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.

Going around the clock…

The last time saw all 24 hours on the clock would probably have been the stretch between June 9th and 10th in 2004. That night I waited in a line that eventually snaked halfway to the Washington Monument for the chance to slowly shuffle through the Capitol rotunda and pay my respects to Ronald Reagan. That night, I got in line around 8 PM and came down the west steps of the Capitol just as the sun was starting to come up. I got back to my apartment in Columbia around 7:30 that morning and promptly collapsed on the couch, staying there until after noon. It was a long day.

Today was another one of those long days. It started with frantic cleaning and the realization that the resident Labrador was getting sick faster than I could clean up after her. Then a high speed drive across northern Delaware to the new and improved emergency vet (followed by an attempt to clean whatever the tarp didn’t contain during our trip. Then two hours of waiting in the parking lot while the medicos made their preliminary evaluation and we reached collective agreement that she’d be better off with some professional oversight if only for the next half a day. I managed to get home at just about the time I’d usually be getting out of bed. Of course, trash needed emptied – because my God, the smell – and a mop run over things on more time before even thinking about laying down.

I tried to sleep. I really wanted to. I think between fits and starts I probably snuck in an hour or maybe 90 minutes of shut eye, but the habit of being awake in the early hours of the morning proved to be too strong to dispense with in just one night. So here I am, blurry eyed, fueled by caffeine, and trying hard now to stay awake in the hopes that tonight everything will get back on schedule.

How well that sought after night of rest comes to pass depends almost entirely on the always temperamental gastrointestinal tract of a certain, recently troublesome, chocolate Labrador.

Wish us luck.

Not quite a teenager…

I’m an early riser. I like to blame the yearly days of my career when crawling out of bed at four in the morning was the only way to (usually) beat the worst of the day’s traffic heading into DC. That old 6:30 AM – 3:00 PM is still my favorite, though I haven’t worked it in years because various bosses have seemed to want people in their cubes as late into the afternoon as possible. From my seat, it’s always been the earlier in the day you can get out of the office, the better the day overall. 

As much as I want to blame a job I haven’t had for almost 15 years for doing this to me, I really do like the mornings. It’s a few hours of enjoying the world before other people wake up and ruin the experience.

Maggie, an ever loyal and supportive chocolate lab, is usually game for being awake and moving. She’s never far from my side, gamely following along whether it’s cooking breakfast, sitting with a steaming cup of coffee on the porch on a cool fall morning, or working through email long before the sun’s up. Jorah, though, couldn’t be more of a contrast – a case study in “not a morning person.” He’ll grudgingly get up at 4:30 for the promise of breakfast, but lately he’s added a new trick to his repertoire.

After breakfast has been served and he’s patrolled the house while I’m showering, Jorah sneaks back to bed. Any of the five dog beds aren’t good enough, of course. He finds is way to my bed before burrowing into the covers and catching another hour or 90 minutes of sleep before really coming out to start his day.

We’ll see if this is a short-lived fluke or if it’s going to become part of his established routine. The only thing that’s certain is that the youngest member of the household appears to not share a love of mornings with the rest of us. Thank God he’s still fully supportive of our geriatric bedtime, so it’s not quite like having my own teenager.

When interests overrun time…

I’d like to get back to writing. Not just blogging, which I love, of course, but proper writing – telling stories and building worlds. I won’t claim to be particularly good at it. Perhaps that’s a failure of imagination on my part, but it’s honest labor that I enjoyed.

Time, as always, is my eternal enemy. Even in the midst of a plague year there isn’t enough of it. What time there is, I spend with my nose in a book someone else wrote… Because there’s always one more thing I want to read. In fact, there’s somewhere north of 500 somethings I want to read already here, shelved, and waiting for me to get to them.

The secret to really getting things done, I’ve always suspected, is not sleeping. Although I have grown increasingly fond of those six hours a night. I wonder how well I could get by on a little less. given my already surly mood, the answer is probably “not well.”

At some point the only reasonable thing to do is accept that X number of interests don’t fit into Y amount of time and descope where I’m trying to spend my hours. It makes perfect sense, but I’m not quite ready to make that decision. Maybe I’ll never be… and maybe that’s the point.  

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. “Strategic” Amazon ordering. It used to be simple. I’d drop an order with Amazon and later that day I’d get a notice that the item has shipped. In the days of the Great Plague, shipping delays have revealed a problem I find more problematic than even the delayed ship times. Let’s say I order a 30-pound bag of dog food on Monday, a paperback on Tuesday, and some plastic kitchen implement on Wednesday. Those things use to ship separately. Now, more often than not they end up in the same box. Like the last one I received – with the kitchen utensil mangled, dog food bag ripped open, and the paperback folded, spindled, and mutilated. So now I keep a running list of things I need to order from Amazon and let each one clear all the way through shipping before ordering the next. It shouldn’t need to be this way, but it is.

2. Social media. In this age of plague, social media has revealed a lot more about some of our friends and family than most of us probably wanted to know. I did my level best to overlook some of the more wild-eyed speculations flowing through the tubes of the internet. Eventually, though, I capitulated and started the liberal application of the mute option. Getting the worst offenders from both sides out of my feed has done wonders for my blood pressure, so maybe the initial annoyance was worth it.

3. Historically I’ve had the ability to fall asleep pretty much the moment I close my eyes. I’m not complaining about missing out on the lying awake or tossing and turning that some people complain about. The last week or so, though, has been jam packed with tossing and turning or somehow thrashing around in my sleep.  I know this because when my brain stutters awake in the pre-dawn darkness, the comforter is halfway across the room, there’s a blanket piled up where the pillows should be, and my legs are utterly tangled in the top sheet. Yeah, I don’t know what’s up with that, but I don’t feel any less rested than usual, so I guess it’s whatever.

Getting up…

I’ve started getting up early. Maybe I should say I’ve started getting up earlier. My standard wake up time at 5am seems to have been early enough to make most people a little twitchy. A morning that starts at 4-something would likely send them ranging completing around the bend.

I don’t hate my slightly early wake up time though. I’ve always had something of a fondness for the early hours of the morning, before the rest of the world wakes up and tries to ruin the day. I generally resent the fact that the human mind and body require sleep at all. Laying there in the darkness for hours at a time doing nothing of note feels like a tragic waste of more than a quarter of the available hours in the day. That’s fertile enough ground that I’ve covered here before.

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve consciously made the effort to be out of bed no later than 4:30. Some people would use that time for working out or making breakfast. It’s what I should do. Of course what I’m really doing is using the extra thirty minutes to read another chapter or two and giving the critters some extra ear rubs before leaving for work.

It’s been good having a reminder first thing in the morning of why there’s value in tolerating monumental levels of fuckery during the day ahead. It helps stifle the quiet inner voice that tells me to load up the truck and just keep driving instead of turning into the parking lot. I’m sure there are plenty of people who would rather get that extra thirty minutes of sleep in the morning, but I’m finding those few extra minutes spent actually doing things I enjoy to be almost invaluable.

It’s whatever gets you through the day, I guess.