30 hours and counting…

It’s been about 30 hours since I’ve had any direct, face-to-face contact with anyone. Some people might find that unnerving, but It’s been pretty much dreamy. Sure, I’ve been pretty much in regular contact with the The Hermitworld through email, text, Facebook, Twitter, and Insta, but if you can avoid all of the awkward, annoying, and generally tiresome interacting with the general public, why wouldn’t you?

I have no idea of the furthest extent of my capability for hermiting. I think the longest stretch I can remember was four days. Generally I’m forced out of the house in search of fresh tortoise food or the need to work for a living long before the desire to actually leave ever crops up. If sustenance for the critters living under this roof weren’t a factor, I dare say I could hole up for months without incurring any significant trauma or anguish.

Alas, all good things must come to an end so if anyone needs me I’ll be over here getting myself into a mental space where I can pretend to be an engaged and productive member of society. Wish me luck.

Just about perfect…

The last of a good day’s sun is creeping across the tops of the back yard oaks. I’m more of a sunrise guy, but there’s something to be said about this dusky time of day too… especially on a Sunday night, which I assume we all find at least a touch melancholy. As the light drains away from another weekend, I’m almost willing myself into boredom in an effort to extend the day just that little bit longer – a fool’s errand to be sure – but it’s a well established part of the Sunday evening routine.

I don’t have much of anything to add to that little observation. The weekend was uneventful and unremarkable in nearly every way. Some people would find that disappointing, but I tend to consider it an achievement… So if you’ll excuse me I have an appointment with the back porch, a cold drink, and the setting sun.

And that’s just about perfect.

Connection…

I think I’ve made a connection. Maybe it’s just in my own head as a I struggle this Sunday morning to figure out what to write about, but I have a sinking feeling that my snap assessment is right. While I’m sitting here at the kitchen table with piping hot coffee, two dogs snoring, and the soft hum of the morning news yammering in my ear, it occurs to me that my posts are more interesting when I’ve been forced to deal with stupid people. That’s what spurs the best rants out of my head. After two blissful days of not leaving the house, I’m beginning to wonder if I might not need those interactions to keep things fresh. They give me perspective, because nothing seems so bad, wrong, or stupid as it does when it’s happening right in front of you. Is it possible that I need to be out there if for no other reason than to find new material like so much grist for the mill?

If it’s true, I should go out today and immerse myself in watching people. I should seek avenues to maximize that connection in service to the blog. I should do a lot of things, though. For now, I think I’ll just enjoy the balance of my extra long, long weekend and not force the issue. There will be plenty enough time and cause to be out in the world dealing with people when I can’t otherwise avoid it… because really, if that’s the price of keeping this blog fresh and interesting, I think I’d rather just bore you to tears.

The big game…

This past weekend was Homecoming weekend in the little part of the world where I grew up. For anyone who grew up within earshot of Cumberland, Maryland the cross-town rivalry between the city’s two high schools is the stuff of local legend. Without rhapsodizing it, the homecoming game is a big hairy deal.

I don’t hail from the mighty city of Cumberland, of course, so I’ve always watched their version of homecoming with something of a bemused look on my face. You know, in the way that people watch others who are taking something just a little too seriously. But it seems to make them happy, so no harm, no foul.

I’m not going to lie, the idea of homecoming being a big deal is a concept that eludes me. I graduated from high school in 1996, went to college, and promptly moved away. Not long after that, my alma mater, along with a few other schools, went defunct. They ceased to be. They are no more. It became a dead parrot. In its place they opened a shiny new school that presumably is better equipped to meet student needs. I say God bless. Seventeen years after graduation, it’s not exactly like I spend a lot of time pining away for my junior year locker. In fact, writing this post has accounted for more time pondering high school than I’ve spent in total since I walked across the stage to get my diploma.

I have great memories of high school. My closest friends today are the guys who were my closest friends then. I’m pretty sure that’s the kind of thing that only really happens in a small town. Maybe it’s because I moved away, but I don’t lose any sleep about what’s happening at or happened to the school I graduated from the better part of two decades ago.

Maybe homecoming is an anachronism – a throwback to a time when you graduated, stayed put, and the social life of your town revolved largely around the comings and goings of the local school. Maybe it’s different if you have kids and it does provide some kind of continuity from generation to generation. Maybe it’s different if your school is something that exists as more than an ever fading memory. That’s a lot of maybes involved in a concept I clearly don’t grasp.

