After a week off that was decidedly not a vacation, I’m back to work. Admittedly, it’s working from home, so it’s not nearly as onerous as it could be, but I wasn’t in any way ready to come back to the world of answering emails, fighting online systems, and generally being a productive and responsible adult.
Look, there’s nothing inherently bad about my particular job. I’m not out there laying asphalt in 100-degree heat or slinging hay bales into the loft. I’ve got a decent chair, a good desk, and a couple of monitors that bombard me with information for eight hours every day. It’s hardly rocket science. It’s not usually particularly hard work, even if it does demand pretty close attention to detail and some higher order processing skills from time to time.
I’ve been doing some variation of it since January 2003. By this point, there’s not much new under the sun. Sure, some of the details change. When I started, Iraq was the talk of the town. Now it’s Ukraine. Different players, same game. The broad strokes have changed very little. Do any job long enough and I suppose you’ll find a rhythm in it.
So, I’m back at the keyboard. I’ll do the work and I’ll do it well, but I won’t pretend to be thrilled or excited or meeting a great new challenge every day. I do my part to keep the gears of the bureaucracy grinding along because I seem to have a, perhaps unfortunate, talent for it. I’m trading my time for their money and will keep after it until I hit my own magic number and don’t have to do it anymore.
I’m most definitely a creature of habit, but this is one I’ll be happy to break out of at the first financially responsible opportunity.
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.
I’ve had a raging coffee habit since my freshman year in high school. Under normal circumstances, my average intake is about a pot a day, so call it 10-12 regulation sized cups.
While I’ve been more or less at home continually over the last two weeks it seems my intake of tea has increased dramatically while coffee consumption has cratered. I still need that 5AM kick in the face that only steaming hot coffee can provide, but after three or four cups, I’m moving to tea for the duration of the morning and the entirety of the afternoon.
I’m sure someone could uncover a deep psychological reason for the shift, but at least some of it is practical, I’m sure. Coffee and plenty of it is easy to come by in the office – mostly by way of the thermos on my desk that keeps it scalding hot through most of the day. Proper tea brewing isn’t impossible in a cube farm, but it is, even if only slightly, harder than making a regular cup of joe… Mostly because of my refusal to use the employer provided tap water or the kettle surely tainted by the aforementioned water.
I suspect when all this is over, assuming the republic doesn’t collapse into some Mad Max-style free for all, I’m going to end up needing to buy a damned electric kettle to take to the office.
Thats’s it. That’s the big voyage of self discovery triggered by a week working from home. Sorry if you were expecting some kind of big finish.
1. “Responsible” adults. If you’re over the age of 18 and find just about everything in your life continues to end up being a big ol’ shit sandwich, might I recommend taking a chance on trying to be accountable for your own decisions and actions rather than trying to pass the responsibility off to any or everyone else. The neat thing about being an adult is that, with very few exceptions, I’m responsible for my own actions – and for the outcomes that follow. Apparently, though, there’s a whole bevy of other adult humans that think the problems lie with everyone except them. This, I suspect, is overwhelmingly the cause of my generally dim view of humanity.
2. “Encouraging” telework. Oh, the paperwork definitely says we encourage telework. It’s an important part of our continuity of operations plan to help us get through a hurricane, the building burning down, or a bad year of the flu. What we don’t do is actually encourage it. I know this because the expectation, no matter how unstated, is if there’s a meeting involving one of the Uberbosses, there’s never a provision made for anyone to participate other than by being right there in the room. Sure, you could ask and they might set up a phone line, but it will be done grudgingly and met with a decided side-eyed look. We’ve gotten very good at lip service to this not being 1975, but how we actually operate hasn’t changed all that much. It’s less than a surprise.
3. A return to “normalcy.” After a couple of days of clocking out at 2:30, getting back to the normal schedule has been… disappointing. It’s hard to believe that a realtively minor shift in schedule can be a significant mood enhancer. It would probably be even more of an enhancement if I somehow managed not to be so relentlessly commited to issues of time and schedule… but as always, I know my key motivators and influences and time is likely to always be one of them. So here we are, back to situation normal, trying to stave off the madness for another day
Occasionally people who don’t know me well ask “Jeff, why haven’t you ever gotten married?” I can think of several reasons, but the biggest one is simply this: On Saturday I did the grocery shopping for the week, did a big chunk of the fall yard work, made dinner, and tucked in for the night with a good book and a well made cocktail. On Sunday morning I had soup simmering away for Sunday dinner, ran four loads of laundry, made ham salad to enjoy for lunch, spent some quality time with all the animals, and had the house cleaned by noon.
I pay my bills and handle my business. I’m self sustaining and self sufficient and have been for a very long time now – although I’ve lived enough life to never rule anything all the way in or all the way out. If I were to break with a lifetime of habit it would take a pretty remarkable set of circumstances – and an even more remarkable person.
I’ve found through occasional, unscientific sampling that the only thing a fair proportion of the population brings to the table is a vagina and a metric shit ton of drama. Sure, both of those can be entertaining for a while, but what possible incentive would there possibly be to welcome that into my life on a full time basis
Show me someone who makes my life better and less complicated and I’ll eat my words. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
Cecil County has most of the problems every other semi-rural county in Maryland is facing – drugs, pockets of poverty, a questionable education system, and a government that occasionally verges on dysfunctional. It also has some remarkable natural beauty, low cost of living (for Maryland), and a convenient location between Baltimore and Philly that’s close to both, but far enough away to allow those who prefer the quiet life to avoid big city fuckery.
