Sunday, September 13, 2015
Monday, August 10, 2015
It must have been a trick of perspective. Combined with the magical spider-webbing gossamer of half-sleep. But in spite of the charges, and no matter how many hours – no, weeks – of litigation lie before me, I maintain that this situation is not my doing or in any way my fault.
Today was the first day of school in Gwinnett County, Georgia. I woke up well before sunrise so that my kids would have ample time to eat breakfast and get ready. It was about an hour earlier than I normally wake up, and I normally wake up fully ready to go back to bed. If I wasn’t reasonably afraid of some trigger happy Armageddonist interpreting the clearly figurative for literal I’d compare myself from this morning to a zombie. But I am so afraid.
In spite of my bleary eyes and shuffling feet I somehow managed to fix breakfast and the kids’ lunches – though there is a very good chance that one lunchbox got two lunches while the other got two helpings of nothing. It would not be the first time such a mistake was made. I have a small industrial complex in the back of my brain where I manufacture apologies en mass. The supply never outstrips the demand.
At about six o’clock my daughter was already chomping at the bit to go. She was vibrating with such anxiety and excitement that if I hadn’t been ready she’d have certainly burst into a beam of light and right now would be out in the cosmos searching for something to reflect off of. But as luck would have it, and though I cannot explain how, I was ready.
The trip to school was uneventful. Or perhaps I slept the whole way. I cannot remember. I was driving, so it was probably uneventful.
I dropped my daughter off in plenty of time and then I went to the bus stop where I had to wait a half hour for the next bus to take me into town. That’s where the magical thing happened. I fell asleep.
No, that’s not the magical thing. Not that exactly. Though, had I not fallen asleep I might have avoided all of this mess and nonsense. But fall asleep I did, and then it happened. Ok, it didn’t exactly happen then either. After I fell asleep I woke up. That is, I sort of woke up. It was one of those half wake ups that everyone does in the middle of the night. The kind where you wake up well before your body is ready and your mind really has no business waking you, but there you are, and you’re swimming in darkness, and all of the magic and unreality of dreamland has left your sleep with you. Here time has no function and any combination of words counts as a coherent and brilliant thought. Here everything is possible until the plug is pulled and the magic whirlpools out of your consciousness leaving you standing in the kitchen half naked holding a glass of milk and a candy bar you never bought. That half wake up is where it happened. Between my half closed eyes, through my blurry eye lashes, out my dirty window and in the reflection of my side view mirror, I saw the sun rise in the car behind me.
What I should have seen was the sun rising from the horizon through the front and back window of the car behind me. In truth, the sun doesn’t rise at all. The whole concept is an illusion of perspective and our me-centered understanding of the universe. We rotate and revolve around the sun, giving the impression that the sun rises in the east. But whatever “truth” science can tell us about the sun; how clever it is and how much bigger, it could not escape the un-logic of my half-sleep. And for some mysterious reason, as I rubbed the blur from my eyes and the magic of a greater dimension drained away, enough stuff was left behind and the sun was caught. Snared in a beat up, old Ford Escape.
I sat in the front seat of my car as reality slowly crept its way back into my brain. (Why am I in the kitchen and where did I get this candy bar? And what happened to my pants?) I chuckled at the notion that the sun chose a Ford Escape to rise in and now couldn’t escape from it. The absurdity of the concept started eating at my brain when through the side view mirror I saw a couple of people approach the car.
“What happened?” I heard a voice say.
“Someone’s trapped the sun in this car,” another voice responded.
A crowd began to gather around the little Escape and worry about the poor sun inside. “Who would put the sun in a car?” “Can we let it out?” “What are we going to do?” Someone tried to open the door, but the handle was too hot. This did nothing to calm the nerves of the crowd. In what I am certain psychiatrists and social anthropologists would say was the appropriate amount of seconds, someone decided that this must be blamed on someone and since I was the only one in the parking lot who seemed to be hiding they blamed it on me.
My father is a fairly honest man. Perhaps this is the reason that he has always told me “don’t ever confess to anything where the law is involved. Always get an attorney.” But the fairly honest part that he passed on to me – or perhaps the fairly stupid part I constructed on my own – always forgets this rule until moments after I have made a full confession.
“I don’t think we can arrest him,” the police officer told the crowd who had tied me to a tree in spite of the fact that I said I wasn’t going anywhere. “He hasn’t broken any law and you really don’t have the authority to arrest him in the first place. You’re gonna have to let him go.
