What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Snapchat reality. People are apparently having plastic surgery to make themselves look more like their favorite Snapchat filter. I’m perfectly willing to accept that there are good and valid reasons to have cosmetic surgery… but isn’t the whole point of Snapchat that it lets you look different without someone jabbing pointy objects into your face? Lord knows I’ve got an ego big as all outdoors sometimes, but thank sweet merciful Zeus it’s in absolutely no way dependent on the way I look and doing batshit crazy things to keep up an illusion that I do.

2. Getting handsey. You probably wouldn’t expect this, but I tend to go out of my way to be polite to people. Please, thank you, sir, ma’am, excuse me, are all words that come frequently from my face hole. Being a natural misanthrope isn’t a reason to behave like you’ve never learned any manners. I’ll gladly return courtesy with courtesy. I’ve always followed John Wayne’s basic rules for civilized behavior, of which the Duke said, “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” If, however, someone feels like they need to get handsey with me, I’ll happily drop all pretense of civility.

3. Dogs. No, not really dogs in general. It’s well established fact that I value and love dogs over all other living creatures. The one and only time I find dogs at all annoying is when you’re trying to get away for periods longer than their bladders are able to tolerate. With dogs (or at least the way I insist their care and feeding take place), getting away for anything more than a day trip involves herculean logistical feats which usually reach the level of requiring unjustifiable levels of effort. Yes, I know there are dog sitters and boarding facilities of which normal people might avail themselves. Frankly I can’t think of any more than half a dozen people on the planet who I’d willingly allow full, free, and unfettered access to my home. The number of people I’d trust with the care of the dogs is significantly lower than that. Yes, of course I realize this problem is self-inflicted based on my utter lack of faith in humanity, but that doesn’t make it any less annoying… and it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The two weeks of Christmas. I was sitting in a meeting this week where the great and the good were calling for all manner of things to happen in the next two weeks. It’s cute when they’re optimistic like that. Experience tells me that even the most dedicated senior leader is going to find it hard to get jack-all done when 75% of his or her workforce is sitting snug in their homes or on the road for the week before and after Christmas. It’s good to be ambitious. It’s good to have goals. It’s also important to know your limitations, especially when you’re working with a skeleton crew just barely large enough to keep the lights on. Reason 7,471 I have no interest in bossing ever again.

2. Not knowing when to STFU. There is a time and a place for raising new topics or for asking every question. When the guy sitting at the head of the table is trying to close things out and the meeting has already run twenty minutes past its scheduled ending, though, is neither the time nor the place. That’s when you should have been a bureaucrat long enough to know that it’s time to sit there and shut the fuck up.

3. Emergency slide flipping. If there’s anything worse than being stuck in your own meeting, it’s being unceremoniously suck into someone else’s meeting because their computer crapped out and getting it fixed takes days. Look, a) It’s not my program; b) I actually have my own work to do; and c) If we keep finding work arounds to the shit tech support we get it will never have a reason to improve. Being a slide clicker on your own material is bad enough, but the number of times I’ve been yanked away from whatever it was I was doing to flip slides for someone else is astounding. It’s like no one in this place has heard of opportunity cost or return on investment. There are days when I’m entirely convinced I’m the best paid clerk/typist in the whole damned country.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Waking up angry. There’s something about going to bed an hour earlier than usual. It’s a hope that the extra hour of down time might drive away some of the serious exhaustion that’s got to be showing in your eyes as the end of the week draws in. But then you wake up feeling even more strung out than you did when you went to bed – still exhausted, still mad at the world, where every little obstacle is a potential tripwire. Then it’s drag out of bed, shave, hope you can paint a convincing image of not loathing everyone and everything you come in contact with, and muddle through the day until it’s time for bed again. Even then you know the next morning won’t feel rested, that extra hour won’t matter, and you’ll be right back in the shit before the day even gets started. Yeah. That’s the kind of week it’s been.

2. Do “X” then “Y”. It’s a simple formula. Do one thing and then the next. It’s the logical progression of things. Problem is, no one seems to understand that there are potentially hundreds of discrete sub-steps between X and Y. All of them need doing before you can make progress. All of them need attention… and in many cases they are all actions that someone else needs to take. So you end up waiting for someone to do X-1, X-7, X-32, and X-1,245,334 before you can get to Y. That’s good enough when everyone knows what they supposed to be doing, wants to do it, and actually does it in a timely manner. Reality, being the thankless bitch that she is, of course, means that those small steps are rarely taken when they should be – so you end up sitting, waiting, cajoling, pestering, ranting, raving, and losing whatever slight grip you still have on sanity while other people get around to placing their one small piece of the puzzle.

