What I learned this week…

There’s a whole subset of people out there who really think the government has come up with some far reaching, super-secret plan to take over the world / give all of us a tracking chip / cull the surplus population / some other wackadoodle idea that they’ve trolled up from the depths of the internet.

I’ve spent the better part of the last 20 years working for the government that these nutjobs think is plotting the subjugation of the masses. Having worked in the belly of this particular beast let me just say from experience that most days it barely manages to keep the lights on.  

Sure, they’ve had a couple of good days – the Manhattan Project was mostly kept secret – but largely, the whole creaking apparatus leaks like sieve. At its very best the workforce is managed rather than led. Good luck getting the thousands of government employees needed to carry off such a far-reaching scheme, each with their own interests and petty empire to build, all lined up and moving in the same direction. Then remember that they’ll be orchestrating these devious plots using technology that the average Fortune 500 company would be embarrassed to have in their inventory. 

If there was some generation’s old plan for the Illuminati to seize control there’s not a chance it stays secret. If, in defiance of all logic and common sense, it did stay secret, the government would lack the leadership ability of basic infrastructure to see it through. Even if all that wasn’t true and there is a conspiracy of unprecedented scope and scale at work, what on earth would make someone believe that the whole house of cards depends on the “truth” not spewing out on YouTube? Surely if these shadow forces are crafty enough to circumvent all other checks and balances, they’re savvy enough to keep their tracks off social media, no?

Still, this week I learned that people who I personally considered reasonably sane and rational, educated, and thoughtful have dived down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole… and that’s just disappointing on so many different levels. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The disconnect. No, I’m not in any way annoyed by being disconnected from people. I love that shit. It’s the disconnect from the schedule that’s throwing me off. Here we sit. I know it’s Thursday because the calendar says so but it doesn’t feel like Thursday. It doesn’t feel like Monday. I’m not sure if it feels like any day at all, or whether it’s all the days and none of them simultaneously. The days have become utterly interchangeable and that’s unsettling.

2. Extra dirt. I wasn’t prepared for the extra dirt involved with being home 7 days a week. I mean it makes sense. I’ve let the dogs in and out 37 million more times than usual this week. A certain wild, young rescue dog has already churned the yard like we’re Iowa farmers preparing to plant the back fourty. The week’s rain has turned his work into a quagmire… and they’ve both been trying to drag it all directly into the house on their paws.  That more time home equals more cleaning should be surprising, but after working for the last twenty years it’s just not something I ever considered. 

3. Outlook web access.  On a normal telework day, I log in through a VPN connection and my laptop behaves just as it normally would in the office. With the crush of new people working from home this week, VPN is running near capacity. The alternative is old fashioned web mail, which works well enough for sending basic email. The catch is, it doesn’t pop up meeting reminders the way Outlook does before a schedule meeting… and that leads to a flurry of emails asking “wherrrrrrrre are youuu?!” I mean what am I supposed to do, look at the calendar and memorize the day’s schedule like some kind of ignorant savage?

I hate a thief…

Everyone has that one hot button issue that makes them grind their teeth, or at least grind them more than usual. I’ve mostly accepted that people are awful and they’re going to spend most of their time treating themselves, each other, and every creature they come into contact with awfully.

Knowing this about myself, I can say that the kind of “person” I despise more than almost any other is a thief – the kind of person who decides doing an honest day’s work is for suckers and that whatever someone else has should really be theirs, just because.

This weekend, six charges rolled into my account before I realized someone out there on the internet using my name and account number. It totals to about $320, not a huge hit in the grand scheme, although the amount doesn’t make any particular difference to me. Whether a dollar or ten thousand, it’s the simple fact that I put in the time that cash represents.

Credit card theft is nothing new. It’s been around since American Express pressed their first card, I’m sure. I talked to the bank at length this morning, filed the appropriate fraud report, and was told that they’ll get back to me once they’ve had a chance to review the situation. My assumption is that eventually the charges will be reversed and I’ll be made financially whole. It’s apparently such a common occurrence now that thy told me not to even bother filing a police report. That the bank just shrugs this sort of thing off fills me with a whole different flavor of rage.

The insult added to injury this time is that I’ve already received two of the items the thieves ordered. I’ve got shipping notifications on two of the others. So at least for the next couple of days, I’ll come home to periodic reminders on my doorstep that people are as awful as I think they are.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Surprise. In between reports on Epstein’s guards being arrested, the impeachment hearings, and the weekly report on a random husband who killed his family, there are a few reports this week of China finally cracking skulls in Hong Kong. What coverage it is getting is the standard breathless, hand wringing that we’ve come to expect in reporting on bad things that are happening internationally. Mostly I’m just over here thinking that China is just being China. Given its track record from the late 1980s to today, I have no idea why anyone would be surprised that a student protest would be brought to a sudden, violent halt. There’s a track record there. You don’t have to look a lot further than the formation of the Chinese Communist Party and the Cultural Revolution to see how dissent is handled sooner or later. History may not tell you exactly what will happen in the future, but it leaves plenty enough clues if you bother to look.

2. What I can’t say. I can tick off a list of at least five things off the top of my head that I’d desperately like to write about this week. Each and every one of them would be fertile ground for its own post… and all of them remain firmly embargoed indefinitely because there’s no good way to change the names to protect the guilty or obfuscate the origins of the tale. The “maybe someday” file got a bit thicker this week, that’s something, but not something that’s helping me out here and now.

