Standing in the pre-dawn darkness, the first words I muttered after rolling out of bed this morning were, “Oh Christ on a crutch… it’s only Wednesday.”
That should have given me every indication of the kind of day it was going to be. But no, I opted not to listen to that small nagging voice that had already tried to warn me off. I press on with the morning routine – shower, coffee, feeding the menagerie, and trundling off to the office. I even had the audacity to enjoy the drive in, the humid air feeling brisk and refreshing once you got above a certain speed.
The wheels didn’t really come fully off the day until I’d already been at my desk for 45 minutes. I won’t get into specifics, but be assured it was all sideways and down hill from there. It was a day wholly given over to the anti-Midas touch – a skill that appears unbidden in my quiver from time to time and enables everything I touch to turn directly to shit.
Tomorrow has got to be better if just because there are only a few ways in which it could be worse. Steer into the slide. Regain control. Navigate away from danger. That’s the plan. Either that or sitting at my desk sobbing quietly. Really, either one feels like a possibility.
There’s a scene from the movie We Were Soldiers that more or less sums up my feelings about people who are trying just a little too hard to start the day off on a positive note. In that scene, Sergeant Savage approaches Sergeant Major Plumley and idly offers, “Good morning, Sergeant Major.” Plumley, his face twisting into a sneer that only a proper Sergeant Major can achieve, responds “How do you know what kind of god damn day it is?”
I think of that scene every single time I walk into the office and someone offers up a “good morning.” I haven’t even sat down at my desk, haven’t looked at the overnight emails, haven’t even gulped down the first part of a cup of coffee yet and here’s someone making a wild-eyed speculation about how the next eight hours will go. I usually mumble something about it being too early to tell and try to move on with the day without further comment.
I suppose there have to be people who climb out of their beds and expect nothing but good to happen that day. They cheerfully embrace it with both arms and bright eyes. Me? I’d rather let the day play out a bit before deciding if there should be a “good morning” greeting invoked. I’d far rather be greeted with an abrupt “’morning,” a form of greeting that acknowledges that it is, in fact, a new day while leaving open the possibility that it could be a complete shitshow long before the close of business.
Sure, “good morning” is usually just an offhand generic greeting, but I fear such pernicious positivity sets a bar that most days just won’t manage to climb across.
I have a morning routine. I don’t know that anyone reading this will be surprised by that factoid. Once the morning necessities are taken care of (and while my heathen animals stay comfortable in bed) the dogs go out. Then we come in and the dogs get fed and watered. Then I turn on the sunlamps and feed and water the tortoise. Then I circle back to the bathroom and put out fresh water for the cat (He gets fed at night because he seems to sleep more readily on a full stomach). Usually the cat follows me around through this entire routine. Today he didn’t. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed he wasn’t in his usual spot underfoot while I was fixing my coffee. Then I backtracked. He wasn’t scrounging for dropped dog food. He wasn’t curled up on a favored chair in the living room or sprawled across my bed.
Where he was, however, was stretched out happily in the middle of my indoor tortoise habitat, enjoying the sun lamps, and thoroughly annoying the resident tortoise. Of course that’s where my daily routine came off the rails… because now I have to close off the office, which means moving the 8-foot long, dirt-filled container holding the tortoise, because when I built it in place needing to close off the room wasn’t a consideration. After some effort, a dolly and managing not to spill the entire set up onto the floor, I was able to move it far enough to swing the door closed. The doors don’t so much lock as they “catch” closed using a tab, but I judged them secure enough that a small cat poking at the bottom of them wouldn’t be an issue.
Finally, desperately behind schedule, I was able to depart Fortress Jeff for my day job. Twenty minutes later, the alarm company calls to report “interior motion sensors are active”. I rolled the dice that finding a way to set off the motion sensors was the cat’s version of retribution for shutting him out of the office and I was not, in fact, being robbed blind only a few minutes after leaving for the day… and was proven right. Mercifully. But not before spending the entire day wondering if I shouldn’t have set a course for home at best possible speed and fearing what I’d find when I arrived.
Living with small creatures can be exhausting… and yeah, cats are jerks.
I’m what most people would consider an early riser. I’d be hard pressed to remember the last time I slept past 6:00. More often my days, even the ones at the end of the week, start no later than 5:30. Sometimes they start much earlier. It seems the years of well before dawn alarm ringing have exacted their penalty. I don’t mind it, though. I’ve gotten to like the early morning routine, the quiet, and general lack of people.
Much as it may sound it, this isn’t my ode to the morning. I like to think I’m more subtle than that. Instead, what I’m grappling with now is how it’s possible for me to claw out of bed at 5am on a typical Saturday, Sunday, or holiday Monday, hit the ground running, and keep myself mentally engaged until it’s time to turn the light off that night. I only wonder because on the usual weekday I spend most of that time feeling nearly comatose at worst and merely addled at best. The only discernible difference between those days and today are where I’m spending the hours.
