Perhaps the very best part of the COVID experience has been the wildly improved parking situation on the days I can’t avoid going to the office. We’re the stereotypical office complex surrounded by acre upon acre of asphalt… and if you didn’t time your arrival just right, or gods forbid, needed to leave to do something and then come back in the middle of the day, you might as well be parked in the next county. I won’t be showing you pictures, but take my word for it, the historic parking situation here is a case of really atrocious environmental, industrial, and human design.
COVID (and wide-scale telework) has mostly freed us from the tyranny of the parking lot. In a few of the far distant sections, there are even respectable sized weeds growing through cracks in the pavement. No one has needed to park way they hell out there in almost two years now.
This morning, I tucked the Jeep into a spot not much worse than the ones reserved for our own lords of creation… and I was far from the earliest arrival for the day. I had to leave for an appointment to get one of my ID cards fiddled with at 9:00. In the olden days, that would have been the kiss of death. Upon my return, I’d have been banished to the furthest reaches of the lot. Today, though, after 45 minutes away, I pulled in to exactly the spot I vacated… and in fact could have gotten a few spaces closer.
Sure, COVID has killed friends and family. It has poisoned the well of social discourse and revealed so many closeted crackpots in our lives. If that’s the price we have to pay for really good parking, though, maybe the struggle and carnage was all worth it. I mean if people can’t be bothered with basic preventative measures, why not start looking at this thing from the bright side, right?
1. Parking. One of the only perks of going to the office occasionally during the height of the Great Plague was that parking was absolutely amazing. There were always spots directly in front of the building, no more than 10 spaces back, regardless of what time you arrived or whether you had the audacity to go out to grab lunch. It was an absolute idyll compared to crossing acres of burning pavement to your car in the Before Times. Alas, what was old is becoming new again. Parking is still decent, but landing the really prime spots is getting harder and harder to do as people are forced back to their cubicles. I’ve said it before, but I really will miss the plague months of 2020-21 as a wildly underappreciated golden age.
2. Matt Gaetz, Mike Waltz, et al. The testimony of General Mark Milley and Secretary Lloyd Austin before the House Armed Services Committee yesterday illustrated what’s probably my bigger frustration with Republican lawmakers. Matt Gaetz, Mike Waltz, and their ilk demonstrate through their questioning that there’s an undeniable stripe of fear among this group. They’re knee-knockingly afraid of ideas. If they were truly convinced they are right, they’d have no hesitation of having a conversation, of encouraging study, or gaining broader understanding. Instead, they assert the rightness of their position as received truth. No further information is needed. Dissent is not to be tolerated. Personally, I tend to think critical race theory and most of the other touchy feely soft science theories that posit everyone is oppressed or needs a hug are largely hokum… but like the good general, I’ll keep reading Mao, Marx, Lenin, and their modern equivalents while being utterly unafraid I’ll be injured by ideas.
3. Twitter. Of all the social media I consume, Twitter is, in my estimation, the most toxic. I’ve made a point to greatly reduce my time over there for the last few weeks and it’s made for considerably less crazy making. The thing I struggle to remember sometimes, is that even though everyone is entitled to their opinion, I’m under no obligation to in any way pay attention to them. Ignoring them won’t make asshats any less asshatt-y, but like a tree falling in the forest, I don’t need to care if it makes a sound.
I was supposed to go to a meeting today. For the most part that’s the kind of activity that makes up the day, or at least is a common enough occurrence that it isn’t worth specifically mentioning. The only positive bit about the meetings I’m usually required to sit through is that 95% of them are held somewhere in the same building I find myself inhabiting four days a week and require minimal travel. Today’s meeting, one of those that makes up the other 5%, was being hosted elsewhere.
This meeting in particular was being held far enough elsewhere that attending in person would mean losing my parking spot in the middle of the day, finding a spot on the other side of our lovely cantonment, and then fighting for spot back at “home station” later in the day when the meeting ended. Mercifully they decided to provide a dial in number so skittering hither and yon wasn’t necessary.
