What Annoys Jeff This Week?

1. Shady book shops. I’m not generally the kind of guy who walks around expecting something for nothing, but when I spy a deal, I like to snap it up… Which is what leads to the frustration of online booksellers who don’t realize they’ve underpriced a particular volume by about 2/3s of its actual retail price until someone comes along and tries to buy it. At least they were nice enough to immediately repost it for sale at a much higher price. That’ll be a hard pass from me. I’ll buy it from a competitor and even pay a bit more for the privilege since they’re not doing shady shit.

2. For reasons surpassing my limited efforts at understanding, my Twitter feed this week has been filled with posts saying something like “Stop doing x thing that makes y people feel uncomfortable.” Ok, I guess, except that in this little passion project of theirs we find that “X” is an absolutely normal, everyday activity and “Y” is some random bunch of wackjobs with perpetually hurt feelings. I assure you, if you’re planning to go through life expecting everyone to make you “comfortable,” you’re in for a great deal of both butt hurt and disappointment. But hey, good luck with that.

3. Friends. Friends are good things to have, I suppose. The simple fact of being a friend doesn’t, however, make you immune from criticism. At least it hasn’t in my experience. Some of my closest friends are the first to tell me when I’m heading off the rails. It’s not always a fun experience, but getting a third-party perspective has often served to be awfully instructive to me. If you’re looking for someone who will be nice just to be nice or who wants to go along to get along, I might not be the one for you… and that’s OK, too.

Sunday dinners that weren’t…

I’ve ruined Sunday dinner for the last two weeks running. I mean it wasn’t bringing a hooker to Thanksgiving, having a shouting match with Aunt Mildred, or putting my elbows on the table ruined, but the food just plain sucked. I’ve never claimed to be a fancy cook, but most of the time my fairly simple recipes to satisfy my decidedly uncomplicated palate come out exactly as expected.

Even in a plague year, Sunday dinner is a big deal at my house. It’s the one day of the week I can reliably counted on to make a full and proper meal. It’s usually also the day that leaves me with plentiful leftovers to spread over the week to come. I’ve now chucked a gallon of soup and almost three pounds of beef over the fence to feed the local wildlife with what should have been half a dozen days’ worth of easy meals. 

You might think roast beef and potato soup would be fairly indestructible. It turns out they’re not. If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here culling my recipe books down to about a dozen recipes that have never let me down. I’m not sure I’m mentally equipped for another disappointing meal coming out of my own kitchen.

I might be a little tired of some my “greatest hits” menu items, but I know exactly what they’re going to taste like when they hit the table… and it turns out that counts for a lot more than I thought it did before I started turning meals into absolute trash.

A nine hour mistake…

I spent the first nine hours of today mistakenly under the impression that it was Thursday. 

It turns out, it is not… and that has been a tremendous disappointment throughout the remainder of the day.

It’s mostly a disappointment because it injects an additional day between me and my next scheduled long weekend. In the panoply of possible sins, that feels like a mortal one, as there’s not much I take more seriously than time spent not spent fiddling with spreadsheets and briefing slides.

Since I had originally planned to fire off the week’s edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week tonight, I don’t have all that much to say. I was woefully unprepared to need what now feels like an extra post this week.

What I will say, without additional comment or commentary, is that almost eight months into doing business under the black flag of the plague, you’d think we’d have sorted out most of the day to day issues. You’d think that, but you couldn’t be more wrong. The deeper we forge into the plague lands, the more people seem to forget about things I thought we’d sorted out months ago. 

That realization seems somehow fitting for the day, really.

What I learned this week…

There’s not much new under the sun. I suppose there never really is. If reading history is taught me anything, it’s that collectively we have a real tendency to do the same dumbass things over and over again while expecting different results.

With every week that goes by I find myself increasingly at odds with the world. The central pillar of my life philosophy has almost universally been I’ll leave you alone, if you leave me alone. We seem, now, to inhabit a space where even wanting to just be left to your own devices is some kind of heretical commission against one group or another.

It’s utter bullshit, of course. I don’t have much use for people. That’s not based on color, orientation, gender, or anything other than a lifetime of experience dealing with people in groups and individually. With a few notable exceptions, the experience has almost universally been disappointing.

So what did I learn this week? That’s easy. No matter the position you stake out, you’re always going to be the villain in someone’s story. If I’m going to be damned either way, it might as well be for doing what my own conscious dictates rather than capitulating to the mob on either side.

What I learned this week…

There’s a whole subset of people out there who really think the government has come up with some far reaching, super-secret plan to take over the world / give all of us a tracking chip / cull the surplus population / some other wackadoodle idea that they’ve trolled up from the depths of the internet.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years working for the government that these nutjobs think is plotting the subjugation of the masses. Having worked in the belly of this particular beast let me just say from experience that most days it barely manages to keep the lights on.  

Sure, they’ve had a couple of good days – the Manhattan Project was mostly kept secret – but largely, the whole creaking apparatus leaks like sieve. At its very best the workforce is managed rather than led. Good luck getting the thousands of government employees needed to carry off such a far-reaching scheme, each with their own interests and petty empire to build, all lined up and moving in the same direction. Then remember that they’ll be orchestrating these devious plots using technology that the average Fortune 500 company would be embarrassed to have in their inventory. 

If there was some generation’s old plan for the Illuminati to seize control there’s not a chance it stays secret. If, in defiance of all logic and common sense, it did stay secret, the government would lack the leadership ability of basic infrastructure to see it through. Even if all that wasn’t true and there is a conspiracy of unprecedented scope and scale at work, what on earth would make someone believe that the whole house of cards depends on the “truth” not spewing out on YouTube? Surely if these shadow forces are crafty enough to circumvent all other checks and balances, they’re savvy enough to keep their tracks off social media, no?

Still, this week I learned that people who I personally considered reasonably sane and rational, educated, and thoughtful have dived down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole… and that’s just disappointing on so many different levels. 

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.