What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Footboard. I’m officially not a fan of beds with footboards. Maybe it’s the kind of thing you don’t notice until you’ve already got a sore foot. I’ve always been a bit of a roller and thrasher while asleep, so as a result of my transition to the guest bedroom, I’ve been bashing my feet into the footboard for three and a half weeks now. How was this ever a popular bed design? It certainly couldn’t have taken into account anyone who might accidentally exceed six feet in height. Having a footboard was a non-issue when the bed in question was almost purely decorative. The number of guests I’d encourage to stay overnight is, obviously, incredibly limited, but let me just say that I’m officially apologizing in advance to anyone who might happen to visit in the future.

2. Busybodies. Have we always been a nation of busybodies? I don’t really do “social history,” so the question is a bit out of scope for me. Starting off early with the whole witch trial in Salem, though, kind of points towards yes. I don’t know how people have the mental energy required to care what other people are up to. As long as it’s not taking food out of my mouth or money out of my pocket, I have no idea why I’d care how people want to live their personal lives, who they want to fuck, what god they want to praise, or any of the other things that so many people seem to be so up in arms over. I can only assume that their lives are so boring they have no choice but to try living everyone else’s for them.

3. Failure to communicate. I’ve been playing a lot of telephone this week. I call the prime contractor, they call the sub, the sub calls the county, and then the chain may or may not ring in reverse. All I’m trying to do is get a straight answer on why getting reinspected is taking more than a week after the incredibly minor fix was made. Add in the fact that my prime changed field supervisors mid-project and it hasn’t been the recipe for clear and effective communication during this interminable two week stretch. I acknowledge that it’s possible that my background as a project manager and planner makes me a bit to sensitive to things like this, but it’ll absolutely be making the list as a “needs improved” on the after action report.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Forty minutes. I overslept by 40 minutes. I know that doesn’t sound like much – and it isn’t in this work from home environment where I regularly climb out of bed two hours before I need to sign on for the day. It is, however, just enough time shaved off the morning to make me feel like I’m running behind for the rest of the day. So, sure, I’m marginally more rested but carrying around loads of extra angst while spending the day trying to shave minutes and seconds off everything and get back to baseline so I don’t feel like I’ve squandered the day when it comes time to lay my head down again.

2. Reminders. I have an appointment with my doctor on Friday. I know I have this appointment because when I made it, I tapped it into my calendar and set a reminder. To the best of my knowledge, even in the time before electronic, handheld calendars when everything was written on paper, I never missed or even found myself late for an appointment with my doctor. I’d even be comfortable extending that to pretty much any appointment I’ve ever made as a grown adult. If I tell you I’m going to be there, I’ll be there. On the rare occasion where it hasn’t been possible to keep an appointment, I’ve cancelled as soon as I knew there was an unavoidable conflict. My doctor’s office, however, seems to think I’m the most ragingly incompetent adult who has every shuffled through life. So far in the last seven days I’ve received three text messages and an email imploring me to remember that I have this appointment. I’m trying to remember that this is probably just a reflection of the general public being barely able to dress and feed themselves without assistance. Honestly, I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse about the situation.

3. The Gas Rebate Act of 2022. Proposed before the U.S. House of Representatives is the Gas Rebate Act of 2022. As proposed, it would send $100 to every American (plus an additional $100 per dependent) each month that the price of gasoline exceeds $4.00 a gallon. Maybe I truly am just one of the olds now, but I distinctly remember a time in America where we expected to need to pay our own way in life. That seems to have gone out of fashion with the bailout of homeowners who over-mortgaged themselves in the early 2000s and has only accelerated in the Plague Era when rent and mortgage payments could be suspended completely while Uncle sent out round after round of cash money “just because.” I increasingly feel like a real sucker – over here paying my own bills and seeing the obscene amount of money being taxed away every year so I can pay for other people’s goddamned gasoline too. 

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Sleep. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m not a fan of sleep. I’ve never been able to shake the feeling that its hours of the day being utterly wasted laying around when I’d rather have my nose in a book, or honestly be doing almost anything else. The only virtue sleep seems to have, apart from it being a physiological necessity, is that at least I’m not consciously aware of the hours passing. I at least appreciate that the time from closing my eyes to them popping open again feels nearly instantaneous… so it doesn’t feel like totally wasted hours in the moment. That would just be adding insult to injury.

