A few days ago, I was requested and required to provide an update on the current status of the annual spring event that I find both loathsome and obnoxious. Historically these sessions have always been fraught with danger. Gotcha questions, deep diving irrelevant details, adding requirements to no real advantage, and generally just busting my balls was the order of the day.
Not so this time around. We passed on the relevant information. Provided a broad overview of progress, the expected way ahead, and our proposed timeline and milestones. There were several clarifying questions and then approval to proceed as planned.
I walked into the room planning on needing every bit of bureaucratic arms and armor I could carry along. Not a bit of it was called for. In fact, the whole thing felt so unnatural that I’ve spent the last 48 hours expecting the other shoe to come hurtling out of the sky and land directly on my head.
This dog and pony show is still the bane of my existence, but it’s nice to be dealing with someone who doesn’t seem determined to make the slog harder than it needs to be “just because.” Is it possible that I’ve encountered a rare supporter in trying to stave off unnecessary chaos?
I was not expecting that to happen right square in the middle of the week, but here we are. It’s a brave new world.
I’ve been in pretty steady contact with the project manager who’s going to be in charge of Operation Functional Bathroom. It really does look like this show will be getting on the road starting next Monday – with the 9AM delivery of a 20 cubic yard dumpster. I’m sure the neighbors will be thrilled with that sitting on the curb for the next 20 or 30 days. Fortunately, the master HOA agreement covers many topics, but giant dumpsters isn’t one of them.
I’m still fiddling with the plan on how to keep the resident critters separated from the working party. What I’ve come up with is mostly a reversion to Jorah’s misspent youth – with all of us spending our days blocked in the kitchen or pressed into the laundry room if there’s a need for truly close confinement at any point. That should be fine in theory. In practice, I’m mostly worried how Hershel will take to this temporary new normal. His food and litter box has resided in the bathroom since the first day he came home… and with cats being creatures of habit, I definitely have questions about how well he’ll respond to suddenly finding them located elsewhere.
I’m also contemplating abandoning my bedroom entirely for the duration of this project and decamping across the hall to the guest room. I mean it would be comfortable enough, even if space would feel a bit tight. The cable jack in that room is, of course, currently buried behind one of the jam-packed bookcases holding the nonfiction section, so there’s one minor drawback to an otherwise decent plan. How well the furry critters who have never known a different sleeping arrangement on the homestead will take to it, remains to be seen.
I’ve hired a good crew. God knows getting that right was something I obsessed over. Now that we’re just a few days from the line of departure, though, the full weight of how radically this whole effort is going to impact my cherished daily routine – and how little direct control I have over the details – has left me feeling a bit wild-eyed and twitchy.
It’s been a perfectly unremarkable Friday. The freezing drizzle and fog this morning was a nice touch… and just another reason why working from home is greater than working at the office. Otherwise, the day isn’t really distinguished in any way.
I’ve built a lovely cocoon for myself here at Fortress Jeff. With a few minor exceptions there’s not much I want to do that I can’t do here from the comfort of the homestead. Whether it’s plague, foul weather, or violent insurrection, I’m ready to ride it out right here with the critters.
True end of the world stuff is another matter, but in fairness, I’ve grown rather fond of civilization and I’m not entirely sure I want to be one of those people who get to stick around and pick through its ruins.
Where you stand depends on where you sit, I suppose. There was a time I was the first to volunteer to fly off to whatever job needed doing and I rarely thought of what might be happening beyond the next weekend. Back there and back then, I could barely stay put for half a day before needing to be up and out on the next thing. The older I get, though, the more stock I put on the world being regulated by good order and discipline. Chaos, in the wide universe of things best avoided, is the one I loath the most.
I can’t control the world, of course, but I can control a fair amount of what happens here on my little piece of it… so I’ll be striving to extend this run of “unremarkable” as far past Friday as possible.
This week offers a real grab bag of topics that could easily be slotted into tonight’s post. There are rioters who the media insists we call protestors, there are those who want us to fall all over ourselves apologizing for the long history of the United States, there are people who refuse to follow simple, lawful instructions, there are local governments all over the country that are failing to provide the most basic services of government – the safety and security of their citizens, and there are those from every corner who are working all possible angles to find advantage in the chaos – whether that’s through committing acts of violence, theft, or injecting outside agitation into already unstable situations.
