What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The bridge into North East, Maryland. It might be a mild exaggeration, but it feels like various companies have been working on the bridge that provides the only direct access into “downtown” North East for about 87 years. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, spanning the width of Britain in about 14 years. The Empire State Building took one year and 45 days to build. But the state and the county and the original contractor who got his ass fired off the project and everyone else wants to cry the blues that it’s “only” taken five years so far to replace a fairly straightforward two lane bridge the crosses over a railroad track. What we have to show for that five years of effort is the northbound lane – and that hasn’t even been opened for traffic yet. When I’m out on the weekends and run into people, I often wonder how they function in the day-to-day world. I’m increasingly convinced that they actually don’t.

2. This is probably too much information, so if you’re feeling overly sensitive, it may be best to skip on to the third weekly annoyance. You see, recently at work I hurt my back standing up after taking a shit. It was showing marked improvement and I really thought it was well on the way to being serviceable again… but I know the inability straighten my back completely for those few minutes means it’s going to be twitchy for at least another week or two. That’s ok. It’s not like I have a list of spring yard work tasks that need to be accomplished anytime soon. It seems that this is your 40s.

3. I have a dream. I dreamt the lottery pool I participate in won the Cash For Life jackpot. I sprung up from that dream fully awake with the shit-eatingist of shit eating grins on my face. You can well imagine the disappointment on really waking up and realizing that a) the pool doesn’t play Cash for Life; b) It wasn’t even the correct night for the Cash for Life drawing and; c) it was all my brain’s little way of saying “fuck you very much.”

Monday is just another word for nothing left to lose…

This was the first Monday I had to actually go into the office in months. Something about staffing and coverage and blah blah blah. I’ll still get my telework day this week, just not as the day that eases me back into the weekday routine of angst, bother, and death PowerPoint.

I know it was a Monday today mostly because when I got to the office and wanted to buy a bagel, I discovered that my wallet, watch, and other small items I carry every day were not where I expected them to be (i.e. in my pockets). Instead, they were exactly where I left them the last time I had returned home from being out in the world of people. Which is exactly where they are deposited the hundreds of times a year I come home from being somewhere else, so it’s not as if they’d been secreted off to a new undisclosed location and chaos ensued.

I can only assume this was my subconscious rejecting the idea of a Monday that strayed so far from the standard. This lack of early morning cerebral engagement means I started off the day doubly disappointed – first, I was destined to spend the day tethered to my desk in the concrete bowels of the building without fresh air or daylight and secondly, I was required to do it without benefit of starting the day with a toasty warm bagel. 

I think that nicely encapsulates exactly what kind of day it has been. In fact, I’m going to start a petition to officially change the name of Monday to Double Disappointment. It feels altogether more fitting.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

​1. UPS. I’d hate to think how much business I’ve pushed through UPS over the years. But gigging me for $5 to change the date a package arrives feels a little bit cheap on their part. Sure, it’s only $5 but I’m not sure what the difference is between delivering it “for free” on Friday or delivering it on Monday when I’ll actually be home to receive it – which is only an issue because *you* require an ink signature. I guess they do offer a free option of letting me pick up the package at a location an hour round trip drive away was supposed to be a helpful concession so maybe you’re letting me off easy. I don’t mind paying for a service, but I resent the hell out of getting nickel and dimed.

2. Disappointment. I know a lot of people, but there are only a handful that I would count among my closest of friends – the ones I’d go to the mat for with no questions asked or burn down whole cities for if they asked. You think you know most of what there is to know about them. But then there’s the day you realize you know nothing. It’s equal parts unnerving and sad and disappointing because though they may well go on being your friend, you’ll never see them with the same undiluted affection. Given enough time everything changes, though I wonder why it so rarely seems to change for the better.