There’s something telling about that. Now if I didn’t have a shit ton of bills to pay I could probably do something about it. The more likely course of action is that I’ll just go ahead and trudge through five days a week in a situationally induced torpor and feeling like a real person on the other days.
Over the last couple of days there’s been a rash of motorcycle and 4-wheeler thefts in the county. Asshat or asshats unknown have broken into a number of local sheds and garages to ply their trade. Knowing that it’s been a recent issue is probably the only reason I noticed the “young adult” pushing a dirt bike just off the side of one of my rural commuter route. I didn’t think anything of it at first, but the coffee kicked in and I realized that a teenager pushing a dirt bike around that section of road was, in fact, unusual by definition. In a year of making that drive at about the same time five days a week I’d never seen so much as a telltale trail into the woods where someone might be riding, let alone actually seen someone riding a bike or a quad.
So yeah, I started off the morning by putting in a call to the Sheriff’s office to file an unsolicited report of the location and description of the young white male of average height wearing a dark hoodie pushing what appeared to be a white dirt bike of unknown make. Maybe it was nothing. It was probably nothing. On the other hand, maybe I helped get some little shitbird caught and someone’s property returned.
I did ponder for a few seconds if I wanted to bother given the likelihood that it was some neighborhood kid and that even if it weren’t, but the time some deputy got a chance to drive through the area he’d as likely as not be long gone with the bike. Still, it was that nagging thought that if he’s one of the ones going into garages at night and stealing shit, I really want someone to catch up with him.
I got the chance to put “see something, say something” into practice today. It wasn’t exactly foiling the next big terror plot or anything, but I knew it felt just unusual enough that I’d be annoyed with myself all day long if I didn’t take the effort to make a simple phone call. At worst I inconvenienced a deputy and some kid had to answer a few questions. At best, someone in blue got another lead on tracking these creeps down.
I’m not at all sure why I’m bothering to write any of this down, let alone hit the publish button… but the up side is it saves you from reading another in a long line of gripes and complaints about the office. Maybe we should all be thankful that my path crossed a young man pushing a motorcycle this morning.
My daily schedule is so well ingrained by now that it doesn’t even feel like a schedule. It just feels like life taking it’s natural course. That’s how it feels right up until something sends the future careening off into a different timeline, which is what happened this morning.
Fortunately it wasn’t accompanied by the arrival of a time-traveling version of me from the future and a rift in the space-time continuum, but it was accompanied by the blaring of klaxons and a general confusion about why the universe seemed to be crashing down on my head at 5AM on a Sunday. Even the dogs seemed perplexed at what was happening, so at least I wasn’t alone in my confusion.
As it turns out, my daily habits are far more deep-rooted than I imagined, because without giving it a thought I’d apparently managed to set all of my normal week-day alarms on my way to bed last night. Unintentional. Unthinking. Just the sheer force of habit from so very many early mornings past.
Fortunately I only cheated myself out of about an hour, since 6AM is what passes for sleeping in around here. I may have started out life as a night owl, but I’ve grudgingly come to appreciate the deep quiet of these small hours of the morning.
Because I’m Mr. Glass Half Full, I can see the positive about my internal alarm being so well set that it likes to wake me up at 5AM even on Saturdays. Aside from the chance to see the sun come up – or in this morning’s case to see the sky go from dark gray to light gray – it’s given me the chance to catch up on some blog reading and commenting that I never seem to have time for. That’s basically how I spent the first 90 minutes of the day; reading blogs, dispensing comments, and swilling down coffee at the rate of about 8 cups and hour.
What all this “extra” time this morning didn’t do, of course, is lead me down to the basement to reacquaint me with the exercise equipment I’ve been ignoring since I jacked up my back this winter. Now that it’s feeling better, I’m assured that I can safely get back to that routine… but keeping up with other people’s writing is way, way more fun. I know at some point I’m going to have to get back to that. 5AM (4:30 on weekdays) feels like it’s probably going to be the only available time to make that happen. Sleep is basically the only thing I’m currently doing that I’m willing to cut out of my schedule in order to add something new. If I get up at 4:30, I’ll still manage to get five hours of sleep every day. How much of that do we really need anyway?
I’m sure this all seems like a better idea while I’m sitting here well caffeinated than it will when I’m struggling to understand the concept of an alarm clock at 4:30 on Monday morning. This plan probably won’t survive first contact with the enemy, but at least it looks good on paper… or at least it looks good on paper if you don’t have any expectation of every getting eight hours of sleep. I haven’t had that expectation in a very, very long time.