Like I said, there’s almost no limit to what I could have written on this Thursday. The problem is, I don’t want to. The only goal I’ve had for the last five years or so, really, is to be left in peace on the side of this hill… and that litany of topics brings me anything but peace.
I spent some time at the office this week. I spent some time at home. I did a little work. I’ve done a lot of reading. I’ve laid down on the floor and let myself become a human chew toy. I’ve worked through a not insignificant volume of gin. None of those things led me towards burning down a car dealership or taking pot shots at someone in the street. It leads me to wonder if we wouldn’t collectively be better off if we all just stayed in our damned lane, take a breather, and give the moment a chance to unfuck itself since continually ratcheting up the pressure doesn’t appear to be getting us anywhere productive.
Since that doesn’t seem likely to happen, I suppose I’ll just stay here on the hillside, rolling my eyes ferociously and muttering to myself.
For me, the waiting is just about the worst. Sitting in a quiet place knowing in an hour or less it will be swarming with hundreds of people who talk for a living and are yelling to be heard over one another is really just like a descent into madness. Or maybe a decent into hell. Possibly both.
Business developers, sales execs… as far as the eye can see its people who want to talk and want you to talk with them. I’d very nearly rather set myself on fire. I’m sure they are all very fine human beings, but their innate mode of operation exhausts me at a very base level.
Waiting for this barely controlled chaos to start is awful… but pretending to be engaged, polite, and vaguely interested for hours on end in what several hundred complete strangers are saying is really just about the very worst thing you can ask me to do in terms of mental health and wellbeing.
Frankly I’m amazed that year after year I get through it without completely withdrawing into my own head and slipping quietly into psychiatric emergency.
As we all know by now I’m a devoted creature of habit. Some of them are so well worn in that I’m not sure I’d know who I am without them. Others are more malleable based on circumstances. Contrary to opinion popular in some quarters, I’m not completely inflexible on all points – though I am on a few of them to be sure.
The real trouble comes when, of necessity, one of those more ingrained habits must change. Since unwelcome change in all its myriad forms is something that must be resisted at almost any cost, migrating one of these habits towards something new and different is rarely a course of action I’ll embark on willingly. I don’t like spending that much time with a warning klaxon rattling around my head that something isn’t right. The whole idea mostly just serves to remind me of a sign a friend of mine kept in his dorm room lo those many years ago. Perched above his desk, the sign gave off the constant reminder that “You don’t have to like it, you just have to do it.”
That seems to have become my unofficial motto across several fronts lately. My reading of history informs me of all manner of destruction/creation cycles and their near-inevitability. Mythology is filled with tales of the old giving way for the new to rise. It’s all very inspirational, of course… But that damned interregnum between one habit dying and the next taking hold tends to throw my whole neatly ordered universe temporarily out of kilter and that just sucks.
I’ve taken a couple days to sleep on it and have concluded that the hard truth many Walking Dead fans need to face is that a year or two after civilization has collapsed, it’s guys like Negan who are most likely going to be running the show. Rick and his crew, our main protagonists, are nice enough folks, always thinking that their key to safety and survival is joining up with the next group of survivors, fortifying a prison, negotiating, and hoping for the best. Every time their hopes get dashed when someone proves to be dishonest, there’s a little bit of cannibalism, or their neighbor drives a tank through their front door. Through it all, despite what they say, Rick’s crew seems desperate to want to believe the best about people. It’s constantly their undoing – and precisely why guys like Negan will triumph in the post-apocalypse.
Like any number of tribal chieftains of old, Negan maintains his rule and the stability of his followers through brutally enforced discipline. While this may seem abhorrent to us sitting comfortably in our homes tonight, it’s nothing new for most of human history. In fact, under the circumstances, it’s probably the group of survivors most likely to thrive in the face of the brave new world we’ve met yet in the Walking Dead universe.
