I woke up very early this morning because my head is as stuffed as a teddy bear’s. If I have to get sick, the timing couldn’t be more perfect: I have an entire week off from work, starting Monday.
With any luck at all, this is only an allergic reaction to the dust in the air at the office where I work, and I’m not coming down with a cold or the flu at all. Yeah. Yeah, that’s it. I’m not going to be knocked flat on my back by throbbing, infected sinuses, breathing through my mouth for the next week or so. I’ve just got a stuffy head because of some dust. I’m going to keep thinking that.
It’s not entirely wishful thinking. I have all the signs of an allergic reaction: My throat is scratchy as sandpaper, my eyes are puffy and itchy as hell and have been for days, and I have no fever yet. Coincidentally, there’s been a lot of heavy moving going on at the office for the past week and a half. They’ve been building cubicles, dragging furniture across the carpeting, and opening up the ceiling tiles to pull cables to the new desks that have been set up. There’s got to be a ton of dust and who knows what else stirring around in the air, right? All I have to do is take it easy for a day or two and, after I use up a Kleenex box or two by blowing the entire contents of my head out through my nose, I should be all right, right?
You can’t imagine how cross-eyed I am right now. I spent practically the entire day with my nose against a computer monitor, making links between web pages I’d previously copied from our agency’s current web site to the future web site. I sat down at seven-ten this morning and, except for potty breaks, mid-morning cup of tea, and a half-hour to heat up and eat the weenies I brought for lunch, I didn’t stop until around one o’clock.
Persistence paid off, though. By quitting time I had the satisfaction of knowing that all the links that were supposed to be linked were linked. Unfortunately, all that linking came at a price. It made my brain feel like a lump of wet coal that would never light a fire ever. Meanwhile, my eyes burned and scratched at the insides of my eyelids. It’s just not fair to have to suffer mixed metaphors clashing in my head like that.
Gal called me on the phone the other day, asked me to call her back, “or, if you’d rather send e-mail, my address is,” and then she spelled her name, which was part of the e-mail address. I probably can’t tell you what her name was without being clapped in irons for violating the Customer Privacy Protocol or something like that, so I’ll just make up a name and say it was Goodman, which she would have spelled this way: “G, O, O, D as in David, M as in … as in … um, mow your lawn, A, N as in Nancy.”
When I could stop chuckling to call her back, she said, “Thanks for getting back to me so soon!”
“And thank you for ‘M as in mow your lawn,'” I responded. “That’ll be the biggest smile I get all day.”
The three-day forecast on the National Weather Service’s web page had blazing orange suns for Thursday and Friday, so when I packed my saddle bags for the bike ride to work yesterday, I stuffed them with a pair of rolled-up shorts, a baggy shirt and a pair of flip-flops to change into for the ride home.
Then I stepped out the back door into the garage, which was already hot and stuffy as a microwave oven that’s just been used to heat up a dinner of broccoli and peas. Phwuah! Pushing the bike out into the driveway where there should have been cool morning air, I took a breath and was brought up short again. Double phwuah!
Leaving the bike in the driveway, I snatched the saddlebags off the back and took them with me into the house, where I stripped down to my skivvies and changed into the shorts and baggy shirt, then carefully rolled up my office clothes and stuffed them into the bags. Even in my shorts, I had a healthy glow by the time I got to work.
One of my coworkers was feeling a little uncomfortable about wearing a hoodie in her office, but she’d caught a chill and it was the only thing she had on hand to get warm again. “Mark Zuckerberg wears a hoodie to work every day,” I pointed out. “Who?” she responded.
The greatest thing about riding my bike to work is that I don’t have to hang around until five o’clock for my ride. Four-thirty comes and I’m out of there! It’s probably not the greatest thing for my productivity, though. Around three or three-thirty, it starts getting really hard to concentrate. I catch myself glancing up and the clock every fifteen minutes or so.
“How was your day at soul-crushing work today, son?” I asked Tim as he slid into the passenger seat of the car.
He took a deep breath, then let it out in the characteristic sigh I’ve heard bursting from the lungs of employees in almost every cubicle farm I’ve had the great fortune to work in for the past six years.
“You know, it used to be that when I heard people describe their work as ‘soul-crushing,’ I used to think, ‘Dude, you work in an office. How hard could it be? Stop being so melodramatic.’”
I laughed. “And now that you work in an office environment, you know …”
He sighed again. “It is. It really is.”
I dreamed I was at work. I really hate it when that happens.
At least this time it was more than a little unusual. This time, the office looked like a mash-up of all the offices I’ve ever worked in, a standard cubicle farm, but surrounded by racks of electronic equipment. Even the people who worked there were a Who-hash of all the people I’ve worked with, and I kept asking the wrong people to do things. The last scene I remember, for instance, was asking Aaron to adjust the connections on a particular electronic component, and all he could do was give me a blank look. “You don’t know how to do that, do you?” I asked him, when I realized he was not the guy to ask for that.
I started to do it myself when my bladder woke me up. I hate it when that happens, too, because it almost always wakes me up too early. Most of the time it’s just five or ten minutes before I would normally hear the alarm clock start bleeping, but this morning it was half an hour early – just enough time to go back to bed, begin to drift off to sleep, and then wake up to the bleeping alarm clock. I said to hell with that, grabbed my bath robe and headed for the kitchen to make what turned out to be a pot of satisfyingly strong coffee.
Satisfyingly strong to me. To my brother, it would have been weak tea. A single pot of the coffee he drinks could light up the whole city of Chicago for a week. I don’t need a jolt that strong yet. Maybe someday. For now, I’ll just sit here and nurse my tea/coffee.
As we were settling into a staff meeting this afternoon, Carolann made reference to a pop tune that I didn’t recognize. Aaron caught the reference, though, and commented on it, to which Carolann replied, “Yeah, I’m guess I’m dating myself with that one.”
“It’s Valentine’s Day,” Aaron answered. “If you can’t date yourself, who can you date?”
Well, it was a delightful week off, but now I must return to the office, plop my ass down behind a desk and spend whole days doing what other people tell me to do. I really have to figure out how to become independently wealthy. Not outrageously wealthy, or even what most people think of as wealthy, come to that. I don’t need so much money that I could fill a room as high as my neck and backstroke across it. I only need enough so I don’t have to do other people’s work. I should be able to figure that out. I’m not totally dense. Pretty close, though, apparently. I mean, I’ve been doing other people’s work for going on thirty years now. Doesn’t say much for me, does it?