REPORT A PROBLEM
There must have been a point in our history at which we had agriculture mostly figured out and everybody was sick of celebrating birthdays. Around the end of December everybody felt the dread of
new year approaching.
"We're not ready for the next year... what would be wrong with inventing some new months and letting it slide for a while?"
They didn't do it, though, and now it's too late. We're hurtled through the calendar new year after new year, sometimes against our wills. How can you know you won't like the 240-month year until you try it?
There are a lot of issues out there. Some of the issues are knotty and complex, and others are dead easy right-and-wrong.
I often feel, though, that writing or talking about even the easy issues just feels like declaring which table you sit at, as a way of antagonizing the people at the other table. Nobody ever stands up and moves to another table, because what really keeps us together as a table is how much we hate the people at the other table. This table metaphor has become an issue, and now I want to change tables.
I took a few months off because of 'the holidays', but also because I thought maybe I was running out of things to write about, and maybe a few months off would refill my writing topic meter, as if it's a battery that needs to be recharged.
That's not how it works. Failing to write faithfully every day just makes it harder to get started again, and I'm still working with the same source material that I was in October. I have the same problems and the same blind spots and the same strangely compelling desire to write about them.
When the principal came to inspect our class, we stood and treated him to
Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms
on our plastic recorders.
With a look of determination on his face, the principal made it through the second chorus before beginning to clap and motioning to our teacher to
cut us off so that he could tell us how satisfied he was with our performance and behavior before moving on to the next class. We didn't notice his haste, though, and when our teacher told us we'd done her proud we felt we'd accomplished something important.
She was raised from a young age to expect a handsome prince to ride into her life on a unicorn. She lives each day, waiting for his arrival, always ready.
He was raised from a young age to pilot a large robot who shoots rockets out of his fists at other robots from space, and sometimes aliens. He lives each day waiting for their arrival, always vigilant.
Sometimes they meet for coffee.
"Any princes biting?" he asks, because he thinks it's funny and never gets old. She asks him about robots. It's very nice to have someone to talk to.
My quiet and mild-mannered downstairs neighbor is listening to music at a high volume. It is eleven o'clock at night on a Monday. All I can hear is a distorted guitar playing heavy metal triplets.
That's all I have been able to hear for the past ten minutes.
I should be annoyed, but I imagine him jumping around playing air guitar, and it just makes me smile. I normally don't hear anything from him except an occasional sneeze, and even when he's alone he says "excuse me."
Last month I found myself on the stage of our main auditorium, dancing awkwardly with some of my co-workers. The people in the audience looked on, happy that they had found an alternative to work, but not entirely entertained. I scanned through the familiar faces as I danced, trying to count how many were staring directly at me, consuming my embarrassment.
Most of them were chatting with each other or looking at their phones. All of them combined were paying me 10% of the attention that I was paying to myself. This was a liberating realization, and my dancing intensified.
The cafeteria at work offers some kind of bargain bananas, and they are bad. I thought most bananas available for sale in North America were basically clones of each other, but someone found a way to mess them up. They are somehow dry and slimy at the same time. I'm getting queasy writing about them. But they're, like, fifty cents.
I only mention this because those bananas are one of the worst problems I have in my life right now, which means that I am extremely lucky. They say that expressing gratitude is good for you, so there you go.
On the train, a woman asked the conductor where the café car was located.
"In the back of the train, ma'am," he said.
The woman began pointing ahead of and behind her, trying to make sense of these directions. She quickly gave up.
"Which way is the back?"
The conductor scowled.
"Which way is the train going, ma'am? This way? So if you go this way, that's the front. If you move in the opposite direction, that's the back. The train is not going backwards."
The confused woman, who had never thought of it this way, could only say "
I thought my coworker was really clever for coining the word 'voluntold' when she told me that I had been involuntarily signed up to head the committee.
"This is really and truly horrible news," I thought, "but '
'... good job on that one."
(It turns out this word has existed for quite a while, and probably did not originate with her.)
We're having our first meeting tomorrow, and since nobody will really want to be there, I'm considering the bold move of making our first meeting a casual pizza party at which the subject of work will be strictly forbidden.
I'm taking a break from screaming out David Bowie songs to watch an interview he did with Dick Cavett in 1974. He was around 27, and he was on his
tour, so he had already done
, he had already done
, and some of his best work.
