Of groceries and new routines…

Cecil County has most of the problems every other semi-rural county in Maryland is facing – drugs, pockets of poverty, a questionable education system, and a government that occasionally verges on dysfunctional. It also has some remarkable natural beauty, low cost of living (for Maryland), and a convenient location between Baltimore and Philly that’s close to both, but far enough away to allow those who prefer the quiet life to avoid big city fuckery.

What the county lacks, however, are the kind of supermarkets I got use to while living in the DC exurbs or during my west Tennessee exile. The local Food Lion is convenient, but comes with limited options. Walmart has decided they’re no longer interested in my money. There’s an Acme, a company that I assumed had gone out of business 20 years ago, but its location in the heart of Elkton attracts a certain element that I’d just rather not step over, walk around, or studiously pretend to ignore just to get my weekly shopping done.

I happened to be off my usual Saturday path last week, which put another option in reach. Even looking a little dated and feeling like the aisles were too cramped by half, Safeway has it all over any of the more local options. It’s not a Kroger or a Giant, but by comparison to what I’ve gotten use to out of convenience there’s no contest.

As much as I am a creature of habit, I’m also adaptive enough to adjust when there is a better alternative available. I hate the idea of adding an extra 20 minutes to the standard Saturday errands run (and probably spending a bit more than I would otherwise on groceries), but the trade off with more and better options is too enticing… and makes me wish I’d have reconciled myself with driving to Delaware for groceries much sooner.

I’m reasonably sure the hardest part of all this will be remembering that the new routine takes me across the county from west to east instead of east to west. Pity me my first world problems.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Electronic License Plates. My beloved home state of Maryland is launching a program to test “electronic license plates.” I have no earthy idea why bits of stamped tin that have been good enough and dirt cheap to make for more than a century needs to be made electronic – and more expensive, and trackable, and more prone to being damaged and needing replaced. It can’t possibly be as a means to make some state service less expensive or the process to receive it less onerous because God knows that’s not how we do things in here in Maryland.

Sleeping separately. Over the last ten years you can count on maybe all your toes and fingers how many nights I haven’t slept in the midst of dogs – some in the bed, some in crates, some loose on the floor, but always close enough to hear every snore and snort. With Maggie’s second accident in as many nights, though, I banished both dogs to the laundry room and their crates in wee small hours of the morning. They didn’t like it. I didn’t like it. I’m fairly sure the cat was fine with the arrangement, though. At least for the time being, this will have to be the new order of things. The alternative is planning to scrub the bedroom floor every night between 2 and 5 AM, which feels like a complete nonstarter for any number of reasons. Since we don’t have a definitive diagnosis yet there’s no way of telling if this is the short term fix or the long. In either case, it’s annoying and displeases me greatly.

Landlording. I bought a condo back in about 2001, fresh into my first professional job and figuring I’d be there for the long haul. Two years later, I was pulling up stakes for greener pastures and I’ve been renting the place out ever since. I’ve never been at risk of retiring off the rents received – once the property manager and inevitable repairs are paid for, it’s a break even proposition most of the time. I got a call this week that my property manager was winding down his business and I think that means it’s probably time for me to settle up, take back a little bit of equity, and finally let the condo go. There’s no one thing that’s really getting me out of the landlording business, but the steady drumbeat of needing to find new tenants, make repairs, replace appliances, and now the prospect of needing to learn to work with the quirks of a completely different management company are all combining to tell me it’s time to accept that the capital gains tax isn’t going to get any lower and move on.

Threat vectors…

American tourists dropping like flies in the Dominican Republic. Squeegie Kids attacking commuters in downtown Baltimore. Random violent acts in shopping malls and on the street. People generally behaving like assholes in every conceivable public space – some dangerous, some simply stupid beyond all comprehension. The average person spends their day surrounded by threat vectors without every really knowing it. It’s probably for the best. If most people really understood what a dangerous place the world was, I’d wonder how they managed to get through the day at all.

There’s a saying that I’ve often heard repeated, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” While I’ll admit this bit of received wisdom isn’t 100% accurate, experience tells me a whole lot of dumb and dangerous stuff happens between midnight and dawn – things that wouldn’t necessarily happen in the full light of day. I long ago adopted a corollary to this Midnight Rule, which says “That’s the kind of dumb shit you can avoid by not leaving the house.”

People look at me cross ways when I say it – perhaps too loudly and often. Yes, yes, I know that most accidental injuries happen in the home. Slicing your finger open with a kitchen knife or falling down in the shower are unfortunate to be sure, but can also largely be avoided by not getting too distracted from whatever task is at hand. The outside threat vectors, though, are far more difficult to control for – the disgruntled coworker, the squeegy kids, and all the great long laundry list of stupid people out there wandering around in the world at large. What all of those vectors have in common is that they are abso-fucking-lutly not in my house.

