What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Panhandlers. Need gas? Need beer? Whatever you need I’m sure you have a fine reason for not tending to those things through the fruit of your own labor. But you see I have bills too. Lots of them. My first duty is to provide for me and mine in our daily needs and then lay some back for the future. So no, I’m not interested in your sad story. We all have our troubles and I already subsidize enough bad decision making through state and federal taxes that I’m not interested in taking on any additional dependents at this time.

2. Blast email from Maryland’s US Senator. I regularly opine to my Senators and Member of Congress. I’ll continue to do so at any time I feel the need. Receiving their occasional email blast “report from Washington” though, always reminds me that while they may indeed be my duly elected and seated representatives in Congress, I agree with them on almost none of the issues that matter. I love my home state from the beach to the bay to the mountains, but ultimately its politics and its taxes virtually ensure that my time here in my home state has a definite expiration date.​

3. 3:30 AM. I only have so much tolerance for laying wide awake in bed. Which is to say I have no tolerance for it at all. Once awake I want to be up and doing stuff. It’s fine on a weekend when I can get up and start knocking things off my list. It’s a bloody nuisance when it means just another 90 minutes to kill before heading to work. At least it set the tone nicely for the rest of the day so that’s something.

What Chicken-Fueled Dreams May Come…

I’m going to have to stop eating chicken. Every time I’ve had chicken for dinner in the last six months I’ve had these bizarrely realistic dreams. Realistic in that they feature almost entirely people that I know in the real world and bizarre in that the situations range from mildly entertaining to something just shy of horrifying.

Last night’s edition of What Chicken-Fueled Dreams May Come featured a long time friend of mine standing high on a rock outcropping overlooking a ten story building that disappeared into the darkness on either end of the dream frame. Flicking her wrist, snarling “fuck them,” the building collapsed in on itself, bursting into flame from the center out. The wind swirled in, feeding the growing conflagration. Her face danced, colored alternately in darkness in bright flicking oranges and yellows, while I stood gape jawed staring at the destruction.

I turn, my own fury rising, shouting over the now howling wind, “What did you do? What the fuck did you…”

Then she kissed me. Not the soft peck of a years long friend, but more a full body porn star quality kiss. Sure, I just dream-watched one of my oldest friends lay waste to everything in my field of view, but that part at least didn’t suck so much.

Then I woke up, safe in my own bed, and not watching the world around me collapse into flame and chaos.

Living in my head is awfully strange sometimes… but obviously chicken turns it into a raging dumpster fire. Good times.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Automatic shutoffs. For as long as I can remember, gasoline pumps have come equipped with an automatic switch that shuts off the flow of fuel from the pump when the vehicle’s tank is full. I’ve been pumping my own gas since 1994 and have never personally seen what happens when one of those switches fails to do its thing. As it turns out, the result is gallons of gasoline gushing back out of the filler tube until you can reach into the frothing mess and manually shut off the flow. If you manage not to catch on fire, the convenient side effect is a) the side of your vehicle being drenched in gasoline; b) the parking pad being drenched in gasoline; c) Your boots and pants being drenched in gasoline; and d) your arm being drenched in gasoline up to the elbow. In conclusion, whoever designed the “automatic” switch for gas pumps can see me in hell.

2. Bureaucracy. I sent off some paperwork that needed approval – literally one page of not very complex text, mind you. I sent it off way back in the first week of December, winging its way through the bureaucracy. This one page piece of paper, after 6 major revisions, and review by all manner of doctors, lawyers, and indian chiefs, was finally approved this week…. only 57 short days after the process got started. It’s hard to believe there are people around who wonder why it’s so hard to get anything done in something approaching a reasonable amount of time.

3. Natural consequences. The doctor insisted, during my last check up, that I start drinking more water. It’s a tall order given the volume of coffee that’s required to keep this machine running, but I’ve gotten fairly good at complying with easy instructions. So, drink more water I do. The only problem with this plan is that every morning at 1:30 on the nose I have to wake up to take what I affectionately refer to as an emergency piss – as in get yourself out of bed right now this is an emergency. Look, I know that water is supposed to be good for me, but I’m fairly sure that the doc is also the guy who told me I needed to get more sleep. Just now, I’m trying to sort out the priority of effort between these two obviously conflicting bits of guidance.

More than two…

One of my personal dreams is to find a way to live with a bare minimum of sleep and allocate those “bonus” hours to more interesting or productive endeavors. What I learned from last night’s bout with a quick moving stomach bug is that whatever the right amount of sleep is for me, it’s more than two hours. I know this because that’s exactly the amount I got – although in fairness it was split with 30 minutes at the beginning of the night and then a follow-on 90 minutes tagged right at the end.