He's very nervous. He mumbles, he titters, he tries to hide behind his walking stick. Maybe it's the drugs. But I can in a way identify with him here, and seeing him, I instantly gain creativity and self-confidence points. David Bowie.
This is a generic fruit-flavored antacid tablet. It is not meant to taste like any particular fruit, although because of the multiple colors you can pretend the red ones are cherry and so on.
In spite of the fact that they are somewhat chalky and unpleasant, you have been popping them all evening. Maybe it's the fact that it's a Tuesday after a week of vacation, or maybe it's because David Bowie died yesterday and you were up all night watching his videos and eating spicy crackers, because that's where your grief led you. You are still quite sad.
Before it got cold, we drove several hours to visit a friend or relative of my mother's. I was never quite clear on the relationship, and it seemed rude after being at someone's house for an hour, sitting on her pier, drinking her lemonade, to say "
exactly are you again?"
She had a golden retriever who walked over to check on us every ten minutes or so before going back to whatever he was doing. My mother's friend or relative seemed to have a good life, just her and the dog in a small house on the water's edge.
Of all the art forms, dance is the most inaccessible to me. Watching other people dance just looks like so much flailing around; if they're trying to communicate something, I am not getting the message.
My own dancing is the result of an argument between my mind and body over what to do next, which leaves me no time to consider rhythm. I only dance when social convention absolutely requires it, though, so if you see me dancing you know I am unhappy. If I could trade in my body to become a free-roaming vapor, I would do it.
I have read that in the winter it is important to turn one's mindset to stews and blankets and cozy times indoors; this helps to fight the madness caused by three months of identical gray freezing days. I do subscribe to this view, but I walk to work every morning, and I keep hearing about terrible injuries people have on our local sidewalks. One guy hit his head and has a large divot in his skull, another mangled his hand, and there are several cracked elbows and kneecaps. My mindset when I step outside is, "today might be my day."
I read a bad article today about three dyspeptic thirtysomethings reflecting on the fact that they were still single and childless. According to them, the train of love had left them at the station, and they were hunkering down for a cold and solitary life. The author tried to draw broad conclusions about the future of Western civilization from this.
As usual, the most interesting part of this piece was in the comments. "Single means selfish!" said one, and the general feeling was that society was worse off for the fact that these self-absorbed sad-sacks had not reproduced.
On Sunday morning the church bell in town rings to wake me up.
When I'm awake and out on the street, the crows keep one another informed of my movements. "He's on Main Street, heading west," they say.
People get into their cars at this time and drive up and down the street, hoping to get a glimpse of me. "He's just a
, you know?" they'll tell their friends.
I arrive at the supermarket, which is always kept open for my convenience. It keeps my favorite items in stock, and the employees are always happy to see me.
My workplace looked at the statistics and found that if they let people save up their time off, most saved it for "later," and too many people were retiring with half a year of unused vacation days (and then, I'm guessing, they died a month later due to the stress of not knowing what to do with themselves.)
I earn the right to be away from my desk by agreeing to chain myself to it
of the time. When I do get away, though, it's disruptive and people get annoyed. It's kind of a fucked up way to live.
I know it's 8:00 pm on a Tuesday, but could anyone else eat an entire spaghetti dinner right now? We could get a big salad, then a hyuuuge bowl of spaghetti, and some breadsticks or rolls, right? One of those big jugs of wine with the straw wrapped around it, you know the kind I'm talking about?
Nobody else wants to go. It's hard to find willing partners in fun activities when you live alone. It's just me and my sense of reason here -- some day I'll leave him behind and we'll see how he gets along without me.
The only ideal workplace is the one you create for yourself, and even that is not ideal because, as I understand it, self-employed people are in constant fear of eviction and starvation.
I remind myself of these facts when things are going badly at work. I could leave this place, go somewhere else, and learn to deal with a whole new group of psychopaths, I reason, but either way I'm locked in a zoo and the only escape is debilitating injury or old age. Suddenly, I understand why some yearn for a zombie apocalypse or similar widespread societal breakdown.
When presenting me with an impossible project that needs to be implemented, informing me that "this is the age of technology" is not helpful.
That phrase is today's version of "
just make it happen
." It is usually accompanied by a hand gesture that brushes the air several times to indicate that, the hard work of conceiving a ridiculous notion having been completed, the person making the gesture is sweeping what remains of the problem from the productive toaster of her mind into the crumb tray of mine. (For the sake of the metaphor, let's pretend that is how toasters work.)