2. Communication. One of the constants across my career has been the frequency with which we fail to communicate. Vertically, laterally, inside, outside – where the communication is supposed to be happening doesn’t make much difference. The only thing consistent is that the left and right hand are almost universally unaware about what the other is up to. It would almost be fun to watch if it wasn’t so often just a enormous pain in the ass leading to endlessly repeating the same thing to 47 different people.

3. The “working lunch.” At the risk of reinforcing my reputation as generally incorrigible about such things, let me go on record as saying I don’t believe in the concept of the working lunch. There’s work and then there’s non-work (like lunch). I know this is true because my regularly scheduled weekday is 8.5 hours in length. That extra on half hour is tacked on because of the expectation that somewhere in the middle of the day, we’re supposed to “take lunch.” If that weren’t the case, I’d be happy to forgo the break and end the day 30 minutes earlier. No matter how much the powers that be wish it was otherwise, throwing some lukewarm pizza in a conference room while having a full-on meeting will never count in my mind as taking lunch – otherwise known as a pause to let your mind reset and take a breath before diving in for the last half of the day. If you’re going to do it, at least have the personal courage to call it what it is – a meeting where we’ll give you a slice of pizza in hopes that you won’t realize we’ve snuck an extra 30 minutes of work into your day. Personally, I’ll always recognize it for what it is.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Right wing outrage. Should the president call a reporter a stupid son of a bitch? Probably not… but watching the right wing clutching their pearls over Joe Biden’s calling out Pete Doocy is the operative definition of a tempest in a teapot, particularly considering Don Trumps regular pronouncements from the podium that the media were collectively “enemies of the state.” The same people fainting from fits of the vapors now are the ones who cheered it on 18 months ago. You’ll forgive me, I hope, if I don’t pretend their outrage is in any way sincere or worthy of consideration. A president should be above such comments (in public at least). Joe Biden recognized this and personally apologized, which is something his predecessor never had the personal fortitude or desire to do.

2. Sleep. Whatever I’ve been getting between the hours of 10:00 PM and 4:30 AM these last couple of days is probably technically sleep, but it hasn’t been restful. I know this from how many twists the sheets and covers have in them by the time I wake up. I’m not known for having the sunniest of dispositions on my better days, so I’ll leave you to imagine the full foulness of my mood just now. 

3. The weather. For the last four or five days, the possibility of a “winter weather event” has been tracked by the local professional (and amateur) forecasters. I’ve seen regional predictions of everything from just some wind to 30 inches of snow within an hour’s drive of where I sit writing this. Some have opted to make no prediction at all, continuing to report that they’re monitoring possible adverse weather. Hey, look, the atmosphere is the very definition of a dynamic system. It’s complicated… but this deep into the 21st century it feels like we should have a pretty good grasp on what the prevailing conditions will be a scant 24-36 hours into the future.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Wet ink. Why, in the year of our lord two thousand and twenty-one, do businesses still require wet ink on basic transactional paperwork. All I want to do is to make a pretty simple deposit into my retirement account. Maybe. If it were a withdrawal, I could see it. Maybe. Although I’m perfectly happy to let anyone in the world put funds in my IRA if the spirit moves them. In the time of instant transactions, waiting around for a few days until the mail arrives, waiting a few days until the return post reaches them, and then the action taking place. It really just feels like there has to be a better way.

2. Plastics. This week I got to enjoy the mandatory de-plasticizing of a new coffee maker pot. The entire house reeks of vinegar after brewing half a dozen pots of it in hopes that I’ll eventually be able to have coffee that doesn’t taste of plastic. At this point I’m not sure coffee tinged with plastic is actually worse than the hot vinegar stench permeating every inch of the house. 