Ponder for a moment if you will that Negan’s followers are highly organized and able to defend and expand their territory through better communications and tactics than those employed by Rick’s group. They’re well fed, clothed, and supplied, which indicates a relatively sophisticated economy based on the imperial model of commodity goods flowing towards the “mother country,” and finished goods and protection being furnished to the colonies. Unlike Rick, Negan doesn’t seem to shy away from his role as leader. As a result the command and control structure of his organization is very clear. He’s at the top, but he also indicated in this week’s premier that he has trusted lieutenants who he depends on. He may delight in dispensing rough justice, but his actions shouldn’t be a surprise – after all, he told our friends from Alexandria that bad behavior would be punished and then when they behaved badly he responded exactly as he said he would in order to establish a clear correlation between cause and effect.
I wouldn’t vote for Negan if he were running for president, but as a post-apocalyptic warlord, I think I’d quickly see the value of joining a group like his. This world they’ve created full of walking dead and the even more dangerous living is a violent place. The fact that violent men rise up to establish some kind of order shouldn’t surprise anyone. It was done like that in this world for a lot longer than we’ve been trying to master such societal niceties as peaceful transfers of power.
Spend enough days in a row sitting through meetings where nothing is ever decided, writing emails that no one ever reads, and dreaming up good ideas that will never see the light of day and one might be forgiven for tending to adopt a healthy cynicism about their profession. In a bureaucracy where every cog has its own agenda and can through even the best laid plans off the rails, frankly I’m surprised when anything gets done at all. It’s practically a cause for celebration.
I suspect that’s why I spend so much of my “off” time doing things that can demonstrate a tangible result. Reading and writing are easy. Finish the book, draft a new chapter, and either way at the end point you have something to show for the effort. It’s measurable. I suspect it’s also why I throughly enjoy mowing the grass, running string trimmer, and cutting back another few feet of encroaching saplings. Adding two hours of physical work after eight hours of repeatedly banging your head against you desk probably isn’t everyone’s idea of good times… but it makes me unreasonably happy, even as it leads to increasing exhaustion.
In that one small way, I’ve carved a bit of order away from chaos. It’s not making the world safe for democracy, or curing polio, but it helps stave off the madness and that contribution shouldn’t be undervalued.
1. Unpredictability. Being a creature of habit, unpredictability makes me nervous. I don’t like it. I can deal with it, but all things considered, I’d rather not. Summer days, and particularly days that end the week are nothing but unpredictable and will send you from running 1000 miles an hour with your hair on fire to a dead stop without so much as a friendly warning. If I were king for life, I’d set them up to have a nice easy flow leading into the weekend. Yeah, that would suit me nicely, thank you.
2. Gay Pride Whopper. Facebook took note this week of a “gay pride” Whopper wrapper. I’m not sure why it’s a thing, but apparently it is. All I can tell you for sure is that the wrapper doesn’t change whats inside. Set a gay pride burger next to a normal burger and I have a sneaking suspicion no one complaining about the wrapper could tell the difference. Maybe I’m an anomaly, but I don’t care about a company’s politics so much. As long as they’re providing me a product or service I want at a price I consider fair, I say God bless and go support whatever cause your heart desires.
3. Winston. I love the little furry bastard, but for the love of all things good and holy it would be nice if he could stay healthy for more than 7-10 days at a time. More trips to the vet, more shorts, more sprays, more pills, ad infinitum. A middle aged bulldog isn’t so much a force of nature as it is a sucking black hole into which you will throw all manner of money. Bulldog people must be different by nature and temperament, because no sane person would willingly subject themselves to the trials and tribulations of life with a smush-nosed beasties.
After reading so many Facebook posts about staying up into the early hours assembling presents and waking up before the crack of dawn to begin the great unwrapping, I’d like to take a moment and really appreciate my incredibly low key Christmas morning. I woke up around 8AM, took the dogs for a quick walk in the snow (their idea, not mine), made a pot of coffee, and eventually got around to unwrapping presets and reading the paper before brewing another pot of coffee and settling in for the morning.
All-in-all, a quiet Christmas morning seems like an invaluable moment of calm before the mayhem and chaos of the rest of the day. It’s not quite zen, but sucking down copious amounts of coffee while the dogs snore in front of the fire vaguely feels like what Christmas is supposed to be. Of course that may just be my own uniquely warped view of how things work.
From my comfortable seat in the living room, Merry Christmas to all my friends and family (and anyone who stumbles across this post by accident).