And that, friends, is in large part why I go places for the most part when it can’t be avoided, but am otherwise entirely happy to pass the time reasonably secure from the kind of jackassery you open yourself up to by going places and doing things. I like to think I’ve done reasonably well by sticking to the ideas that nothing good is happening after midnight and dumb shit can be be avoided by not leaving the house. I don’t suppose it works for everyone, but I’ve found it to be a sound basis for getting by.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The 80/20 rule. The reward for good work is more work. The reward for bad work is less work. Other than a sense of personal satisfaction of doing a job well, there’s damned little incentive to do top notch work in an environment that doesn’t really reward anything above the baseline or punish anything below the baseline. Things just slide along while everyone hopes equilibrium is maintained and no one makes too many waves. Meanwhile we’ll just keep throwing stuff at those that can instead of demanding performance from those who should.

2. Puppy energy. Folding a new dog into the routine is has been challenging – probably in large part because the resident dog is old and happy to spend most of her day sleeping. By contrast, the now 7-month old pup, is still full of teenaged asshole dog energy and requires constant oversight. It’s no so bad on the days when I’m home with ample time to wear his fuzzy little ass, but God help us on the days when I’m working and he gets to rest up. We were all a decade younger the last time there was a puppy in the house. I don’t remember being better rested at 30 than I am at 40, but maybe I was. Who knows. Maybe I was even energetic myself way back when. Somehow I doubt that. Jorah is going to be a fantastic dog… just as soon as I get him through the stage where he’s a total pain in the ass.

3. The FCC. The FCC has spent decades chasing “crude and rude” broadcasters across the airwaves – levying fines and trying to make sure all the poor sensitive souls don’t accidentally get offended by something. If the honorable commissioners of the FCC want to do something even remotely beneficial to actual people, they’d dragoon the Special Operations Command into hunting down and killingly the people responsible for spam and scam cell phone calls and text messages. Slap a bounty on the scammers heads and pay out dead or alive for every one drug across the threshold of their glass and steal headquarters building lobby. That’s the kind of proactive service I want to see them providing instead of page after page of tips on how to not get scammed.

Sorting the schedule…

Still trying to get the new morning routine down. Getting out of the house in the morning has temporarily become an Overlord level planning effort. But this was the first day of needing to be up and out of the house while running against the clock. I presume with repetition we’ll all get a little better at that.

Perhaps the more difficult part is now that we have the new pup along, the order of operations has changed. Instead of showering first while Maggie lays around in bed for another 30 minutes, it’s straight up and outside, then feeding, then shit, shower, and shave, then more outside, and so on. Getting my still sleep-addled head around these nuances is, at best, a work in progress.

If it were a person throwing my well established routine out of sync like this, they’d be cancelled immediately… but since the cause has four legs and an endless supply of adorable looks, Jorah gets a pass. And some ear scratches and belly rubs, probably.

Monday is just another word for nothing left to lose…

This was the first Monday I had to actually go into the office in months. Something about staffing and coverage and blah blah blah. I’ll still get my telework day this week, just not as the day that eases me back into the weekday routine of angst, bother, and death PowerPoint.

I know it was a Monday today mostly because when I got to the office and wanted to buy a bagel, I discovered that my wallet, watch, and other small items I carry every day were not where I expected them to be (i.e. in my pockets). Instead, they were exactly where I left them the last time I had returned home from being out in the world of people. Which is exactly where they are deposited the hundreds of times a year I come home from being somewhere else, so it’s not as if they’d been secreted off to a new undisclosed location and chaos ensued.

I can only assume this was my subconscious rejecting the idea of a Monday that strayed so far from the standard. This lack of early morning cerebral engagement means I started off the day doubly disappointed – first, I was destined to spend the day tethered to my desk in the concrete bowels of the building without fresh air or daylight and secondly, I was required to do it without benefit of starting the day with a toasty warm bagel. 

I think that nicely encapsulates exactly what kind of day it has been. In fact, I’m going to start a petition to officially change the name of Monday to Double Disappointment. It feels altogether more fitting.

Sometimes smart isn’t enough…

I’m a reasonably smart guy. I’ve never hidden that fact or been embarrassed by it the way some people seem to think you should be. There are, however, times when native brain power just isn’t enough.

This morning I went through my usual Saturday – did things like take a load of trash to the landfill, stop by the bank, and roll past Tractor Supply for the biggest bag of bird food available. Then I made my fatal mistake.

You see, today is Saturday. I didn’t think of it as anything other than Saturday. One of 52 that we get every year. It’s the day of the week even I get groceries. What every other person in the county apparently thought of today as, however, is “the last Saturday before Thanksgiving when they should take the whole family to the supermarket and pick up three carts full of food.”

It didn’t even occur to me. If it had, I’d have changed the plan and done my shopping at 5am to avoid the masses. I should have known better, should have been more aware. I was awash in a vast see of dumb as hell and have no one to blame but myself.

Mercifully I’m home now. If you want me to leave, setting the place on fire is probably the only way to shake me loose… and even that isn’t guaranteed to get the job done.