two after, and one blown off because it was scheduled after close of business. Add to that the slides, pre-meeting questions, general coordination, post-meeting minutes and that leaves about 45 minutes of the day in which real work might actually happen, except of course 30 of those minutes belong to lunch and even that gets interrupted a couple of times. It looks like I’m going to need to find a hidey-hole if I want to carve out a minute or two to have an actual uninterrupted thought for the foreseeable future.
2. Focus. Somewhere during my recently concluded vacation, I apparently lost my ability to focus. I’m sure it’s not helped by the ping pong routine referenced above, but it was brewing long before that. I can’t seem to string more than three sentences together without my brain running off in some other direction. I’m sure it’s not the worst thing in the world, but it’s a damned annoyance when you get home, try to spend some time working your “second job” and can seem to squeeze a coherent thought out of the space between your ears.
3. My shoulder. I’ve been ignoring the nagging pain in my shoulder for a while now. For the last year or so it’s one of those things that comes and goes. Lately we seem to be in a mode of it coming more often than going. I’ll spare you the image of the face I make when I accidentally reach for something over my head. It’s probably one of those things that’s funny, just not to me. I’ve got a check up coming at the end of the month. Maybe I’ll remember to bring it up, if only because it might distract the German from yelling at me for packing on a few more pounds since he switched my meds and still loving red meat. Unfortunately, I suspect that kind of distraction would require some kind of major trauma in the head and chest region, but I’m willing to roll the dice on that.
So I had a bit of a surreal experience during my travels across the Eastern Shore last week. Thundering down some two-lane country road on the Delaware side of the Delmarva, I caught a quick look at a biplane in the distance. I only noted it because it was pulling vertical, as if maneuvering for the first half of a loop. It was cool seeing it, even from a distance. Nothing kindles the idea of the magic of flight like a biplane. After that, I didn’t think much of it, assuming that it was a wanna-be air show pilot dusting some crops (Is that something people still do?).
Fast forward a few minutes and a few miles and what appeared to be the same plane came screaming out from behind a no-longer-very distant overpass. He made a sweeping left turn, and lined up dead in the middle of the little road. From my perspective of trying to keep one eye on the plane and one on the road, it looked like nothing quite so much as him lining up for a strafing run. It was exactly like the kind of thing you’d see in the movies, if you happen to be a fan of films like North by Northwest.
Irrational as it was, I found myself holding my breath waiting for the telltale flames to jump from behind the propeller and seriously pondering the likelihood of survival if I jerked the wheel hard right to evade the rounds I expected to see plastering the asphalt in front of me. Like I said, it was a totally irrational moment and over before I really had time to give it more than a passing thought.
Still, I flicked my headlights in acknowledgement of the “kill.” I hope that’s how the pilot took it, anyway. In my mind he did. The deep thrumming radial engine passed maybe 100 feet over my head and I lost him in the treetops when he banked right and out over one of the approximately 18 billion cornfields along that stretch of road. There’s nothing like finding yourself under the imagined guns of a century old warplane to get the blood pumping… or maybe it’s just me.
I’m running down the clock on my last few hours of mid-summer vacation doing laundry, making dinner, and generally trying to smooth the transition back to work tomorrow. I’m not going to lie, there my have been a FML moment when I cracked my eyes this morning and realized I was 24 short hours from diving back into the grind. It’s not that I hate work, but like everyone else there are just a trillion and a half things I’d rather spend my time doing. Such is life.
One of the unavoidable conversations you hear at the office is contemplation about how people will keep themselves busy in retirement, whether or not they’ll be able to adjust effectively to a world where a third of their day isn’t pre-planned for them. Every time I get away, I’m reminded that I won’t ever have to ask myself that question. I know with absolute certainty that I’ll manage to fill my time with activities that feel way more rewarding than ginning up a well-crafted PowerPoint or thousand column spreadsheet. Mercifully, my interests don’t require a small fortune so when the time comes, it’ll be surprisingly easy to flip the switch and get on with it.
Yeah, so while I’m not ready to get back to the so-called real world, I’ve got readiness in spades for the day I don’t have to. Talk about long range planning.