I guess I’ve just never felt the need for a special weekend designated for homecoming. Whenever I’ve felt the compulsion to stroll down memory lane or stir up the ghosts of the past, I just go do it on my own accord. No parade or big game needed. Then again, crowds always make me nervous so it could just be my inner hermit talking out loud.

Feigned interest…

Ah, Friday. One might think this should be the easiest day to feel witty and adventurous in your writing. Maybe it is for some, but for me between the rubber band of the week snapping back, dealing with the typical asshattery one encounters, and my always-present inner sense that something just isn’t right, Fridays are just about universally my hardest day to force something out of my brain, through my fingers, and onto the blank page. I’ve learned to embrace that Friday afternoons don’t give me the warm fuzzy that they seem to give everyone else.

More grudgingly I’ve accepted the lack of a muse on Fridays because typically fewer people are around to read it anyway. Apparently Friday nights are still a big night for people to go do things. Me? Yeah, I’m more interested in getting home and hiding out from the multitude I’ve had to deal with during the week. I’ve always been a little jealous of you people out there who seem to be energized by being around other people. Personally, I find them perfectly exhausting… of course you knew that already. One of the many joys in life for an introvert who’s forced by the way the world works to at least feign a passing interest in socializing.

So what’s the point of this ramble on a Friday night? Well, your first mistake was expecting there would be some point; a moral at the end of the story. Sometimes there isn’t a point. I didn’t set out for tonight’s post to be anything deep or meaningful, so at least in that I can consider it a successful effort.

Lines, lines, everywhere there’s lines…

So, Apple… listen… you’re a big, multibillion dollar international corporation with a supply chain that wraps around the globe. So I have to ask… What asshat in your marketing and sales department decided that not offering pre-orders for your new flagship phone was a good idea? I know you want the faithful to line up and cram the stores because that’s a great PR image that every news outlet is going to cover, but let’s face it, people are going to line up regardless of whether you have preorders or not. I’ve been on both sides of launch day; waiting in line at Saddle Creek and Christiana and sitting at home waiting on FedEx. Both served me well in the past, but I always had the option.

You know I want your shiny new phone on launch day and you know I’m going to be sorely tempted to schlep over to the Apple Store and get in line, but the fact is I’m older now and less willing to put up with the jackassery of standing around in lines waiting to give people my money than I once was. It’s not that I’ve gotten any more patient. I’ve just grown increasingly intolerant of large groups of people that I can otherwise avoid. As much as I want your new toy on its first day of availability – the day that I’ve had my greasy little hands on every previous model – I think I’m going to have to ride this one out until I can have one left on my doorstep or until your supply chain catches up and I can walk into a retail store and pick one up without getting into a knife fight in the parking lot.

I wish I could point to this as a sign of becoming older, wiser, and more responsible… the reality is probably that it’s just a sign of me becoming even more of an antisocial hermit as the years roll by. Then again, maybe it’s just the same concept expressed in a different way.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Note: I know I missed last week’s edition, so you’re getting a “best of” What Annoys Jeff this Week that covers that last two weeks. No extra charge. Enjoy.

1. Meetings that start at 6PM. Saying this out loud is probably detrimental to my career, but I can’t think of any good reason aside from executive ego that justifies starting a meeting at 6PM when most everyone in the room start their day between 7 and 7:30. You either have no respect for their time or really bad time management skills. Either one of which is generally considered bad form by fancy business schools everywhere.

2. People with no sense of urgency. When I’ve been telling you for more than a week that something needs to happen by X Day, don’t be surprised, offended, or otherwise defensive on X+2 when I tell you what you’re giving me is too late to include. I don’t care that you worked really hard on it. In conclusion, you’re a douchebag.

3. Large volumes of small children. Individually and in small numbers, I’m surprisingly ok with (other people’s) kids. Pack lots of them into a relatively small space and it has a tendency to make me twitchy. It’s just that they’re collectively so loud… and fast moving. When you’ve spent your entire adult life living in blissful solitude, I’m not going to lie, a gang of 15 six year olds reeking mayhem and chaos next door is something of a shock to the system. It’s a shame that the uberwealthy hiring a hermit to live on their property to give it a pastoral feel went out of fashion with the Victorian Age. I think that’s a career path where I could have really set the standard for excellence.

