Vetting or: The tale of a sick labrador…

Over the years I’d grown so accustomed to having one sick dog and one well that last month I even noted my budget had gone wonky from the unusual lack of vet bills. You’d think by now I’d know better than to open my electronic mouth and temp drawing the wrath of whatever from high atop the thing. If you thought that, of course, you would be wrong. My mouth has been, is, and seems likely to continue to be my worst enemy.

After a few incidents and observations over the last week or two, what I seem to have now is just one sick dog. Not falling over, edge of the mortal coil sick, but sufficiently sick that we’ve already run two diagnostic panels in as many days and scheduled the next – which promises to be an all day affair for my sweet brown dog later this week.

It’s one of those times when I’m ill served by having a professional and personal bent towards research and analysis – particularly as there’s absolutely nothing I can do about the situation until we strike on a test that does something more than confirm some of the possibilities. Just now we’re tracking it as potentially a kidney issue or a liver issue or the wildcard diagnosis of Cushings disease.

I’m told by those in a position to know such things that all of these are treatable – at least in the sense that it’s often possible to slow down the degenerative processes involved. Time, however, is a remorseless bitch and treatable does not mean “curative.” That at some point everything that’s alive will eventually be not alive is pretty much just one of the rules of nature. Even the best care simply prolongs the inevitable for all of us.

Maggie isn’t in pain. She’s her normal, happy labrador self. That’s something. Personally I’ll feel better when we have an enemy I can fight on her behalf, but for now I’m trying to be calm and contented in giving her endless chin rubs and maximum attention.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Energy. It’s the stuff which lets us stay awake after dinner instead of falling asleep on the couch with a book in our hands. My level has never been high enough to run the risk of becoming a distance runner, but at a bare minimum I could usually stay awake until my already geriatric bed time rolled around. For the last few weeks, though, mine has been missing entirely. It’s a small thing, yes, but it’s altogether frustrating and I need it to stop right the fuck now.

2. It’s never been worse. Three separate times this week I’ve heard either a talking head on television or someone in real life say that “our country has never been more divided” or “It’s never been worse.” One of the main problems with the laughably short human lifespan is that only being around for a few score decades and a lustrum or two means most people who don’t study it have no sense of history. You see way back in 1814 a foreign army burned the nation’s capital to the gound. I’d say that could be considered objectively “worse” than where we stand in 2019. Fifty years after the burning of Washington our country conducted a viscous, bloody, and protracted civil war. Now I’m not an expert, but that seems significantly more divided that we are just now. 

3. Waiting. There’s never been a doubt in my mind that I would eventually get back to being a two dog household. I planned for a reasonable period of adjustment. I also wanted wanted to wait for the winter weather gave way to spring because housebreaking in the winter sounded infinitely more awful then doing it when it’s temperate. There’s also the fact that March and April constitute my  “busy season” at the office. Thanks to one of my distinguished colleagues, though, I’m currently obsessing over any one of four English mastiff mix puppies up for adoption through a rescue outside of Baltimore… and trying to come up with a way to make jettisoning the plan sound at least passingly logical and not at all like something that would be a batshit crazy idea.

Being busy…

There is a world of difference between being busy and getting things done. I was looking at my calendar for the next ten days or so and it’s absolutely undeniable that I’m going to be busy. Meetings are stacked up like cord wood and on a few days there might even be time to eat a lunch that won’t feel like either a late breakfast or an early dinner.

Although I’m going to be busier than a one armed paper hanger, what I can tell you with almost perfect certainty is that I’m not going to be getting things done. Experience tells me that the amount of work accomplished is inversely proportional to the number of hours spent sitting in meetings. It’s a known fact across the bureaucracy, but doe some reason the illusion that meetings in some way equate to work accomplished persists in the minds of people who call meetings.

Maybe it’s possible to both attend meetings and be a productive and contributing member of society, but I’ve never cracked the code on making that happen when the meetings and the work insist on occupying the same eight hours of the day. I suspect that the people who pull off spending all day in meetings and also somehow manage to get something done are willing to slip in a few extra hours on the side.

If you’re sitting around waiting for the same from me, my best advice is to get comfortable, because you’re going to have a bit of a wait.

The shitstorm that didn’t…

Based on years of experience I’ve developed a pretty finely honed sense of when a shitstorm is brewing and about to unleash it’s sewer-tinged fury about my little part of the world. I walked out the office with my storm flags flying yesterday afternoon and fully expected to arrive back today to a feces coated disaster.

I was braced for it. I was ready. And then nothing happened. There wasn’t even a ripple. I don’t have any particular problem with being wrong. I’ve often enough turned left when I should have turned right. It happens.