Today’s meeting is what I’ve taken to calling a small victory. Victory, in this case, was tempered by the fact that the room in which the meeting was physically held has one speaker phone and possibly the worst acoustics of any individual room on the planet. The net result of this was only being able to hear approximately four words out of every seven. In fairness, though, that still doesn’t make it anything close to the worst meeting I’ve ever endured… so maybe it’s still a victory or possibly a minor defeat. It’s increasingly hard to tell the difference
1. Gas pump parking. I was pulling in to the gas pump at one of the 8,743 local convenience stores when an alleged person pulled in to the next pump over. The driver, his wife (or girlfriend, baby momma – who the hell knows), and a gaggle of kids pile out of the car; all in their pajamas and head into the grab-n-go. Figuring at least one of them was going to go put a $20 down to pay for gas, I didn’t think anything of it, until they came schlepping back out with their fists full of candy, big gulps, and chips, loaded back into their car and drove off. I missed the memo where parking at the pump to go grab a snack for you and your brood while people are lined up waiting for fuel on a busy Saturday morning is now a thing. If you’re really too lazy to walk the extra twenty feet from the actual parking spots at the side of the store, maybe you should just go ahead and stay home as to not tax your system unnecessarily. Fuckwit.
2. Bikers. The Thomas J. Hatem Bridge is a 4-lane span that carries 7,624 feet of east and westbound US Route 40 over the mighty Susquehanna River. Its lanes are 12 feet wide with a 1 foot shoulder. During peak traffic times, the bridge is a major bottle neck in traffic traveling to or from Cecil County and points east. On July 1st the powers that be in this great state of Maryland have decided that it’s a good idea to add bicycles to the mix by permitting them to use the bridge in the same lanes as motorized traffic. Now you can spout to me all day long about cyclist’s right to use public roads and that motorists have to be aware of their surroundings and give way, but the whole idea sounds ill advised to me. Putting a bicyclist on the same narrow span as tractor trailers and tens of thousands of rush hour passenger vehicles sounds more like a recipe for needing to hose some intrepid former bicyclist off the bridge than anything else. I’m sure lots of very nice people ride bicycles for fun and profit and I’ll feel vaguely sorry when one of them gets turned to goo on the bridge, but mostly what I’ll be is annoyed that their mangled corpse caused me to get home two hours later than usual.
3. Cecil County Government. The Cecil County Executive announced this week that the local animal shelter, currently operated under contract to a third party as a no-kill facility will be reincorporated as an arm of county government that will have a “no kill philosophy,” but not operate as a no-kill shelter. The translation here is that instead focusing efforts on working with local non-profits, other shelters, and concerned citizens, the shelter will hold animals for the minimum legal time and then begin euthanizing them when they “time out” if there is no extra capacity at the shelter. Here’s the thing, most shelters nationwide will tell you one story: there’s never extra space, but somehow many no kill facilities make it work. The government of Cecil County is in the midst of failing their citizens and their animals. Bringing back the “high kill” mentality to local animal control is the wrong answer. It’s fortuitous, at least, that this douchebaggery was announced during election season because it will certainly influence who has my support at the ballot box.
1. I keep a running list of the absurdities of life that I think might be worthy of including in the week’s edition of WAJTW. Because this week happened to include a federal holiday, I’ve spent the whole week vaguely confused about what day of the week it happens to be. As a result, I reached to that list and accidentally used one of the annoyances as an actual fully fledged blog post. That doesn’t seem like it would be much of an annoyance aside from the fact that most things have broken my way this week and there wasn’t much of a list to begin with… which is exactly why the first annoyance for this week is strictly a process piece.
2. Sports metaphors. I’ve seen enough sports in my life to understand most of the metaphors, but I’ve never quite understood our desire to try to take the lessons of the field and apply them to every other aspect of life. Since I don’t generally follow sports in any meaningful way maybe the stories just don’t resonate for me in the way they seem to for other people. I’m just a guy with a hard time applying the relevant lesson of the scrappy underdog team to the issues I’m fighting with on the daily. I realize I’m probably the outlier here, so don’t mind me. If it looks like I’m stifling a yawn, that’s because I am.
3. Prius Drivers. On Tuesday morning I sat in the truck and watched a Prius driver open his door, lean halfway out of the car, and back into a parking space. The next nearest vehicle was mine and Big Red was at least two dozen spots away and in a completely different row. Look, I know I don’t have an unblemished record here, but backing up in an effectively empty parking lot and landing between the white lines just feels like something you should be able to do without needing to nearly exit the vehicle… Especially when your car takes up about as much square footage as my kitchen table. The poor schmuck didn’t even have a pair of passing yoga pants to use as an effective excuse.
From the time I got my license in June 1994 until October 2011, the only accidental damage I ever had to a vehicle was the occasional cracked windshield. Admittedly, the Jeep’s flat glass seemed to have an unnatural attraction to rocks kicked up at highway speed, but still that was just the cost of doing business. Since October 2011, the tide has turned. I can’t seem to go six months without the telltale screech of rending sheet metal. A parking meter jumped out and tagged my left turn signal, a crease appeared in my rear bumper shortly thereafter for reason or reasons unknown, an old man in an F-150 faked me out with his turn signal and cost me a new front end, and today I’ve got a softball sized dent on the left bedside from an unfortunate run in with the grill and hood of a Chevy.