Someone told me that having a child increases your appreciation for peace and quiet. I'm sure this is true, but it's sort of like saying that having your arms chopped off improves your appreciation of having arms. I already appreciate peace and quiet
that I don't feel the need to have it taken away from me in order to appreciate it more.
I have also been told that one needs to have children to guarantee a caretaker in old age. I'm just going to put my brain into a robot, so I have that base covered as well.
I have some facts for sale. I have frog facts, bird facts, potato facts. I have facts about man-made structures and facts about the weather.
My facts are backed up by independent and non-partisan sources. I do not guarantee satisfaction with my facts, because many of the facts are unsatisfactory. Sometimes animals behave badly, sometimes potatoes are poisonous, and sometimes the weather kills people. You won't get your money back if you don't like these facts, and I won't fabricate nicer facts for you, because then they wouldn't be facts. Who needs facts, I've got facts over here.
One of the fun things about growing a beard is seeing other people's reactions to it. Most make positive comments. Less verbal well-wishers just point at you, stroke their chins, and give you a thumbs-up. This makes you feel well-liked and supported, which can be a rare feeling.
My former colleague Gary wins the award for worst beard comment with this gem: "It's a good attempt at a beard, and if you kept it trimmed properly I'm sure it would look nice." He fit several zingers into one comment, which at least gains him points for efficiency.
The founding document of our committee is the biggest pile of corporate-speak jargle you have ever seen. Have you ever read a sentence, failed to get any information from it, and then read it over and over again until you're forced to give up in hopes the next one will be better? The whole document is made up of these sentences.
I actually made it through one side of a page this afternoon; if you asked me to summarize it, I could only tell you there was a picture of a hot air balloon in the bottom-right corner.
I don't mean to harp on about this document, but it is consuming me.
I am open to the suggestion that I am simply too dumb to understand the text, but I am equally open to the suggestion that it is a forgotten follow-up to the
, written after the mad Arab Abdul Alhazred got an office job. Like his previous work, all who lay eyes upon it go insane.
If I am asked why I have a poor grasp of the material, I will say that I felt duty-bound to send it to Miskatonic University for safekeeping.
I've only now gotten to my Christmas gift from my aunt. When asked for ideas, I said maybe a book about animals. Specific enough to be helpful, but vague enough to allow room for creativity on her part, I thought.
My aunt is aware of my leanings, and hopes to disabuse me of any funny ideas about Nature. Her gift was a copy of a book called
The Godless Beasts
. Its thesis is that animals are inferior to man because they are clearly uninterested in the teachings of Our Lord, despite our best efforts to educate them in that direction.
Memories can be triggered by just about anything, and it can be tempting to turn one into your entry for the day. I'm hesitant to do that, though, for fear that I've already written it down in a previous month.
Still, I wouldn't write the exact same memory in the exact same way (I
I wouldn't), and maybe it would be interesting to write out the same memories every few years to see how other events and reflection and the passage of time affect the retelling. At any rate, it can't be less interesting than stories about my job.
My friend doesn't know what kind of dog Thomas is. To give you an idea, I'd guess that he could carry me around in his mouth if he decided it was worth the effort.
One of Thomas's great joys in life is playing fetch, but he doesn't understand the fundamentals of the game; he hates to part with the ball once he has caught it. You can see the gears turning as he stares at it, motionless on the ground, but a healthy sense of self-preservation prevents you from trying to get it from him by force or trickery.
Being in love is nice. I can say this objectively, since I am not currently in love with anyone, not even any of the people that I was once in love with. In some ways that's liberating.
It's nice, though, for someone to take on such an oversized importance that your whole life needs to expand in order to admit her. It's nice when everything around you takes on a freshness, and mundane tasks take on an importance, and you spend extra time making sure your collar is straight, even though it's also fun when she straightens it for you.
I'm going to give in to the inevitable next month. Since work-life balance is an illusion, I'm going to set up a cot and live at work. My 100words entry for the day will be a diary of notable things that happened, or maybe a transcript of a particularly useful discussion. I will use it to analyze my time usage and track the progress of my projects. The jokes are not productive and will have to go. I will live on recycled paper and staples. I will shun human contact and tape the computer monitor securely to my face.
The Tip Jar