I’m not ashamed to admit that I was as close to coming unglued today as I’ve been in at least four years. At one point around 2:30 this afternoon, email was hitting my inbox and I was taking on so much verbal guidance that I’m pretty sure I could see the code in the matrix. I wish I was joking. There was a minute there this afternoon when I’m almost positive that I could hear the synapses firing in my brain.
In the middle of my boss talking to me I squeezed my eyes shut and rubbed my temples, muttering something to the effect of “I think I’m losing my mind back here.” At least I think that’s what I said. Whatever it was that came out of my mouth in that moment must have been a doozy because the boss’ face was a decided mixture of curiosity and concern when I opened my eyes. It wasn’t my finest moment. Then again, it wasn’t anything close to a good day, so I don’t know why it would be.
I don’t mind hard work – physical, mental, it makes no difference to me. I’m the guy who comes home from his day job and spends another four hours at the keyboard chasing the dream of making a living and a life from the written word. I’m the guy who spends hours on the yard until it looks “just so” and order has been restored from the chaos. With that being said, I need to note that there’s only one of me. I can’t change one thing sixteen times and have any hope of keeping up with the two dozen other things people want. I wish I could tell you that I could. Hell, I wish I actually could do it all but there are limits… and I’m old enough to know better than to spend all day every day working beyond those limits. Nothing good comes from that.
So tomorrow I’m going into the day knowing that I’m already running close to max RPM. Some people are happy enough to rev the engine until it blows apart. I’m not one of them and will make decisions accordingly.
With the potential future sale of Casa de Jeff de Cordova, one of the myriad of pain in the ass things to do is transfer the light, gas, and water service back into my name. That should be easy enough to settle with a phone call to the intrepid people at Memphis, Light Gas, and Water except of course that nothing that needs doing is ever actually easy.
It seems that the bill from the last month I lived in Memphis was never actually paid and has been sitting in their delinquent account file for the last 3+ years just waiting on the moment I would call to make it right. We’ll forget for a moment that I never actually received a bill for this amount and that as far as I can tell, no effort was made to send it to my forwarding address. I’ll take the burden of responsibility for that. Fine.
Now, these many years later, here I am attempting to make good on my public debt. In speaking to the customer service agent, I’m told that the only way to pay a bill in the delinquent file is to present myself at the offices of Memphis, Light Gas, and Water to genuflect and hand unto them cash, a money order, or a cashiers check for the princely sum of $110.87. No payment by phone. No payment online. Only hand delivery at the office will do with no possibility of exception for those who may now live 850 miles away from that charmed city on the banks of Old Muddy.
I’m trying to get myself right with these guys. All I want to do is give them money. You’d think they might make it easier on a guy than forcing him into a convoluted process that involves overnighting a cashiers check to a realtor he’s never met in person and hoping that she’s able to do the leg work on his behalf. The alternative is a one day round trip flight to Memphis wherein I will spend $1000 in order to pay a $100 debt.
Even sitting here in the comfort of my own rental kitchen, I can’t manage to avoid the utter asshattery of what is clearly demonstrating itself to be one of the world’s foremost bureaucratic organizations. And God knows as a cog in Uncle’s great machine I’m in a position to recognize both asshattery and bureaucracy when I see it.
Almost universally people in the western world welcome Friday as the gateway to the weekend. I was like that once, but that hasn’t been for a very long time. More often, Friday’s are when someone at echelons higher than reality has an “oh shit” moment and realizes that they have a bright idea that can’t possibly wait until Monday to pass around. That leads to unplanned meetings and basically having the day’s entire agenda thrown over the side well before the end of the day.
If I can use this past Friday as my case in point, here’s the high points for the day:
– 10:00AM – Spend an hour trying to find diplomatic way to avoid taking guidance from people I don’t work for, but who outrank me by like 173 levels.
– 11:29AM – Realtor 1 calls with full-price offer on the Memphis house.
– 11:42AM – Realtor 2 calls with confirmation that the St. Mary’s Condo has been leased.
– 12:15PM – Signed acceptance of the offer on the Memphis house.
– 12:34PM – Received copy of signed lease for St. Mary’s condo.
– 4:00PM – End of Tour / Stuck in ongoing meeting
– 4:31PM – Actual End of Tour
– 4:35PM – Realtor 1 calls to say there’s a problem with the paperwork and buyer wants to reopen negotiation.
– 4:36PM – Inform Realtor 1 that I’m already giving the house away and don’t intend to get mugged too.
– 4:45PM – Truck windshield cracks
– 5:15PM – Arrive home / Find rum
– 7:59PM – Realtor 1 calls to tell me the buyers decided the paperwork was ok as written.
– 8:00PM – Bangs head on table repeatedly while mumbling softly to self.
– 9:00PM – Lights out / Quiet reflection / Fight urge to set the world on fire.
That, in so many nut shells is how I’ve found most Fridays tend to go. Whatever stupid hasn’t happened during the other four working days of the week will accrete to Friday and conspire to overwhelm you in an absolutely unpredictable avalanche of equally ridiculous, but mostly unrelated events. So yeah, you could say I have trust issues with Friday.