“That doesn’t mean,” she continued, “That we can’t sue him in civil court.”
“What for?” I demanded. “All I did was dream.”
“You dreamed wantonly,” said one of the crowd.
“Irresponsibly!” said another.
“In a car!” said a guy shaking a Bible. Though I’m pretty sure the Bible being in his hand was coincidental as there are no verses relating to the sinfulness of cars. None that I’ve read, that is.
“Look,” I said, “Please calm down. I’m sure tonight the sun will set in the Escape and tomorrow it will rise just like it always does.”
“You’d better hope so,” said a woman in green. “Otherwise you’ll be hearing from our attorneys.”
The crowd began to walk toward the bus and the woman turned around and added, “You may yet!”
My stomach knotted up when I realized I still had to get on the same bus and ride into Atlanta with them.
In retrospect I should have gone back to sleep and tried to reawaken in the parking lot. Perhaps if I had done that then in the reawakening swirl of magic and reality my sensible mind would have put the sun back in the sky. But there is no guarantee. It’s so hard for reason to set right those things that the irrational have misplaced. In time it will sort itself out.
Friday, July 24, 2015
“Michael! Just the man I need to see.”
It was Bob. I like Bob. He and I worked on a project together several years ago and got to know each other a little bit. We found that we have a similar desire to not make our jobs more difficult with stupid inefficiency and a similar frustration with people who rise to management but have no flexibility and cannot see the future failure of their awful decisions. It’s a sad situation when there are no quality applicants for a management position so the vacuum just sucks up the next in line without consideration of ability.
I don’t believe, as an agency, and perhaps as a society, we have met the minimum standard for comprehension of the phrase “minimum standard.”
So Bob comes up to me and he leans in (he is much taller than I) and he turns his back to the few people in the lobby. So I’m thinking a dirty joke is coming. Bob tells a lot of dirty jokes that aren’t funny. Most of them aren’t even really dirty. Still he feels the need to whisper them as if telling jokes at work is somehow forbidden. And he says, “Your name keeps coming across my desk.”
So now I’m thinking, “Oh crap! They promised it wouldn’t, but somehow word got out that I’d been suspended. But that was three months ago. How many people know? And do they know what I did to get suspended? Or worse, are they guessing what it was? That explains why everyone’s been acting so normal; they know I’ve done something and they don’t want me to know they know so they’re acting like they always do to hide the fact that they know!”
I actually did think all of that. Bob had stopped talking because someone had come into the lobby and a said hello or something and so he turned and exchanged a few pleasantries with them. Bob is a fairly popular guy.
“Sorry about that,” he says, turning his back to the lobby again and returning his voice to a whisper. “So like I said, your name keeps coming across my desk for courtyard parking.”
“Yeah. Instead of parking in the parking deck you’re eligible for courtyard parking. Only most people don’t want it because the courtyard has no protection from the sun and in the summer it gets pretty hot inside the car. Most people I ask would rather stay in the parking deck even though they have to walk farther. So, do you want to move to the courtyard?”
“No,” I said, my heart sinking. “I…” I stammered a little. “I only drive in once a week or so.” I paused. “I… I usually take the bus, so… so I don’t want to take the space.”
“Ok, great,” he said. “I’ll pass the offer on to someone else.” And Bob walked away.
It was worse – way worse – than everyone finding out I had been suspended. Worse than the would-be gossip of everyone speculating on my crime. Worse because it apparently didn’t matter. My little rebellion against this hum-drum 9 to 5, my tiny rage against the machine, essentially went unnoticed. It was business as usual. Except that now I apparently have been here long enough to qualify for special parking. I have seniority. Like a senior citizen.
I stood there like an idiot. I forgot why I had come to the lobby. It was probably to get a drink. Only now I was too crushed to enjoy anything. The elevator door opened and I instinctively got on. As the doors were closing this younger guy slipped in. Taller than me, thinner than me. His clothes were pressed and new and brightly colored. He had a full head of hair and he was clean shaven. I guess I was staring. And I guess my stare was a little jealous and perhaps a little angry looking.
“Is there a pro…”
“You shut up,” I said. “You shut your stupid mouth.”
“I was young when I came to this job. Young and attractive with possibilities. But the job took it from me. It took it from me and it gave it all to you.”
