It’s been an easy week. With Telework Monday and Vacation Day Friday, you might think there’s nothing to complain about. While there are surely fewer annoyances than during other weeks that doesn’t in any way mean there are none. What kind of rank amateur do you think you’re dealing with here?
In fairness, it’s an easy week so I’ll just give you two things:
1. Mid-day OS updates. There are few things better in the middle of the work day than getting a notice that “hey, we’re about to upgrade your operating system.” Great. Because what I need while I’m in the middle of desperately trying to put a cork in things so I can depart the premises and spend the long weekend blissfully ignoring work is for my computer to slow to an even worse crawl than usual and then reboot itself without warning periodically. Some days I long for the reliability of carbon paper.
2. In the great war between “I need to get the grass cut before the possible rain tomorrow” and the reality of it being 90-something degrees in the shade with murderous humidity, I’m opting to sit this one out after a day’s work. In the war between body and brain, I’m going to let the body win this one. Just this one time since I’ll undoubtedly regret that decision the minute the garage door rolls up tomorrow and I’m forced to look upon a scraggly front yard to my great embarrassment and shame.
1. Pulling it out of your ass. There are any number of things that you should never have to worry about pulling out of your ass – gerbils, light bulbs, the usual. If you spend enough time making the hard to do seem easy and the impossible just a touch harder than that, sooner or later people will come to expect it… and then that time when you can’t deliver there will be hell to pay. The longer I serve the bureaucracy, I realize Chief Engineer Scott wasn’t actually a miracle worker. He was an expert at pulling things out of his ass and had an unlimited pool of good luck. Most pools aren’t nearly so limitless.
2. Panhandlers. How high would you have to be to try getting money from me when I’m pumping gas? The fired and true death stare wasn’t effective, but the growled command to “step. back.” apparently got his attention. His mouth worked, trying to form words while his addled mind struggled mightily to come up with something to say and then he did finally backed away slowly. I’m not saying I would beat someone to death using the end of a running gasoline hose like a medieval flail… but I’m not saying I wouldn’t if properly provoked.
3. People. I know many of you will find this hard to believe, but I legitimately want to like people. I want to assume the best about them and hell, maybe even be friendly… and then I go out into the world and actually meet people going about their business and find myself wondering how the hell they function in society and how quickly I can get away from them and back into the peaceful, access controlled confines of Fortress Jeff. Every day that ticks by seems to leave me with that much less patience for suffering fools… and yet the sheer volume of fools that must be suffered appears to grow exponentially.
Four years ago I had a perfect afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever actually mentioned it either here or to anyone in the non-electronic world, but it was a rare few hours when the better angels of my nature utterly routed the demons. The moment was fleeting, it was ephemeral, but it was perfect.
I’ve spent more of my waking moments trying to find a way back there than I’m in any way comfortable admitting. I won’t even get started on how it intrudes on my non-waking hours. Now I’m not saying every other day from then to now has been a pile of shit. There have been some awfully good days in the mix even when others leave me feel like an alchemist bent on learning the secrets of transmuting lead to gold – committing the cardinal sin of believing I could summon a thing into existence through sheer force of will and determination for it to be so.
As it turns out, massive amounts of willpower and determination sometimes don’t do any more than generate a massive reality distortion field that’s only observable by the guy inside the bubble. There’s a hard lesson in that when you’ve gotten accustomed to issues of luck generally breaking in your favor.
They say the first step to getting well is admitting you have a problem. Well, maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but in any case I’d be hard pressed to imagine a circumstance where I’d ever entirely stop chasing that perfect afternoon…
Between the light diffusing from Wilmington and Baltimore I’m a little too boxed in by sprawl to have ideal nighttime sky viewing conditions. Sometimes, though, when it’s cold and the air is clear you get a glimpse of what it must have been like standing on these shores a few hundred years ago – when these lands were the outpost of civilization.
On nights like tonight, if you’re lucky and your timing is just right, you take the dogs out, happen to look up at just the right angle to marvel again at the constellations you learned as a kid, and are rewarded with a shooting star passing across Orion for your troubles. It’s awfully hard not to appreciate the moments like that.
1. Details. There are two general schools of thought when it comes to details. One school says that you should cover every minute detail in as great a depth as possible. The other is that you should flesh out the broad strokes of an issue and allow maximum flexibility in determining which of the details is important. I tend to fall into the latter category… and it makes me ragingly hostile when someone wants to nitpick every solitary detail rather than use their own best judgment about how to get from Point A to Point B.
2. Timing. It seems to me that despite best efforts to the contrary, most events generally happen when they happen. While most of us make an effort to manage timing as best we can, as often as not that train is leaving the station regardless of what we do and there’s not a thing gained from laying down on the tracks in front of it. So, although I’m more than happy to concede that timing certainly drives events and gives them momentum, I’ll be damned if I’m willing let it alone be the determining factor in how those events unfold. Grand strategy is far too important to be left to the simple whims of timing.
3. France. Suddenly the French have decided to be all loud and militant about chemical weapons in Syria. Welcome to the party, France, but you’re a little late. I don’t remember you coming online when Iraq was in the crosshairs and we know for certain that they used chemical weapons against their own minority Kurdish population. If France thinks Syria is a war worth fighting, I’m all in favor of giving them the green light to lead their own coalition of the willing into that stinking quagmire of a civil war. But after a generation or two of France thumbing its nose at US foreign policy, I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t jump on board with whatever wild international game they’re hoping to play.
We are quite literally “under” construction. The office suite the floor above us is, as far as I can tell, undergoing some type of renovation that requires the repeated dropping of bowling balls onto the bare concrete slab. This activity has the unpleasant side effect of making it sound like the entire second floor could become the first floor at any moment. It’s not bad, as long as you don’t find loud, hollow thumping and continual rending of metal distracting or annoying in any way. Other than that, it’s practically unnoticeable.
I’m probably an idealist, but I’ve always thought this kind of work would be best done outside of “core business hours.” You know, when the vast majority of employees are not making their limited effort at being productive for the day. It’s sort of the same way I look at day-time janitorial service. Sure, having my cube vacuumed is nice and all, but it’s awfully distracting when I’m sitting in it making a phone call or actually trying to get something done. In television shows, the cleaning crews always come at night. Maybe that happens in the executive suite, but for the drones, everyone seems bent on showing up at the most inopportune time.
Editorial Note: This part of a continuing series of posts previously available on a now defunct website. They are appearing on http://www.jeffreytharp.com for the first time. This post has been time stamped to correspond to its original publication date.