What the county lacks, however, are the kind of supermarkets I got use to while living in the DC exurbs or during my west Tennessee exile. The local Food Lion is convenient, but comes with limited options. Walmart has decided they’re no longer interested in my money. There’s an Acme, a company that I assumed had gone out of business 20 years ago, but its location in the heart of Elkton attracts a certain element that I’d just rather not step over, walk around, or studiously pretend to ignore just to get my weekly shopping done.
I happened to be off my usual Saturday path last week, which put another option in reach. Even looking a little dated and feeling like the aisles were too cramped by half, Safeway has it all over any of the more local options. It’s not a Kroger or a Giant, but by comparison to what I’ve gotten use to out of convenience there’s no contest.
As much as I am a creature of habit, I’m also adaptive enough to adjust when there is a better alternative available. I hate the idea of adding an extra 20 minutes to the standard Saturday errands run (and probably spending a bit more than I would otherwise on groceries), but the trade off with more and better options is too enticing… and makes me wish I’d have reconciled myself with driving to Delaware for groceries much sooner.
I’m reasonably sure the hardest part of all this will be remembering that the new routine takes me across the county from west to east instead of east to west. Pity me my first world problems.
Still trying to get the new morning routine down. Getting out of the house in the morning has temporarily become an Overlord level planning effort. But this was the first day of needing to be up and out of the house while running against the clock. I presume with repetition we’ll all get a little better at that.
Perhaps the more difficult part is now that we have the new pup along, the order of operations has changed. Instead of showering first while Maggie lays around in bed for another 30 minutes, it’s straight up and outside, then feeding, then shit, shower, and shave, then more outside, and so on. Getting my still sleep-addled head around these nuances is, at best, a work in progress.
If it were a person throwing my well established routine out of sync like this, they’d be cancelled immediately… but since the cause has four legs and an endless supply of adorable looks, Jorah gets a pass. And some ear scratches and belly rubs, probably.
Back on the 21st of February, I published my usual Thursday edition of What Annoys Jeff this Week. It took me a few weeks to noice that the link for that post ended with /what-annoys-jeff-this-week-365.
It took me even longer than that to recognize the implication of what I was seeing. Somehow, I’ve managed to post a full years worth of weekly annoyances as part of the “blogging to keep myself sane” program instituted here long, long ago. Just let that sit there and sink in (or fester) for a moment.
Saved here in the never-really-goes-away electronic universe are 365+ weekly posts dedicated to telling the world what trifling ridiculousness has earned my ire that week. I mean you could read one a day starting tonight and not read the last one of the batch until some time in late March 2020.
Friends, that’s a lot of being annoyed, I can promise you that. Even so, what’s recorded here is just the stuff that made the cut on any given week. I shudder to imagine what the totals would look like if I bothered to write down everything that was ever in the running. Is it possible to clog the the internet with the sheer volume of bitching and complaining you’re trying to cram through its tubes?
Based on the comment section of most major news sites, I doubt it somehow.
Anyway, I’m currently taking an inordinate amount of pride in the amount of annoyed I’ve managed to rack up. I’m not quite sure it’s a badge of honor, but it’s something.
1. Forgetting Tuesday. So as it turns out, when I have more than two days off I lose all sense of time and do things like completely forget to write a blog post in the middle of the week. Since the chances of finding too many four-day weekends in the course of a year is slim to none, I’m not worried that this will become a regular occurrence… but really any deviation from the normal schedule is enough to make me just a little bit twitchy, especially when it’s something as built into the daily schedule as writing. Maybe we are all entitled to an occasional misfire, but I like to think my inner sense of consistency is stronger than that. Apparently it is not.
2. Luddites. I work from home one day a week. To make that possible I rely on a lot of decades-old technology such as email and the telephone to stay connected to the home office. When I discover that my normal day for working at home is going to be shanghaied because I’m “needed” at the office, that usually translates into having to have someone available to flip the slides. That’s fine. Whatever. But when you’re going to want to do things like that could you please not let me find out that the person we’re staging this meeting for will be talking to us from his car on the way to some other meeting while I drag myself in to the office to huddle around a single land line like a congress of latter-day Luddites. If only there were a fancy device that let people hear voice communication from more than once location simultaneously instead of trying to pretend we exist in a universe where the best solution is two tin cans and a bit of string.
3. The oblivious. There are any number of awkward things that can happen in the modern office. Of them, the one that annoys me the most is probably the people who have no natural sense of when a conversation has hit it’s logical conclusion. They just continue to stand there looking at you as if you’re supposed to stop the world and entertain them for whatever duration their attention span can muster. Look, even when I’m not pressed for time, I don’t want to spend any significant part of the day in idle chatter. I’m just not that social. If you’re that desperate for social interaction, hit me up on instant messenger like a normal human being. I can work with that. But please, for the love of all the gods, don’t just stand there with your arms draped over my cube wall hoping that I’m suddenly going to get chatty. And yet I’d be the asshole if I just looked directly at someone and told them to go the fuck away.
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.