Spending the largest part of the small hours of the morning alternating between too hot, too cold, and trips down the hall to tend other business I was at least able to do a little reading and watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which was well and good until my eyes stopped focusing around 3AM. After that it was treating the TV like a radio and trying to summon sleep through willpower and determination.

Whatever it was that beat the literal shit out of me last night seems to have passed as quickly as it arrived. That, at least, is a mercy. As much as I resent the necessity of laying down and shutting off my brain for a few hours every night it’s safe to say that I’ll personally be hoping that tonight is at least closer to the norm than yesterday’s improvised two hour plan because that clearly isn’t going to be the wave of my future… although by lunch time today even the dullest meetings were just a little bit funny and that’s probably worth something.

Dream theater of the absurd…

I know I dream at night, but I very rarely remember them in any kind of detail past the moment my eyes flicker open. Last night was indeed a rarity, because not only do I remember that I dreamed, but there seem to have been two of them back to back. It’s practically unprecedented.

In the first dream I found myself at the alter. That would be nightmare enough in my waking moments. I don’t remember features, but I can tell you that my mind conjured up a tiny brunette for the scenario. The pipe organ thundered through some hymn or another, the padre said a few words, and all the while the slight brunette to my left seemed to develop a magical growing stomach. Within minutes she was very, very pregnant. Dream Jeff gulped hard and I woke up in a cold sweat having scattered the bed sheets and pillows in every direction. It was 12:34 AM.

I reordered the bed and found a cool drink before settling myself back under the covers. Sleep came quickly. I immediately recognized the place where my subconscious carried me. It was on Main Street of the small town in the west of Maryland where I went to college. What in the real world had been one of the most dive-y of bars was transformed in my dream landscape into a banqueting hall in the original sense of the term. Family and friends past and current were assembled, the table gleamed with silver, and polished wood everywhere glowed by candlelight. This was formal dining, white tie and tails.

The doors to this gothic revival gem of a dining hall slammed open with a thud. Conversation halted as another group pours into the room – they too were dressed for the occasion. In the lead was a tall redhead, someone who looked vaguely familiar but far too tall to be anyone I know from the real world. She was striking – in that tall Jessica Rabbit kind of way. She was also, like her predecessor from earlier in the evening, very pregnant.

She pulls me aside and just before the alarm drug me into the waking world, in my dream theater I mumble what proved to me my only spoken line of the night: Just give me a minute, I’ll figure this out.

Byron it’s not, but I’m at least a little impressed that even in a dream state the old brain box was trying to logic its way through the situation. That’s something I guess.

A little bit of insight into what terrorizes us in the deepest reaches of our subconscious is a healthy thing, I think. That my deepest fears stem from something so commonplace isn’t a particular surprise. People fear spiders, swimming pools, and germs and those are all perfectly normal parts of everyday life too. All things considered, though, if I could go ahead and get back to not remembering any of my nightmares in the morning that would be great.

Friday feeling…

If you spend any time on social media you can’t help by notice the inundation of posts celebrating the arrival of Friday – as if Friday was actually part of the weekend and not just another fifth of the regular work week. As for me, my #FridayFeeling is largely one of profound disinterest – apathy mixed with a deep desire to be almost anywhere else (war zones and 3rd world countries excluded). Mostly, though, it’s a desire to be at home, with a good book and a stiff drink, surround by fuzzy animals. At this stage of life my desires are modest and reasonable.

It’s increasingly hard to remember there was a time when I was actually ambitious – when I wanted to go places and do things. It’s even harder to remember there was a time when I had the mental energy left over to make those things happen. That’s especially true when the here and now is so often taken up with just trying not to fall asleep during a staff meeting and smashing my face into the table or drooling all over myself.

Looking tired…

It’s always a positive and self-affirming moment when someone comes by your desk, takes a long look at you, and announces, “Damn, Jeff. You look tired.”

The fact is, I am tired. It has nothing to do with how much sleep I got the night before (which was plenty) and everything in the world to do with the volume of information I’m trying to exert some semblance of control or influence over for the next 25 days. There are plenty of people who have a more demanding plate of responsibilities, of course. If my project slips off the rails no one is going to die a terrible flesh wasting death due to toxic chemical exposure. That, at least, I have going for me. Still, between project meetings, sub-team meetings, a never-empty inbox, and a phone that won’t stop ringing, I’m not so much processing information as I am sifting it from one pile to another while hoping I don’t miss something important. Unfortunately I’ve been doing this long enough to know I’m missing stuff.

It’s a piss poor way to operate. It means everything else that’s supposed to be important and on my plate is getting crowded out just because of the volume of material this one particular effort is kicking up. I’ve got some expected leadership beatings lined up later this week, so at least I have that to look forward to. Plus, if I’m this tired now, just imagine how chipper and rested I’ll be in another three and a half weeks. That should be good times for everyone.