The elevator door opened on a floor that wasn’t mine. A lady got on and I stepped off.
“I hope you choke on it,” I shouted and walked away.
“What was all that about?” the lady asked.
“I don’t know,” the guy said as the doors were closing.
I took the stairs the rest of the way to my floor. I closed the door to my office and turned the light off. Then I opened the blinds and watched the empty pool across the street until I fell asleep. It’s how I spend most of my Friday lunches.
Ok, full disclosure, I didn’t say anything to the guy in the elevator. But I thought it. I thought it hard and I’m pretty sure he knew I thought it, even though he never took his eyes off his phone. Stupid 20 year olds and their stupid faces.
Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Monday, July 6, 2015
I spilled coffee and burned my Monday fingers. I ran them under cold water, but they’re still red and puffy. The worst part is I forgot to get a hole punched in my drink ticket. If you get ten holes punched then you get a free coffee. I was looking at a free coffee next Monday. It was the only thing next Monday had going for it. This Monday managed to ruin itself and next Monday. That’s a Monday working over time. I respect that work ethic, but I hate the results.
In high school there was this real creep, we’ll call him Naton – with a hard "A" like in mate or date. Actually, I guess I don’t care if you give it a soft "A" like mat or cat. His name wasn’t really Naton so it doesn’t make a difference. Though he would probably like it if you gave him a Hard A. Urban Dictionary says Hard A is a slang term for hard alcohol. Naton was a drug dealer. Here, I admit, I’m being stereotypical in assuming that a drug dealer would want hard alcohol. Perhaps he was a teetotaler. I don’t know. What I do know about Naton is that he was not lazy. He had an amazing work ethic. One day I’d hear a friend say Naton was out of pot and acid and by that afternoon he was flush again.
I had to get to school pretty early so I could put my trumpet in the instrument room. On occasion I was just too late to do this, so I had to carry the bulky case around in addition to my huge back pack. In high school I made a habit of carrying all of my books in my back pack so I wouldn’t ever have to go to my locker. The hallways in high school were terrifying and I did everything I could to avoid them. Anyway, I had to be at school pretty early and on this particular day I saw him walking by. That evening a friend of mine and I decided to go to a back woods punk show that was taking place in a barn venue somewhere. The place was pretty remote. It took us forever to find and when we finally did it was a good mile away from anything in every direction. Not surprisingly, Naton was there with an ever changing entourage of sunken eyed bed-heads waiting to shake hands with him and disappear. I had been there for about a half hour and I was already seriously ready to go. The music was right on the cusp of horrible. Everyone talked about how this band was the shit. For the most part I agreed, but without the definite article.
Still, I wanted to be seen as cool. So I tried to make sense of the music in the hopes that I could find some common ground with anything in the lyrics. But the lyrics were going by so quickly I couldn’t catch anything but the cuss words. Right in front of the stage there was a horde of beefy robots in shorts and combat boots bounding from one side of the imaginary dance floor to the next, ramming each other with their shoulders and basically trying to knock each other down. I was told this was a mosh pit and that “moshing” or “slam-dancing” was a valid form of dance. (I don’t think they teach it at Julliard yet. It’s too cutting edge.) I watched the pit for about ten minutes. It was far more interesting than the music. As violent as it was I couldn’t help but think of the German Schuhplatter. If they had slapped their feet and worn lederhosen I would not have been shocked. What did shock me, however, was being pushed into the mosh pit.
Just like it looks from the outside, the mosh pit feels very much like you are in a rock tumbler. However, nothing comes out smoother. Nothing comes out polished. Everything is bruised and possibly chipped and, in my case, embarrassed. In high school I was tiny. I’m only 5’7” on a good day. Back then I weighed 125 pounds with a 27 inch waist. I did not get to see what I looked like in the mosh pit, but I imagine I looked something like a Muppet that got thrown into a mosh pit full of real people.
When I was finally done “dancing” I was ready to go. Life on the fringe of civilized society had left me longing for my bedroom. Besides, it was nearing 11 and getting home by midnight was going to be a challenge. I told my friend I was leaving and he did not put up any resistance. On the drive home he decreed that the band had lost much of the luster from the first single they produced and were way too main stream for him now. I told him that I had been pushed into the mosh pit and he said that he had enjoyed a few rounds in the pit as well. Maybe it’s a perspective thing.