3. Cashless tolls. It’s not the cashless tolls I hate, so much as I hate the other people driving through the cashless toll system. Removing the option for people to stop and fish through their pockets, purse, and ashtray for toll money, the State of Maryland opted to make the Hatem Bridge a E-Z-Pass or video toll only facility. It should have radically sped up the throughput at a particularly constricted stretch of Route 40. What no one took into account, though, is the people who can’t seem to grasp that the tolls are now taken (by overhead scanner and camera) at the west side of the bridge rather than on the east side where the toll booths are being slowly deconstructed. It’s been more than a month and these asshats are still stutter-stepping or doing the slow crawl through the place that’s distinguished by empty brackets where the scanners use to be and where there is currently no reason to slow down below the posted limit. No reason aside from people who wander through life without noticing a goddamned thing happening around them.

The screecher next door…

Sitting around the emergency vet on a Friday night with not much to distract you leaves a lot of time to think… and to observe the comings and goings of those moving around you in the world. The thing I observed most on Friday night… and then again on Sunday morning was the genuine imitation outrage that so many people felt when they were expected to pay for their pet’s emergency treatment.

The ones in the treatment room right next to mine would have been hard to miss, even if I wasn’t casting around for something to occupy my mind while we waited. They’d have been hard to miss because just after 11PM, one of then started screeching that the estimate to treat their dog was “too damned much” for what they seemed to think was a simple treatment – blood work, xrays, and emergency surgery to set or amputate a broken leg.

The value people put on things is always curious. You’re at a vets office in the closing minutes of a Friday night. They have a huge staff who are all being paid for overnight weekend work. They have diagnostic imagery tools that a decade or two ago would have been rare at a lot of rural hospitals treating people. You’re paying to have access to doctors, techs, and technology at a time when almost nothing else is open. As much as the staff at one of these places may love animals, money is what keeps the doors open at times when you might otherwise have to wait 48-72 hours to have your dog seen.

Look, I don’t love spending emergency vet kind of money, but I get why it comes with a premium price tag. Even if I didn’t get it, I’d know better than to scream at the twenty-something young tech who’s trying to walk me through the options because I’m not an awful human being. I’m sure someone will say lashing out angrily is a perfectly natural response in a stressful circumstance… but I’d really prefer it if they didn’t lash out and agitate the people who I’m going to need focused in on taking care of my own pup after they’ve finished up with the screecher next door.

When I literally can’t even…

I like to think consistency is one of my better personality traits.  I like plans. I like order. I like having at least a passible ability to know what to expect… not that you’d know it by my fairly fanatical love of routine and schedule. I can get along without being scheduled or maintaining a routine, but I’m hands down better when there’s at least some level of effort put into restraining the forces of chaos.

I’ve long suspected that what seems to me a natural lack of consistency in most people is at least one of the reasons I struggle so much in dealing with them. In general, we’re a wildly inconsistent bunch – running hot and cold, present or distant depending on the day or hour. It’s hard to account for the vagaries of human inconsistency and I don’t always respond well to that.

Yes, I also recognize that expecting other people and the universe to bend to accommodate the way I best function is something of a fool’s errand – and one of my less endearing personality traits. What can I tell you, I’m a pretty uncomplicated guy running on a ridiculously complex operating system. It could be a bug or a feature. It rather depends on your perspective.

I’ve got to remind myself from time to time that I really can’t control the world or the people in it through personal preference. I can, however, mostly hold the chaos at bay here inside the well-defined boundaries of Fortress Jeff. I’ve put a fair amount of blood and treasure into making it “just so.” It’s into this world that I’ll choose to retreat every time, to dwell among the animals and the books, when I literally can’t even with people any more.

Rejected topics for Monday…

I have long suspected that what ultimately drives this blog – what makes for the most interesting content – is largely the angst that annoyance that comes from one or two major sources. The first, of course, is anything at all that relates to traveling to, enduring the day at, or coming back from the office. That’s a shitshow that is near universal and provides an endless well for new posts – or maybe it’s just the same fifteen or twenty posts repeating over time. The other main driver, one that’s more general, comes from any time that I’m required from dealing with the general public. My thoughts about people as a group are well known by now… like the office, though, they are an bottomless source of things to comment on.

Spending four or five days mostly ensconced at home with books and animals significantly decreases the number of things I feel the need to bitch and complain about. Sure, I guess I could ry my hand at writing some happy, uplifting shit, but that doesn’t strike me as anything close to speaking with my authentic voice… and I suspect it would be far less entertaining for anyone who happened to read it. If people really liked good news stories, the cable news channels would be filled with them rather than with the regular mayhem and chaos that they know puts eyes on advertising.

So what’s the point here? I’m not sure I have one beyond wanting to share what, I jotted down today and promptly rejected as topics for today:

  1. Earthquakes. Why the hell do people live in California? It burns down regularly and the damned earth shakes. I don’t care how nice the weather is, that seems like a bad tradeoff.
  2. Women’s World Cup. Team USA is getting hectored for “too much celebrating.” Fuck all the way off with that noise.
  3. 4th of July “military parade.” So the left decried the “military trade” in DC on the 4th of July… that turned out to be something like 4 vehicles put on static display near the Lincoln Memorial. Somehow I think the republic will endure.
  4. Jeffrey Epstein. If I were a billionaire, I’m 100% sure I’d find something to do with my time and money that’s way less likely to send me to prison than sex trafficking of minors. Money can buy a lot of things, but even giant honking piles of cash can’t fix stupid.

Sigh. I hate to admit it, but it’s probably best that the holiday is over and it’s time to get back to work and people. I’ll be annoyed as hell, but the writing will be better, so there’s that.