3. One o’clock. For the last few weeks, I’ve struggled to get past 1 o’clock in the afternoon without my head slamming into my desk. I’ve always gotten a little groggy in the mid-afternoon, but this is something altogether different. It’s the kind of sleepy that demands I either get on my feet or go immediately to sleep. It’s not ideal if you’re making even the barest effort to be a responsible and responsive employee. This had better just be a passing thing, because otherwise I might need to talk to the boss about expanding my cube to allow room for a cot.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. At least twice this week, as I drifted off to sleep, I thought of something and noted that it would be a good blog topic. Yep. I’ll write about that tomorrow. Of course by morning the thought had completely evaporated without hope of recovery. All I’m left with is the ghost of an interesting idea and no ink on the page.  I’m going to need the ideas to start coming before that instant when consciousness blinks out of the night while I’ve still got a fighting chance of making some notes.

2. There’s a day next week I wasn’t scheduled to be in the office. Now I am. Not because of some bureaucratic fuckery, but because I opened my own stupid mouth and volunteered. After almost 19 years you’d think I would know better. Sure, it’s one of my few “high profile” projects, but there’s absolutely nothing I can add in person that I couldn’t have added in a video call. But there I’ll be, failing to strike a blow for the power or remote work. Let the record show I’m able to annoy myself just as much if not more than other people can manage to achieve.

3. I’ve been using my original Gmail address since back in the olden days when the service was “by invitation only.” Yes, I’m well aware of how much of my “personal information” Google is sweeping up in their net by providing this otherwise free service, but it has been an absolute workhorse over the years. I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve gone to check my email and found it unavailable. I’ve been using the account for everything, for so long now, that it’s almost starting to choke on the not-quite-spam – or the random marketing emails sent by companies I legitimately do business with. They’re companies I don’t necessarily want caught in the spam filter because I like getting receipts, bills, and  the other bits of information I need,.. but getting 20-30 messages a day that are close to but not quite spam feels like way too much. I could probably spend a little while tightening up my filters, but I definitely wanted to bitch about it first.

A surprisingly fond memory…

I have no idea what would have made me think of it this morning while driving to the office today, I had the most vivid memory of the night following my high school graduation. Maybe I’ll write it off to the mind going to odd places to avoid thinking unpleasant thoughts… like spending an otherwise perfectly fine day as a cube dweller in fluorescent-lit hell.

The notion of a raging party following graduation is so common it’s become a go-to trope in teen movies… or at least it still was the last time I saw a teen movie. There was certainly a selection of those available to choose from that night.

The one I picked was a more low-key affair. Someone, I don’t remember who, snagged a room at the Holiday Inn in Grantsville. Did hotels rent rooms to 18 year olds back then? There were maybe a dozen of us there, strictly a coed affair, all thinking we were young princelings of the universe.

There was plenty to drink, pizza to be ordered, and the possibility of other debauchery to be had, I’m sure. I wasn’t much of a partier in high school – I saved most of my boozing and smoking and other questionable life choices for college. I’m not claiming that I was an angel back then, but in some ways, the parties I did go to (and some that I hosted) were remarkably tame… as long as you didn’t look too hard at what was happening in dark corners. In any case, those long ago band parties are probably a topic for a different post.

Graduation night, though, is supposed to be the big night. Most fresh minted grads, I suppose, would have made a real time of it. Me? Well, I left the party long before midnight. I don’t remember what excuses I made, but I was sleepy and everything was loud. I stopped at Sheetz for a sub, went home, and put myself to bed not long after the clock struck twelve.

In retrospect, it feels like that night may have set the tone for how I’ve felt about parties and staying up late for almost my entire adult life. I still have no idea why I would have thought of any of that this morning.

Sleeping arrangements…

Maggie slept on my bed at night for most of her adult life until fairly recently. Usually over the course of the night she’d find her way to the floor and sometimes fine her way bac to the bed sometime in the early hours of the morning. A few times I’ve had to lift her up since her days of making the jump on her own seem to be over. In the last couple of months, she’s opted to stay put at floor level. I suspect getting herself back down for a late-night patrol was getting to be as hard on her joints as jumping up to the bed was. 

I’ve offered up steps and ramps, but even when lured with treats she doesn’t seem to have an interest. I’m not going to force the issue, so I suppose this is just the new normal night time arrangement. 