The next day at school I was sore. I wanted more than anything to curl up on the floor and sleep. But there, bright and sun-shiny as the middle of the day, was Naton with his cloud of friends in need. Like a Monday working over time.
Monday, June 29, 2015
There are two industrial garbage cans behind the apartment building across the street from my office. One of them is half open, which I imagine makes the whole back lot smell awful. The back lot includes the pool area.
The pool is usually filled with hot guys and hot babes. I assume they are hot. From this distance they all look like tiny plastic dolls. Usually you can tell by their basic shape if they are male or female, but sometimes it’s ambiguous. “Is that a girl with no top?” “Is that a guy with a top?”
There is a couple at the pool having an affair. They dive into the pool and come up for air near each other. They do not kiss, but you can see hands touching forbidden areas under the clear water. The touching is mutual. They float around each other for a minute or two, both frequently looking back toward the building. Abruptly the petting ends and the woman returns to her chair. Moments later a man I assume is the woman's husband comes to the pool and sits next to the woman. Casually the other man gets up and goes to his chair on the other side of the pool.
After a half hour of cancering up her front side, the woman rolls over to cancer up her back. The husband looks disgruntled because his chair is already in the shade of the apartment building. He thinks about moving over to the chairs on the other side of his wife, but before he can commit two older ladies come out and sit there. They have no intention of swimming or tanning. They are covered in loose beach cover ups and large floppy hats.
The old ladies crack open their books and lay them face down on their laps. They will not read today. They are having a heated discussion. They both agree. Their floppy hats nod and shake in unison. They are agitated, but they are agitated among like minds, which makes all agitations more bearable. The husband two seats over says something to the old ladies and their floppy hats bob up and down happily and their old, heavy bosoms jiggle. He slaps his knee like an old timey southerner.
The husband, receiving no warmth, dives into the pool for exercise.
One of the old bitties points up to my office. Perhaps I am paranoid, but if not my office, then she is certainly pointing toward my office building. The floppy hats shake with disdain.
The slightly fatter one is telling the less fat one how I sit up here and do nothing. How I am a drain on the tax payer. How I deserve to be fired.
I turn my chair around and go back to work. It is two days before the end of the quarter. In two days I will be a little bee, humming from one computer to the next; making honey for the higher ups to eat and take credit for. Doing the reports the federal government requires so that our agency can get a stupid amount of money to do a job in which I believe, but the commissioner and his ilk do not. Our job is important. How can you want to be commissioner over an agency you don’t believe in?
My job is important, though I don’t love it. Especially today. Today I have nothing to do. I’ve sent three separate letters to my boss about three separate issues regarding three separate projects. Every project he assigned me as a priority, one, two and three. Every issue must be resolved before I can continue. Every letter about said issue has gone unanswered. This is not why I don’t love my job. I simply want to be doing a different job. A particular job. Not a nebulous, pretend fantasy job.
I look back out the window. The old bitties are still pointing up at me. Shaking their heads. They talk about how they are better than me, and would be so even if we were in the same generation, mine or theirs. One of them spits on the ground at my uselessness.
Actually, she doesn’t spit. Rich southern women do not spit. Except that they do. I’ve seen it. It is a most surreal experience; to see the very apex of human dignity lower her head nearer the ground and expectorate. It is so out of reality that I would believe it if scientists were to measure the occurrence and declare that the fabric of the universe had been torn. If time travel is ever accomplished it will be because some ingenious person has exploited this happening.
The wind picks up and blows the other industrial garbage can open. A small plastic grocery bag floats into the air and blows into the pool area. Everyone around the pool sits up. The smell has come to swim. The less fat of the old bitties quickly puts her towel to her face, covering her nose. The husband says something and the old ladies’ floppy hats nod in agreement.
The husband leaves the pool area for the two industrial garbage cans. Coincidentally the other man jumps into the pool. The lady watches him. She wants to join him, but the two older ladies are too present.
Out by the garbage cans the husband is trying to close the lids. He closes one and the wind opens the other. He scratches his head and shouts something over the pool wall. The old ladies have had enough of the smell. They close their books and go back inside the apartment complex.
The industrial garbage cans cannot keep themselves closed. The husband is doing everything he can. The lady jumps into the pool with the man. They embrace and kiss and probably more. It’s difficult to say for certain from this high up.
Outside the husband fights a losing battle with two industrial garbage cans.