3. Windows 10. Sometime in the dead of night Windows 10 was smuggled on to my work computer and promptly went about wrecking everything from my wifi connection to my email archives to my screen configuration and any number of small tweaks that I’ve made over time to make the archaic POS computer a little more usable day-to-day. Some things I’ve been able to fix on my own through the day. Other things can’t be resolved by anyone locally and must be corrected by the great network help desk in the sky… which means I might see resolution sometime around March 2019. Just once I’d like to get one of these official “upgrades” that didn’t end up giving me less capability and require me to spend inordinate amounts of time fixing things that it broke.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Accusations of negativity. I don’t think of myself as a person who dwells on the negative. I certainly recognize that negativity abounds, but I don’t dwell on it. I feel like there may be some that have the impression that I walk around in a black cloud, but I find that to be far from the truth. Just because I find the world to largely be a shitshow, I still manage to take my pleasures where I find them. Cold beer and a dozen steamed crabs on a Friday night? Bliss. The 6AM sun cracking through the leaves and the forest sounds of early morning? Heaven. Quiet night with a good book and two snoring beasts at my feet? Nirvana. The vast majority of my troubles begin and end with people… or rather because I have expectations of people. You might think that my expectations would be low, but the opposite is the case. I have no higher expectations of the man in the street than I have of myself – that the work I perform is mostly right the first time, that when I say something will happen at a given date and time it will happen, or that as a grown adult I know how to behave and speak while indoors or in a public forum. It’s setting the bar higher than “capable of walking slowly while chewing gum” that seems to get me in trouble, because despite relentless disappointment at the hands of the public at large, I still have my expectations and my standard. And those are not up for debate or compromise. So fear not, for what you perceive as negativity is simply a day’s worth of disappointment seeping out of my brain and back out into the universe.

2. When in charge, take charge. The number of people wandering around in the wild incapable or unwilling to make even the simplest of decisions is, quite frankly disturbing on almost every level. Anything from “where do you want to eat tonight” to “what should we do in Syria” seems to be out of the grasp of so very many. I will never promise that I’m going to make all the right decisions all the time, but I will, by God, make a decision based on the best information I have at hand and move out smartly in what I think is the right direction. I’m not the least bit bothered by having to change course when more or better information becomes available… and I’m damned well not going to sit quietly and wait for perfect enlightenment when there are things that need doing.

3. Social media. Social media gives us all a platform to rail against whatever issue is hottest on our minds on any given moment of any given day. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that gives even the lone voice in the wilderness the ability to reach out to the planet in simulcast. Beyond the cat memes and spam bots, it really is a remarkable feat of engineering. That being said, when you take to social media to rant about how other people are using social media I’m not entirely sure you get the point of it being a tool for all of us to express opinions and ideas when they are unpopular – maybe even especially when they are unpopular. From time to time I find it helpful to step back and remind myself that social media is entirely optional. No one is forcing me (or any of us) to use it. When I read something with which I violently disagree I don’t have to engage. In fact, sometimes the most powerful thing I can do is get up, walk away, and terminate the discussion before I give it the power to annoy me further.

Cheese…

I’ve got a whole, beautifully tempting lasagna sitting on top of the stove as I write this. It’s warm, oozing with just the right proportion of cheese to sauce to noodle. It’s also wholly inedible. The cheese is off. It wasn’t my usual brand of ricotta and since there wasn’t an appearance or smell issue from the container, I threw caution to the wind. One bite, though, was enough to determine that all was not well. What was fine in the fridge had gone well and truly off by the time it endured the cooking process.

There’s probably an analogy to Sunday in there somewhere – a day that starts with such great promise, but that inevitably ends up as ashes in your mouth when the day draws to a close.

It’s not the first meal I’ve bungled and it’s not likely to be the last. Still, I’m already disappointed at the leftovers that will never be… in much the same way that we can’t hold over Sunday for one more spin on the axis. Like my abortive lasagna, the only thing I can know for sure about Monday is that it will inevitably leave a bad taste in my mouth.

A trip to Walmart (or Barbarians at the gates)…

When it comes to grocery shopping in southern Cecil County, Walmart represents the least objectionable of three craptastic choices. Right off the bat that should tell you everything you need to know about the grocery situation here in the northeastern corner of Maryland. I would seriously consider selling a kidney if someone would build a Giant, a Safeway, or a Kroger somewhere closer than the current 90 minute round trip drive to get to any one of those options.

