This morning, as usual, I picked up my building ID, two sets of keys, my pocket knife, watch, and a few other odds and ends I carry with me every day. The morning progressed as usual right up until the point I stopped to fill up the Jeep’s fuel tank. That’s when I discovered my wallet wasn’t among the items of kit that I had stuffed into my pockets on the way out the door.
As they saying goes, you really don’t miss something (or realize how often you need it) until it’s gone. Instead of the day progressing normally, there was no fuel, no breakfast bagel, no stop for a mid-day doughnut, no pausing on the way home to pick up fresh greens for the tortoise, and no stop at the last chance liquor store for my Wednesday powerball ticket. It doesn’t quite rise to the level of infuriating, but the simple act of leaving behind a small piece of leather with a few pieces of plastic and a bit of green paper inside certainly has the the effect of being an outsized pain in the ass.
I’ve never really given much thought to the virtue of ApplePay, but it’s safe to say I have a new healthy interest in adopting a payment method that involves something I don’t leave the room, let along the house, without having on my person.
I’d guess that on average three weekdays out of every five could be fairly described as being “less than full.” Now I don’t mean to imply in any way that I don’t strive to give our Uncle his money’s worth every time, but there are simple laws of the bureaucracy that say it’s impossible to be busy every moment of the day. This isn’t McDonald’s and there isn’t always stainless that needs wiped down. Usually our days have an ebb and flow that ranges somewhere between comfortable and mind-numbing. It’s that one day in five that’s the wildcard. When it comes along it’s like being stuck with a whole room full of one armed paper hangers. No matter how fast you work, it’s just not going to be fast enough to account for everything coming over the side. In my experience, that’s the nature of the beast.
The real trouble with those rogue days is that they’re absolutely unpredictable. Days that for all outward appearances should be busy won’t be. Days that by rights should be dead slow will open their gaping maw and eat you alive. It would be nice, I think, if those wide-mouthed days would at least give you a fair warning. It feels like the very least the universe could do if it’s bound and determined to spend the rest of the day kicking your ass all over the room.
1. Of your peers. The laws of the United States are designed to make it at least marginally difficult to arbitrarily throw people in prison. We’re entitled to have our case tried not just before a judge, but also a jury of our peers. This week I kept my part of the civic compact by serving as a member of the county’s jury pool. I got a chance this week to see a cross section of the group whop could be called upon to serve as “peers” should I ever find myself accused. That’s the moment my faith in the judicial system was rattled. A few of our number seemed to have at least a partial clue about what was going on, but many more looked vaguely confused and distressed by the whole process. A few more were sleeping and I’m fairly sure at least one was a tweaker who showed up just to get his $20. I’ve never had copious amounts of faith in “the people” as a group… but after seeing them in person, I think I’ll be taking my chances with a judge.
2. Shock and alarm. Most of my day-to-day work is routine. Read this. Assess that. File a report on some other thing. Given the right knowledge base and a bit of critical thinking it’s not all that hard to do – and even when I get something badly wrong the collateral damage is fairly limited. There are, from time to time, some projects that I work on that could end in profound leadership embarrassment in the face of the community, our business partners, and our own workforce if they aren’t run exactly right. I can promise you that when I’ve been beating the drum that things are trending off track for months now I won’t be a bit embarrassed when they come sliding fully off the rails. I have an ass-covering paper trail that will mostly protect me when someone in the wheelhouse finally has their moment of shock and alarm.
3. Writing. I haven’t stopped writing, but at last count I have six works in progress sitting on my desktop and I’m not in love with any of them. They feel like an exercise in writing something just to keep writing. Wherever the muse resides it’s currently not near my desk and that’s something of a shame because I really want to be good at this craft. If I can’t be good, I’d at least like to be good enough… but every time I double click on one of those files and try to find the next few hundred words the struggle is very, very real. I never thought I’d miss a case of run of the mill writer’s block, but I’d talk that all day every day over ideas that are just plain bad.
I have a morning routine. I don’t know that anyone reading this will be surprised by that factoid. Once the morning necessities are taken care of (and while my heathen animals stay comfortable in bed) the dogs go out. Then we come in and the dogs get fed and watered. Then I turn on the sunlamps and feed and water the tortoise. Then I circle back to the bathroom and put out fresh water for the cat (He gets fed at night because he seems to sleep more readily on a full stomach). Usually the cat follows me around through this entire routine. Today he didn’t. I didn’t think much of it until I noticed he wasn’t in his usual spot underfoot while I was fixing my coffee. Then I backtracked. He wasn’t scrounging for dropped dog food. He wasn’t curled up on a favored chair in the living room or sprawled across my bed.
