I’m an early riser by most people’s definition. Weekday, weekend doesn’t really matter. Unless I’m deathly ill, and usually even then, I’m awake a few minutes on either side of 5AM. Today was a rare exception that pushed the day’s start time to 4am. When you’re use to waking in the small hours of the morning one hour is pretty similar to the next. It’s dark, the world is quiet, and you don’t want to do anything so much as sit on the porch and enjoy another cup of coffee. Sadly, though, today wasn’t the day for that.
Without detail, suffice to say what had me up in the small hours was a patently ridiculous task that involved significant eye rolling and standing around a parking lot in the morning’s light drizzle for far longer than was strictly necessary.
That’s not to say that waking up at 4am is completely without virtue. Dragging yourself out of bed at 4AM and starting the clock on your work day by 6:00 delivers the undeniable benefit of then being able to punch out and head home by 2:30 in the afternoon. That part of the day felt good and right. Most people wouldn’t make that devil’s bargain, I’m sure, but if the powers that be would let me kick off every day at 6:00 and clock out at 2:30, I’d sign up for that schedule in a hot minute. Sadly I inhabit a world where I’ve been “invited” to meetings starting at 4:00, 5:00, 6:00, and 7:00PM. Those are hours I’m exceptionally uninterested in being in the office, but during which bosses seem to thrive.
Maybe that’s why I’m such a consistent fan of early mornings.
1. Panhandlers. Need gas? Need beer? Whatever you need I’m sure you have a fine reason for not tending to those things through the fruit of your own labor. But you see I have bills too. Lots of them. My first duty is to provide for me and mine in our daily needs and then lay some back for the future. So no, I’m not interested in your sad story. We all have our troubles and I already subsidize enough bad decision making through state and federal taxes that I’m not interested in taking on any additional dependents at this time.
2. Blast email from Maryland’s US Senator. I regularly opine to my Senators and Member of Congress. I’ll continue to do so at any time I feel the need. Receiving their occasional email blast “report from Washington” though, always reminds me that while they may indeed be my duly elected and seated representatives in Congress, I agree with them on almost none of the issues that matter. I love my home state from the beach to the bay to the mountains, but ultimately its politics and its taxes virtually ensure that my time here in my home state has a definite expiration date.
3. 3:30 AM. I only have so much tolerance for laying wide awake in bed. Which is to say I have no tolerance for it at all. Once awake I want to be up and doing stuff. It’s fine on a weekend when I can get up and start knocking things off my list. It’s a bloody nuisance when it means just another 90 minutes to kill before heading to work. At least it set the tone nicely for the rest of the day so that’s something.
One of my personal dreams is to find a way to live with a bare minimum of sleep and allocate those “bonus” hours to more interesting or productive endeavors. What I learned from last night’s bout with a quick moving stomach bug is that whatever the right amount of sleep is for me, it’s more than two hours. I know this because that’s exactly the amount I got – although in fairness it was split with 30 minutes at the beginning of the night and then a follow-on 90 minutes tagged right at the end.
Spending the largest part of the small hours of the morning alternating between too hot, too cold, and trips down the hall to tend other business I was at least able to do a little reading and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which was well and good until my eyes stopped focusing around 3AM. After that it was treating the TV like a radio and trying to summon sleep through willpower and determination.
Whatever it was that beat the literal shit out of me last night seems to have passed as quickly as it arrived. That, at least, is a mercy. As much as I resent the necessity of laying down and shutting off my brain for a few hours every night it’s safe to say that I’ll personally be hoping that tonight is at least closer to the norm than yesterday’s improvised two hour plan because that clearly isn’t going to be the wave of my future… although by lunch time today even the dullest meetings were just a little bit funny and that’s probably worth something.
1. Breakfast options. I already get up between 4:30 and 5:00 most mornings. Although it’s the most likely real solution to this issue, I don’t want to get up earlier and cook a meal. Still, I’d really like a breakfast option that wasn’t an egg on a English muffin or similar concoction wrapped in paper and passed out a window for people who are up and out before the crack of dawn and don’t laze away the morning before showing up at the office around 9:00.
2. Not asking how high. Jumping on command is all well and good. It’s sometimes a necessary evil, but honest to God, not knowing how high, or which direction, or for how long you’re supposed to do it just leads to and exhausted jumper who’s engaged in a whole lot of activity without much to show for it when the poor bastard finally falls over.
3. Know what you want. I’d hate to even estimate how many times a day someone asks me for something. I’m going to to my level best to deliver exactly what you ask for – unless whatever it was is patently stupid in which case I may ask for clarification or make an alternate recommendation. Still, if you insist, I will cheerfully deliver the product as requested. Here’s the thing, though… If what you ask for and what I deliver turns out to be not what you actually wanted, well, I’m sorry but I’m not feeling any guilt about it.
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.