So Wednesday has now come and mostly gone. I could say that something significant happened – that there was some high or low point that distinguished the day. I could say that, but I won’t. That’s mostly because when you stack today up against every other it was probably within spitting distance of perfectly average.
I should probably be celebrating that it wasn’t a crisis every 37 minutes, but the best I can manage is a solid “meh.” Believe me when I tell you that there is no one happier that the wheels didn’t happen to come flying off today than I am. I’m also realist enough to know that just because today was perfectly average and my lunch was not eaten by some unplanned and intensely problematical event, there’s no reason to believe that tomorrow will be more of the same.
Living day to day in a place that manages by whatever happens to be the crisis of the hour, seems to breed a cynicism that’s deep and probably fundamentally unhealthy. It leads the average days to feel like bad ones and the good ones – those days when you walk away feeling like you’ve accomplished something in spite of the system become almost mystically non-existent. They’re spread so far apart that they couldn’t possibly be real, but rather just a figment of our collective imagination.
It was a perfectly average day and should probably be glad of that… but in the back of my mind I’m stuck wondering what fresh hell is gaining strength unseen somewhere in the Land of Tomorrow.
Contrary to popular belief, I don’t have a philosophical compunction with working past my scheduled end-of-tour time. That is I don’t have a compunction about it as long as it meets several criteria, such as the situation being such that the intervening overnight hours would cause serious harm to a project or program, an action or inaction on my part is going to have a negative consequence for some far flung Joe sitting at the pointy end of the spear, or immediate action is required in defense of life or property. In a situation failing to meet one or more of those criteria, 999 time out of 1,000, it’s going to be utterly irrelevant to the universe whether I take action at 4PM or 7AM.
But you see, the thing is when you run a meeting right up to the end of the day, there’s no way to ever know why the little light is flashing on my phone or what catastrophic messages are waiting in my inbox. They’re simply a mystery to be revealed the next day. Over a decade of experience has taught me that the subject of both is going to be the need for a new PowerPoint chart, adding someone to the guest list, or making sure a temporary smoking area gets designated. None of those things rises to the level of my three criteria – Jeff’s Three Justifications for Staying Late; like the three laws of robotics, only currently applicable to your day to day life.
Once I got it through my thick skull that in almost every case imaginable, there’s always tomorrow, I started to sleep a lot better at night. And when that day arrives when I’ve run out of tomorrows, well, then it will be someone else’s hot mess to worry over. In either case, I’m out. There’s probably a lesson in there somewhere.
Usually by the time I get home at the end of the day I’ve got half a dozen post its or a few hastily scribbled margin notes to remind myself about whatever blogworthy ideas I had during the course of the day. Yeah, I’ve long since given up the illusion that I can remember something that happened at 8AM when I sit down to write ten hours later.
It didn’t happen today. Not one single note anywhere. Plenty happened, of course, just nothing that I would consider even marginally entertaining… and certainly not something I’d want to relive for 30 or 45 minutes this evening. What I’m saying is that tonight I’ve got nothing. Just wide open blank space where a blog ought to be.
I’m honestly surprised it doesn’t happen more often. Even surrounded by the best topics, some nights it just doesn’t happen. Missouri is burning again. A card carrying socialist is drawing 25,000 people to his political rallies. China devalued its currency. The EPA just dumped millions of gallons of toxic waste water into a clear mountain river. The state of Alabama is the subject of a Go Fund Me campaign. There’s plenty enough going on that seems worth commenting on.
Any one of those issues would chew up 300 words without looking back and yet even while I sit here, just naming the jackassery in the air today makes me exhausted. It’s not so much that I don’t care as that I’m too annoyed by what passes for civilization to even be bothered to comment. All I really want to do is shut down, pull a cork, and settle in with a good book. It’s not one of my finer or more engaged moments, but it’s the fact of the matter.
Maybe tomorrow it will matter, but for tonight I just can’t be bothered enough to give a damn.
1. Failing to read for comprehension. When I send you a four sentence email it’s not like reading the entire thing is going to monopolize your day, especially when one of those sentences tells you exactly how to do what you’re trying to do. No, the answer isn’t to send me more “follow up” emails. The answer, as I will tell you over and over and over again as needed, is right there starting on line two of the original response, which you obviously didn’t stop long enough to read. You can feel free to “follow up” all you want, but damned if I’m doing it for you. Your inability to read and comprehend simple English is not so much my responsibility.
2. The value of time. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know the value of my time. It’s the most limited commodity I have and it doesn’t come cheap. Unless you’re on the friends and family plan, it never, ever comes free. Whatever it is that’s so critical, unless it’s an immediate threat to life or property, really isn’t so critical and certainly doesn’t give rise to the need to give anyone a freebie. I’ve been around long enough to know that there’s always a tomorrow… and on the off chance there isn’t a tomorrow none of it is really going to matter at that point anyway.
3. Non-surprise surprises. For the love of Pete, when I’ve been telling you for weeks that X is going to happen on Y date how in seven hells are you surprised on Y-4 that Y is going to happen next week. It’s been on the damned calendar for 5 months. We’ve had at least 30 meetings about it, but whoa, every-damn-body but me seems to be taken by surprise. Look, I know we always try to kill the gator closest to the boat first, but there’s no way I’m letting anyone get away with the “Uh, I didn’t know” excuse on this one. I find it interesting that all the things we didn’t have time to do three months ago, we now suddenly want to cram into a day and a half. I hope you’ll forgive me if I don’t wrap myself in knots trying to do that which is inherently illogical if not downright impossible given the limitations of available time and manpower.
I’ve been staring at this blank screen for the better part of the last hour. The only interruption was watching the cursor. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink. BlinkBlinkBlinkBlink. There is no more infernal form of torture for someone who pretends to be a writer on the side than a blinking cursor, an empty page, and a brain that refuses to give up even the barest of thoughts about what should be there.
The fact is my brain turned to mush sometime around 1:30 this afternoon and I haven’t had much luck at making sense using the written word since then. It’ll pass. It always does. A cold beer, a good night’s sleep, and hopefully less of an assault on my editorial abilities during the day tomorrow and maybe I’ll be able to string a few coherent words together. Maybe. That’s how it’s always worked in the past, so I’m taking it as an article of faith that the ability to be snarky in print doesn’t just evaporate in an afternoon.
Coming down off a 4-day glut of not having all that much to do is a tough one. I don’t exactly want to hang out at home doing nothing for a fifth day, but I don’t exactly want to go to the office and sit at my desk doing considerably more than nothing either. I was just starting to get use to a non-geriatric bedtime and not being awake for two hours before the sun even bothered to come up. The only thing that’s certain is that tomorrow is going to be tough… but it’s a toughness tempered by the fact that it’s only going to be a three day week for me and then I’ll roll back into the happy embrace of another long weekend.