Where he was, however, was stretched out happily in the middle of my indoor tortoise habitat, enjoying the sun lamps, and thoroughly annoying the resident tortoise. Of course that’s where my daily routine came off the rails… because now I have to close off the office, which means moving the 8-foot long, dirt-filled container holding the tortoise, because when I built it in place needing to close off the room wasn’t a consideration. After some effort, a dolly and managing not to spill the entire set up onto the floor, I was able to move it far enough to swing the door closed. The doors don’t so much lock as they “catch” closed using a tab, but I judged them secure enough that a small cat poking at the bottom of them wouldn’t be an issue.
Finally, desperately behind schedule, I was able to depart Fortress Jeff for my day job. Twenty minutes later, the alarm company calls to report “interior motion sensors are active”. I rolled the dice that finding a way to set off the motion sensors was the cat’s version of retribution for shutting him out of the office and I was not, in fact, being robbed blind only a few minutes after leaving for the day… and was proven right. Mercifully. But not before spending the entire day wondering if I shouldn’t have set a course for home at best possible speed and fearing what I’d find when I arrived.
Living with small creatures can be exhausting… and yeah, cats are jerks.
The last of a good day’s sun is creeping across the tops of the back yard oaks. I’m more of a sunrise guy, but there’s something to be said about this dusky time of day too… especially on a Sunday night, which I assume we all find at least a touch melancholy. As the light drains away from another weekend, I’m almost willing myself into boredom in an effort to extend the day just that little bit longer – a fool’s errand to be sure – but it’s a well established part of the Sunday evening routine.
I don’t have much of anything to add to that little observation. The weekend was uneventful and unremarkable in nearly every way. Some people would find that disappointing, but I tend to consider it an achievement… So if you’ll excuse me I have an appointment with the back porch, a cold drink, and the setting sun.
And that’s just about perfect.
This was the first weekend that felt almost settled in quite some time. There were a few household chores – running improvised drainage away from several downspouts, cutting the grass for the first time, tinkering around with a few other small-ish fixes, cleaning, laundry. The rhythm of the routine is starting to imprint itself on the new place. That would bother some people. I find it remarkably comforting. The weekend felt like a big step towards the place feeling more like mine and a little less like someone else’s. There’s still more distance to go on that score, but it’s progress.
I’m learning where the dog’s favored spots are and which parts of the floor creak no matter how softly you cross them. Like people, I’ve learned that no two houses sound exactly alike. Maggie and Winston have done a better job figuring out the house’s sounds than I have. Their random barks at things going bump is down to only once or twice a day. Me, on the other hand, my head is still on a swivel at anything that doesn’t sound familiar.
I’m trying to remember that I’ll be paying for this place for the next 30 years so there isn’t really any rush to knock all the things off my list at once. Maybe that means I’m growing as a human being. More likely it means I’m painfully aware of the all too obnoxious combination of limited time and limited finances. I’ll just let you be the judge of which scenario sounds most likely.
Usually I sit down at the computer with at least a vague notion of what’s going to end up on the screen. It should be something heavy, but not too bleak. Something entertaining, but not too frivolous. It should be witty, but not comical. None of those are hard and fast rules, of course. They’re more like selectively enforced guidelines. Since on any given day what’s going to end up online is up in the air right up until the last minute, I find it best to have very few hard and fast rules. All they tend to do is get in the way of posting something halfway interesting.
Even disregarding the guidelines, I’ve had some trouble today focusing in on what I wanted to say this evening. There were plenty of news articles that I could justifiably talk about. The office? Sure, it’s full of ridiculous things that would be easy enough to spell out in 300 words. The Fortress of Solitude? There’s always something dinging around that I can make sound new and noteworthy. Still, none of those struck a chord today. Nothing stood out screaming “write about me right the hell now.” Most days by the time I get home I’ve got two or three ideas in the running. Days like today, it’s like the theme is just grinding it out, jamming one foot ahead of the next, and getting through to the end.
It’s the kind of day that makes a guy appreciative of the other days – the ones where things go like butter, the words fly onto the page by their own accord, and you’ve got some spark of life left when the lights go out. Three-day weekends, man they mess with the routine. A holiday weekend is a great thing, but getting back makes me feel like a junkie coming down. There’s plenty going on around me, but all I’m really thinking about is where I’m going to find my next fix.