4. “Scooter” People. If you’re going to ride the electric scooter at Walmart, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect that you pay at least partial attention to what you’re doing. And by that I mean try not to drive it directly into my back while continuing your conversation with whatever slack-jawed yokel you came with to do your grocery shopping as if it didn’t happen. I have to admit it took real stones to give me a dirty look when I called you on it. Most of the time, I have an instinctive tendency to defer to my elders, but in your case I’ll make an exception. You, you muumuu wearing, blue haired battle-ax, are an asshat.

The sounds they make…

I was sitting on the deck last night enjoying a beverage, a book and letting the dogs do whatever they needed to do before locking up for the night. Around 10:00, I heard the neighbor’s screen door slam followed by a chorus of girly screams. If I sit quietly and don’t move too much I know they won’t see me through the hedge. Although the hedge provides great camouflage, it lacks the sound deadening qualities I’d really appreciate more of in foliage.

From across the driveway, I heard a rather insistent “daddy… daddy… daddy… daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy.” Each iteration raised in pitch just slightly until the end when I’m pretty sure only the dogs could make out the words. Sadly, his daughters’ attempt to get my neighbor’s undivided attention was less than successful. This led to a renewed chorus of “daddy look, daddy look, daddy look daddy look daddy look daddy look, look what I found look what I found look what I found look what I found look what I found daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy daddy.” It’s possible that my ears were bleeding by that point.

Still, even with ice picks in my ears I was able to make out the most dire of their words… “Ohhhhhh… I want to play with the doggies” followed by shrieking that would make even the most dedicated banshee pause in respect for such superior sound generation. The jig was up. With a whistle, the dogs came running and we beat a hasty retreat. An hour later, with the TV on and at least one dog snoring in my ear, I could still hear them next door. I don’t know if they were successful in their efforts to raise the dead.

I’m sure the neighbor girls are perfectly good as far as children go, but the sounds they make cut through my head like the proverbial hot knife through butter. Sure, saying that out loud probably makes me a bad person, but on the list of things I’ve done that make me a bad person, it’s not even on the first page. If nothing else, I’m a man who recognizes his own limitations. Honest to God, if I could get a waiver, I’d move into one of those gated 55-and-over communities and call it a day. A small island off the coast of St. Wherever would be better, but I’m willing to take baby steps.

Hermitage…

Ten people sit in this room on days when we all happen to be here. This morning six of them are on the phone, three of them are engaged in a heated yet pointless conversation, and then there’s me sitting here trying to keep my head from exploding while listening to the whole cacophony grow louder and louder with each passing minute. I’m sure at least 50% of what’s going on is more or less work related, but really what I need them all to do is just STFU for a few minutes. As good as I usually am at blocking out whatever chaos is going on around me, they’re getting on my last nerve this morning for some reason. It’s good that my desire to stay out of prison is so strong, because otherwise I’d probably go on a wild 3-hole punch swinging rampage.

Sometimes I wonder if the bosses think that lots of noise equals lots of things getting done. It could be that I’m just the outlier here, but my work tends to be better when I have a nice quiet place to work on it without too many superfluous interruptions. If I had skills that were marketable anywhere other than to other big government agencies, I’d strongly consider just hanging out my own shingle and then only accepting work via email. It’s a real pity that landed gentry in England stopped hiring hermits to live on the grounds as part of the scenery round about the time the Victorian style passed from fashion. I think I’d have been exceptionally talented in that field of endeavor.

Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.

Thirsty Thursday…

It’s Thursday night. Dime draft night at Repub. Pint night at the Green Door. The day before Tiki Bar opening weekend on Solomons. I’ve got tomorrow off and it feels like I should do something in honoring all of these events, but this isn’t ten years ago and all I’m really going to get done is lay my close out for tomorrow, finish watching the CSI rerun, read twenty or thirty pages and fall asleep by 10:00. That’s not by way of complaining, though. At least tomorrow I’ll get up without feeling like death of a muffin. That’s a tough way to go through a Friday. Maybe I’ll get up early and change the oil in the truck before heading in for my appointment with the doctor. If I can stop for groceries on the way back to the house, I could have a good streak of hermit going for the weekend.