It’s not so much that I’m upset that I was wrong today as it is that I know someday soon I’m going to be “not wrong” and the lid is going to come flying off the thunderpot. I’m not wrong that there’s a shitstorm brewing, just expected it to hit sooner rather than later. Now all I can do is hunker down and wait.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Pulling it out of your ass. There are any number of things that you should never have to worry about pulling out of your ass – gerbils, light bulbs, the usual. If you spend enough time making the hard to do seem easy and the impossible just a touch harder than that, sooner or later people will come to expect it… and then that time when you can’t deliver there will be hell to pay. The longer I serve the bureaucracy, I realize Chief Engineer Scott wasn’t actually a miracle worker. He was an expert at pulling things out of his ass and had an unlimited pool of good luck. Most pools aren’t nearly so limitless.

2. Panhandlers. How high would you have to be to try getting money from me when I’m pumping gas? The fired and true death stare wasn’t effective, but the growled command to “step. back.” apparently got his attention. His mouth worked, trying to form words while his addled mind struggled mightily to come up with something to say and then he did finally backed away slowly. I’m not saying I would beat someone to death using the end of a running gasoline hose like a medieval flail… but I’m not saying I wouldn’t if properly provoked.

3. People. I know many of you will find this hard to believe, but I legitimately want to like people. I want to assume the best about them and hell, maybe even be friendly… and then I go out into the world and actually meet people going about their business and find myself wondering how the hell they function in society and how quickly I can get away from them and back into the peaceful, access controlled confines of Fortress Jeff. Every day that ticks by seems to leave me with that much less patience for suffering fools… and yet the sheer volume of fools that must be suffered appears to grow exponentially.

On trying to like people…

Thanks to the Facebook “On This Day” feature I saw an early meme I shared on back in 2012 that read something like “I try to like people, but they’re all so fucking stupid.” I smiled, nodded, and thought “Yep, that’s still pretty much true.

On reflection, though, I realized that statement is getting less and less true. With every day that passes I find myself not Stupid.pngeven attempting to like people. It wasn’t like I started out making a big effort on that front anyway, but frankly my compassion and understanding reserve is all but worn out. Again, not that it was particularly deep to start out, but still.

I’m just sick to death of turning in nearly every direction and seeing people making incredibly stupid life choices. Look, I’m not saying everyone needs to be an Einstein. God knows I’m never going to sit at my desk and churn out a grand unifying theory of anything. I’m tired of playing off bad things that happen as fate or just bad luck when it so very clearly is a result of a piss-poor decision someone made a few steps back.

Every day I’m reminded of the late, great George Carlin who said, “‘Think of how stupid the average person is, and realize half of them are stupider than that.” That stupider half is out there living among us while we live with the consequences of their actions and decisions. If that doesn’t keep you up nights or put you off people completely, I have no idea what will.

As for me, I’m done smiling and nodding. I’m done trying to like people. If I look in your eyes and can’t find a spark of anything in there keeping the lights on other than habit, I just don’t have the energy to even pretend. There are public libraries in just about every town in America. The internet has given us access to very nearly the sum total of all knowledge accumulated across the vast sweep of human history. We carry that shit around on our telephones. Information is too easy to access for people to walk around just being stupid.

I no longer have the energy required to try liking stupid people. Instead of faking it from here on out, my official policy will be to glare at them and walk away.

Learning to wait…

I’ve said it before but it seems to bear repeating: If you call my desk five minutes before the end of the day there’s a good chance I’m not going to answer – a) Because there’s absolutely nothing I’m working on that can be discussed in less than five minutes and b) Because it’s just rude to delay someone who’s already put in a full day for anything less than a full blown (and legitimate) emergency. I hold the same line on email too – if the building isn’t burning down and it requires more than a yes or no answer, you’re going to wait until there’s time on the clock to provide a complete and well-reasoned response.

In case you think this is just about managing expectations at the office it really isn’t. I have no problem at all letting the phone ring at home if it’s not a convenient time to have a conversation. My Gmail box will occasionally go untended for a day or two. Hard as it is to believe sometimes Facebook posts even go unliked and messages even go unreturned if I don’t have anything of substance to add to the conversation or the time with which to attend them.

All this technology surrounding us is supposed to be a convenience, you see. It’s supposed to let us engaged on our own schedule and in our own way. Instead of using these tools to manage our schedules and actions, many seem perfectly willing to let their scheduled be managed by the tools. As much as I love my iPhone, make no mistake that it is the servant and I the master. It’s the only reasonable way I’ve ever found to even attempt keeping things in their proper perspective.

All of that’s probably just a longer than necessary way of saying don’t call or email expecting great and wonderful operational insights at 3:55 PM. You’re going to be disappointed. Along the same lines, you probably shouldn’t bother trying to reach me between the hours of 10PM and 5AM for anything, really. My ringer is off because even if there is an emergency there probably isn’t a damned thing I can do about it before the sun comes up. Even if it is an actual emergency, it’s probably best for everyone if I’m allowed to face it after a few hours of sleep anyway.

Priorities people, priorities.