1. Decisions. I’m theoretically leading a project right now. I say theoretically because every time we get together to discuss it, we revisit and rehash decisions that I was under the impression were made a month or two ago. But no, instead of actually trying to move the ball forward, we want to spend our time going over and over and over and over and over the same damned material. I have to wonder if the weekly outcome would be any different if organizations didn’t send a different representative to this exercise in futility each week. Then maybe we could get a little institutional memory going and I could wrap up a Thursday without without my blood pressure treading dangerously close to stroke territory. All for the want of decisions that actually stick once they’re made.
2. Thursday Dinner. I try to cook a big meal every Sunday – enough so there are two or three days of leftovers and I don’t have to do any heavy cooking after work. By Thursday night, though, even the biggest of meals has either disappeared into my gullet or is just no longer appetizing. As much as a creature of habit as I am, eating the same dinner four days in a row is a touch too far for me. That’s generally how you end up having scrambled eggs and cinnamon toast for dinner on Thursday night. Not that I dislike either of those things, but after a long stupid day something more substantial would have been nice. Sadly, something more substantial would have also required far more effort than I was willing to put in.
3. Guilt. Most nights, especially now that it’s getting dark earlier, Maggie and Winston are happy to snooze peacefully under the kitchen table while I try to combine words into sentences and sentences into complete thoughts. On other nights, Winston tries to be a 40 pound lap bulldog and Maggie somehow manages to wedge herself between my elbow and the keyboard. They’ve been in “needy” mode all week… and while I couldn’t do without them, it would be nice if I’d have bothered to raise more independent children.
If anyone has been following along my “official” Facebook page, they’ve probably seen that I’ve spent the last few nights getting my research on. Conveniently, in the modern world it’s easy enough to research from the comfort of my own home. It’s made even easier because the primary sources I’m interested in are all things I wrote between 2008 and the present day.
If there’s anything I’ve noticed while wading through thousands of my own words it’s that some of the writing has been extraordinarily bad. For those of you who have been with me for a while now, I’m sorry about that. Apparently I really do need an editor to follow me around full time. Fortunately, I’m getting the chance to clean some of those issues up as I go along.
The good news is that even though I’m less than two years into the material, there’s also some really good, cheeky stuff in there. Way, way more than enough to build on. Way more than I thought I’d find. When I kicked this off I assumed the research was going to be the hard part. The more I get though I’m realizing that the hardest bit is actually going to be deciding what stays in and what fades back into the mists of the last half decade. Admittedly, that’s not the worst problem I’ve ever faced.
If I had to guess, optimistically I probably have a month’s worth of material left to go through. More realistically it will take me closer to two months after you allow for all manner of what conspires to distract me from making forward progress. After that it’s back to the grind of 300-500 words a night until something that reads like a first draft magically appears on the screen.
Reading back over that last bit, this would be one of those times when I wonder whether I’ve lost every bit of sense I ever had.
Sometimes the universe hands you the perfect blog-worthy topic, fills you with background material, and page after page of everything that makes for a good and entertaining read. Just as quickly you realize at those moments that you can’t use a damned word of it because just the act of writing about it would reveal too much about your sources and methods of data collection. I’ve got a damned masterpiece laid out in my head, but I can’t do a thing with it. It’s going to have to suffice to say that it would have been absolutely magnificent. Maybe someday it’s one of those notes I’ll be able to dust off and revive, but it feels like a moment that’s missed and forever gone. It will never be as technicolor real as it is today.
I try hard not to moderate my posts even in the interest of making life a little easier on myself, but sometimes you’ve just got to put it away for the sake of not picking a fight you’re not absolutely in a position to win. It’s one of the hard realities of blogging. Pitting your greater self interest against the desire to post a sensational piece of work is just one more way the writing process conspires to keep a guy humble.
When I started in the current gig way back in ye olde 2010, there were 8 people doing the job in my little corner of Uncle’s vast universe. I won’t tell you that we were always busy, but we had our moments of mayhem and chaos even when all hands were on deck. That number ebbed and flowed – up one, down one – over time, but was remarkably steady until about six months ago when people started racing for the exits. From there, it’s been a foot race to get out of Dodge.
By this time next week, the number of the counting will be reduced to three. By all outward appearances, we’re just going to reallocate the workload and drive on as usual. That strategy might be ok when you drop from 8 to 7, but by the time you go to three there simply isn’t enough time in the day to keep up. You reach a point where doing more with less isn’t just impossible, but it becomes detrimental to an office. It reminds me of an vintage Dilbert strip where Pointy Haired Boss tells Dilbert to pick up someone’s functions. Dilbert’s response? “I have infinite capacity to do more work as long as you don’t mind that my quality approaches zero.” I wish I could tell you that was farce, but it bears too much resemblance to reality. With every position left vacant, the quality of the work is diminished. Getting the job done just to that “good enough” standard is something that makes me just a little bit crazy.
I’ve worked in places that were more toxic, but the older I get the less tolerance I seem to have for the asshattery of it all. The only reason I’ve let it ride as long as I have is I happen to enjoy the particular piece of geography we occupy. I supposed even that’s not really enough to hold me if a change needs to come. As much as I don’t want to dive back into the land of the three hours commute, it’s time, past time, to put all the options on the table.