Since it’s the lesser of the local evils, that’s were I end up most weekends. I was there yesterday and here are my studied observations on the experience:

walmart1. There are approximately 237 billion parking spots surrounding Walmart, yet nine times out of ten I end up pulling down the lane behind someone who will sit and wait for the family of six to load their two carts of groceries, buckle the kids into their seats, adjust their mirrors, turn on their GPS and select the “home” option, back halfway out of the spot, stop for no apparent reason for 30 seconds, back the rest of the way out into the lane, spend 20 seconds trying to shift into drive, stall out, restart the car, and then drift away at approximately .175 miles per hour. All of this might even be acceptable if it were midnight on the day after Thanksgiving, but it’s 11AM on a Friday. There are acres of open spots as far as the eye can see, but the douchtard in front of me wants this exact spot for some reason. Well, congratulations. You got it. You saved yourself at least 15 extra steps you’d have had to take from one of the already available spots. This trip is not going well and I haven’t even gotten out of the truck yet.

2. There are three carts inside the door. One filled with some combination of leaves, trash, and possibly a diaper, one that has apparently hosted a seagull convention, and the third and final option… That one apparently doesn’t have any bearings in one of its wheels, so I get to spend the next 40 minutes wiping bird shit off my hands or listening to THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE, THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE every time I take a step. I don’t know if there’s a hell or not, but If there is, I’m absolutely convinced the background noise is THUNK, THUNK, RATTLE.

3. Walked by the ammunition case. No ammo. Or more specifically no ammo for guns that anyone actually owns or uses on a regular basis. Can’t blame Walmart for that one, really. It’s just another disappointing part of this little voyage of the damned.

4. Milk, eggs, bread… Even Walmart cant screw up the staples too badly. Just when I thought things might be turning a corner a three year old girl came charging out of nowhere and flung herself at my cart. Looking up to see what she probably expected to be the face her theoretically loving parent, what she got was a surly look from an unknown middle aged guy with a goatee. Clearly this was not what she was anticipating as the result was a yelp that I can only equate with what happens when you step on a dog’s paw and the child attempting to sprint away and running directly into a bottled water display set up in the middle of the aisle. It seems that with enough momentum, one can really bounce off the side of a few pallets of bottled water. Who knew, right? The last thing I saw was her theoretically loving parent showing up from the next aisle over and clearly wondering why her little darling was lying flat out on Walmart’s floor.

4. I wanted to make a roast on Sunday. Roast beef was a regular fixture at Sunday dinner at my grandmother’s house and about once a month I pull out the stops and make one with all the trimmings. I have found decent cuts of beef at Walmart from time to time, but they’re few and far between… as you might expect, this trip was not one of the exceptions to the rule. It looks like I’ll be partaking in the much more recent family tradition of Taco Sunday again this week.

5. I walked up to a checkout counter that had just cleared its last customer. Not waiting in line to checkout is practically unheard of here at my local Walmart and I thought maybe I was going to get a break here at the end of this test of my endurance. Of course it wasn’t. The cashier was apparently engrossed in her conversation with the last customer. After unloading my cart onto the belt, she was still engrossed. I pushed the cart forward so I was standing directly in front of her and she was still engrossed. I’m pretty sure if I hadn’t started adding my two cents to their conversation, she would probably still be engrossed. Look lady, I don’t need you to be happy to be there. I don’t even need you to be pleasant. All I need you to do is slide my crap across the little scanner thingy, take my money, and let me get on with the rest of my day. The sooner that happens the happier we can all be.

Basically, the only good thing I can ever really say about a trip to Walmart is that no one has yet set my truck on fire in the parking lot. That’s probably only a matter of time, though, because truly the barbarians are at the gates.

Today’s post is the latest installment of “By Request,” where the readers pick the topic and I rant about it.

Ah, Saturday…

I look forward to your coming all week, Saturday and yet somehow when you get here you’re never as awesome as I expected you to be. You always seem to turn into me sitting here paying bills, cleaning the bathroom, and going to the dump. That isn’t the glorious day off I had in mind when I yearned for you back on Wednesday. I could spend another half hour spelling out all the ways you’ve disappointed me this morning, but I need to go get a few more things done so I can at least salvage the afternoon.