As much as I don’t miss the nightly barrage of dog breath and farting, there’s definitely part of me that misses the convoluted positions I’d need to get myself into so she could sprawl. I miss the regular head butts requesting a few more ear scratches before sleep came on.

Everyone trips over themselves to post cute puppy pictures and talk about the challenges housebreaking and training. Not many talk about the unique and often more trying experiences of making home comfortable for an aging dog. I guess those posts don’t translate as well to social media. They certainly don’t garner as many awws and likes. I have to think if more people did have those discussions, it would help an awful lot of people be better prepared for some of the harder moments of pet ownership. 

From me, to me…

I’ve reached an age when I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night when I inevitably have too many tasty libations too late in the evening. Usually, it’s a quick trip there and back where I’d barely qualify as being awake. Most of the time it doesn’t feel like my sleep has even been interrupted. Fine. It’s an inconvenience of getting a bit older I’ve mostly learned to accept. Well, not accept exactly. Maybe tolerate for lack of other options… and unwillingness to curtail my after dinner “hydration.” 

There’s the rare night when the return to sleep doesn’t happen immediately. Usually that’s resolved with a quick scroll through Twitter or calling up the dulcet tones of whatever BBC World Service presenter happens to be broadcasting at the time. A few minutes later and I’m happily back to sleep.

As it happens, Monday was one of those nights where I woke up. It must have been around 2:15. I know this because that’s the time stamp of the email receipt from Amazon… from that moment in my sleep addled mind I decided that I needed a shave ice machine.

Awake me would definitely not have ordered a $60 countertop appliance designed solely and exclusively for turning ice cubes into shards, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t recognize how having one would raise my level of frozen drink making to a new level. Yes, I could just send it back, but now I’m intrigued. I think I’m just going to write it off as a Christmas present from my subconscious. 

It gets here Friday, so I’ll be over here looking for frozen drink recipes if anyone needs me. 

Dream sequence…

I pulled my Tundra into one of the three open parking spaces in front of Cambridge Hall, careful not to tap the semi-circular wall where we use to spend inordinate amounts of time sitting around, smoking and joking. It was a good spot. In fair weather the wall was perfect height for lazing about. In foul weather it was low enough to jump so we could hunker down in the lee of the building with enough overhang to stay out of worst of the wind, rain, or snow. Sometimes we were avoiding all three. It’s Frostburg after all and that particular trifecta wasn’t exactly rare. That was the late 1990’s, of course. I’m sure there’s no one smoking or joking there now. Both of those things are probably verboten acts, practically crimes against higher education in the modern era. But it’s my dream, and my memory.

It was dark. I was stopping, sometime during winter, to pick up clean clothes and a dry pair of shoes. The building itself was fully lit, welcoming, but seemed deserted. The lobby was twice the size as the one I walked through every day for four semesters. It was “modernized,” glass and chrome, with six new elevator bays. There was even a first floor lounge helpfully labeled the “Strategy Bar.” I knew it must be a dream, not because of the reconstructed building, but because the university would surely have named it something more exotic even if it was just a bar – perhaps the Gretchen R. Fussbucket Memorial Lounge and Center for Intra-Gender Socio-Economic Cultural Studies and Glassblowing at Cambridge Hall.

*flash forward*

As I exited the elevator (dream me didn’t see the need for a walking tour of 5th floor south side), I noticed two people loitering near the oddly named lounge, not quite out of my eye-line. A guy and a girl. Youngish, probably college age.  They were trying to be discrete, but failing. 

“You’re Jeff,” the guy said. It was more a question than a statement.

I nodded.

“Kate… Kathryn… She said we might meet you here… that you stop by sometimes.” The girl spoke from behind a shield of hair falling over her eyes

“Kate Reilly sent you? To find me?” I was incredulous as they invoked that name from the distant past. They nodded in unison, but didn’t speak.

“It must be important, then. Let’s go.” I pulled my collar up, bracing against the inevitable cold wind outside… and then I was awake.

Some people create wild fantasy worlds in their dreams. Me? Even asleep, I craft my world from the comfortable history of the last century.