3. My “privilege.” The next person who wanders by and recommends that I “check my privilege” might just get a well-worn size 12 Doc Marten planted directly in their crotch. There’s not a lot of generational privilege when your grandfathers worked the deep mines and heavy manufacturing in Appalachia and your parents took the next step, becoming a teacher and a cop, but only wearing the badge after serving some quality enlisted time in Uncle Sam’s green suit. So then there’s me. The grandson of a coal miner and a factory worker. Son of a public school teacher and a state trooper. I worked my ass off to make the grade in school, earned some scholarships, then worked my ass off in college to graduate magna. Then I went to work, didn’t like what I was doing and changed jobs, changed geographic locations, shoehorned myself into a program that would pay for grad school, and generally made myself available for whatever crap assignment would look good on my resume. I moved six times in ten years to improve myself and chase better opportunities instead of staying put and expecting the opportunities to come to me – or worse, expecting someone to deliver them because I have “privilege.” So when you tell me to check myself, it’s very clear you don’t know me or mine and I’m sure I don’t have a clue what the hell you’re talking about.

Identity…

Far be it from me to tell anyone who they feel themselves to be on the inside, but it stands to reason if I go about telling everyone that I considered myself to be an African American woman, no one would buy it. That could lead me down into a long, painful discussion about perception, self, and identity, but I don’t want to go there.

The national offices of the NAACP were quick to point out over the weekend that there was no requirement for leaders in their organization to be black. That’s probably true. At the same time, it makes about as much sense as having someone who’s never owned a firearm in their life serving as president of the NRA. Sure, you could do it, but it feels awfully disingenuous.

I’m not saying anyone should give up their calling to campaign for civil rights or any other cause… but I am saying if you’re going to put yourself forward as a poster child, you’d damned well better be doing it from a place of personal authenticity because the truth will out. And Murphy being the ass he is, it will do so at the most inconvenient moment.

I can walk around town all day calling myself the King of the Andals and the First Men, but no matter how strongly I believe, believing doesn’t make it so. Like it or not, identify isn’t just how we feel on the inside, but is also in large part how we are perceived by those around us. It’s perfectly normal for those two identities to be a little different from one another, but generally both are at least tied to some shred of reality… in this latest case, not so much.

One good thing…

I don’t know anyone who is really a fan of Monday. I suppose there is always the odd shift worker whose weekend starts on Monday, but they are clearly the exception. For most other working stiffs, Monday is mostly just the week’s great reminder that our time really isn’t our own.

The day does have one redeeming quality that I’ve found. This singular quality would be that Monday is so significantly different from the two days preceding it that in most cases the morning just seems to fly by once it gets going. Maybe it’s a minor issue of perception, but being the optimist that I am, I thought it worth pointing out. After lunch, of course, the perceived passage of time slows to its standard weekday snail’s pace. At least one this one day of the week it’s nice to look up from whatever I’m doing and be pleasantly surprised that it’s time for lunch rather than looking up and wondering why it’s not even passed 9AM yet.

Perception is a tricky mistress like that. She gives with one hand and punches you in the junk with the other. My advice: Try enjoying the good moments while you’re waiting for the other hand to drop you like a ton of bricks.

Wrong gear…

It’s the end of July. The part of me that spent two years checking off classes good for a teaching degree and then spent 28 months actually teaching still rebels this time of year. Some people go into teaching because they have a passion for their field. Some do it because they like kids and want to “touch the future.” That always seemed like a particularly pervy phrase to me, but I digress. The point is, I mostly went into teaching because it seemed like a great way to maximize time not working.

By now the average teacher is probably yelling at me about all the time they spend prepping, planning, grading, collaborating, talking to parents, and taking refreshed training after class, on weekends, and over the summer. My solution to that was to simply not do those things. I was usually in my room 30 minutes before the first bell only because that gave me time to eat whatever breakfast I picked up on my way in from the house and the busses barely cleared the parking lot before I was headed for the doors at the end of the day. As for grading on the weekends, at night, or at some other time when I wasn’t getting paid for it? Yeah. Forget about it. I guess someone people work for love, but I’ve always been more a “work for money” type of guy. Maybe that’s another reason the whole teaching career never took off, but again I digress.

What I seem to have at the moment is a distinct lack of motivation and the deep seated wish that all manner of jobs came with a 45-day chunk of free time right around the middle of summer. Sure, I’m making sure the paper shuffles from here to there, but in my head isn’t even in the same city as the ballpark where the game’s being played. That’s not a good long-term plan. Once the days start getting shorter and the nights cooler, I’ll snap back to reality. Right now I feel like a car running in the wrong gear – still moving forward, but doing it in a monumentally inefficient way… and you just can’t fix that shit with more cowbell.

185 emails…

There’s nothing quite as effective as 185 emails in your inbox to drag you back to reality. Three hours later, at least it’s a relief to know that 10% of them were discussing printer and network-related outages, 80% of them were crap you have no actual interest in, 5% were email from friends, and the remaining 5% are issues you actually need to do something about. It’s possible that I might have sat down and cried if there were actually 185 issues that needed my attention this morning. Even though I was physically present today, clearly my brain is still dragging in from somewhere on the Eastern Shore. Unless something ridiculous happens, it should be a day or two yet before the post-vacation afterglow wears off. I’d like to think that it could last until the 4-day Independence Day weekend, but I think we all know that’s more of a pipe dream than a plan.

Aside from the usual complaints about being back in the saddle, the routine is the routine. That’s probably good and bad. It’s comforting because it’s normal, but it still leaves me with a slightly sick feeling that it’s not what I really want to be doing with the day. Reality. 185 emails. Being a responsible adult is a real bitch.