Big Red is a trooper, though. Dents, dings, a new front end and she just keeps doing her thing. Now we’re off tomorrow morning to the body shop for the latest repair estimate. Given the relatively recent completion of my new front end, I’m trying to keep this one off the books at the insurance company. Unfortunately I can already hear my credit card screaming in protest. 2013 was basically punctuated by one headache after another. It’s becoming more obvious by the day that 2014 isn’t going to offer much in the way of relief, but just more of the same.
I love my Tundra, but she’s a rolling accident magnet… and if she wasn’t so damned close to being paid off, I’d think hard about trading her in on something that might not have so much bad mojo attached.
By this time on Thursday, I like to imagine the internet is clamoring to know what annoys me this week. As much as I would have been happy not sitting here at the table dredging through my head for the stuff that I forgot to write down for the last six days, I’d feel bad disappointing the two or three of you who always notice when I don’t get around to posting. So since you’re already here, here’s what annoys Jeff this week…
1. Lack of proper planning. I was off today because I live 40 minutes from work and the vet I needed to go see has an office 30 minutes in the opposite direction. Adding at least an hour to my commute and then only working for a couple of hours seemed like a patently bad idea. What I didn’t take into account when I took the day off is that tomorrow is the Friday before a three day weekend. Why on earth I didn’t think of that in advance and go ahead and make this a five-day-weekend is simply beyond me. I feel a little bit like I failed somehow.
2. Parking lot walkers. The people who walk (slowly) two abreast down the dead center of the travel lane in a big box store parking lot. Either walk like you have something to do, develop some kind of awareness of your surroundings, or don’t act surprised and indignant when I sneak up on you in my 5,250 pound red pick up truck and lay on the horn three feet from your fat asses. On a positive note, I’m grudgingly impressed with how fast you two can move when you’re given the proper motivation. Keep up the good work.
3. On leash walks. It’s great that Winston is feeling better and is healing well. It sucks that his three no-more-than-five-minute bathroom breaks per day are now supposed to be 10-15 minute walks across as many different kinds of flora and fauna as I have available. The walking itself isn’t so much the issue. It’s the fact that when two of those walks are supposed to take place (before work and before bed) it’s pitch effing black here in the backwoods of Ceciltucky. Yeah, this guy is going to be real thrilled tomorrow to be schlepping around the yard for 15 minutes an hour before the crack of dawn tomorrow… and every day for the next two months.
In summary, that is what annoys Jeff this week. Thank you for your attention.
1. Parking Lot Etiquette. You might know that I’m a creature of habit. I’ve even parked in the same spot just about every word day for the last 14 months. Or I did until wild haired old biddy with a hooptie started parking in my spot. I like to think I’ve shown admirable self control in not dropping the truck into 4-lo and pushing her beat to hell Buick out of the way. And then I remember that normal people would probably just shrug it off and find a different spot instead of developing intricate plans to show up earlier each day until they discover when the biddy in question arrives so they can start showing up a few minutes ahead of her to get their coveted parking spot. Not that I would ever do that, of course.
2. Science. I’m not all that old and so far I can remember eggs being good, then bad, then good again, then bad again, then good, and currently they’re apparently “as bad as smoking.” Seriously, science, is this really something worth studying repeatedly and changing our collective minds about every couple of years? People have been eating eggs for pretty much as long as there have been people. As a species, we like eggs and we’re probably going to keep eating them indefinitely into the future… So instead of telling us how bad (or good) eggs are, how about getting busy doing something productive like developing a more effective drugs to counteract the effects of the eggs that we all know we’re going to eat regardless of how “bad” we know they are for us?
3. Things that are Self-Explanatory. The older I get, the more I realize that almost nothing is actually self-explanatory… especially concepts that are so easy a caged monkey can be taught how to do them with the right combination of banana slides and electroshock. I guess that’s not surprising, really. The older I get, the fewer expectations I tend to have about people and how they behave as a group. Still, if you’re well into advanced middle age and I need to write a memo explaining that you should always remember to answer the question someone asks you instead of giving them everything other than the answer, something has gone horrifically wrong with civilization as a whole and we are probably doomed.
And since the week can’t be completely full of annoyances, if you’re at all curious about what doesn’t annoy Jeff this week, that would be the fact that it’s a three day weekend. Those make me happy.