Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why Nothing Ever Gets Done Around Here

SUMMARY: A true story.

I wrote this in 1994. The story you are about to read is true. Nothing has been changed to protect anyone.

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I awoke with great expectations (the feeling, not the book). I sprang from my bed, prepared to set fingers to keyboard in a most productive manner.

Of course, to really settle in for the long haul, I needed a big frosty mug of Diet Coke™®. While washing my hands in the kitchen sink to avoid depositing dog hair while groping around in the ice bin, I noticed a funny smell.

Hmm, thought I, that watermelon sitting in the sink since last weekend’s barbeque must be--um--fermenting. I had best take it out to the compost bin.

The problem was that I couldn’t even see the watermelon for all of the dirty dishes piled in the sink. Rather than simply shoving them all aside, I decided to do the nearly intelligent thing of putting them into the dishwasher.

I opened the dishwasher, and discovered that some other resident of the house had put all of our jewel-tone anodized aluminum tumblers, never before used, into the top rack of the dishwasher. My experience with anodized aluminum drinkware is perhaps sadly lacking, but I did not know whether it was good for them to be exposed to the Harsh Chemicals In My Dishwasher Detergent™®.

However, I am of the ilk who saves important stuff like stickers from the bottoms of anodized aluminum glassware and tags from clothing in the event that they contain useful information that I wouldn’t normally know. So I approach my file cabinet.

As I enter the office, I flip the light switch so that I can more easily look for the folder labeled “Warranties and Information--Cooking and Eating.” The light doesn’t come on.

I fetch the step-ladder to stand on for changing the light bulb. To set the step-ladder down under the light fixture, I have to move the vacuum cleaner.

Oh, yeah; the vacuum cleaner is there because the new housecleaners neglected to vacuum under and around my desk. Perhaps it had something to do with the computer user with the insane eye-glint who was sitting there at the time--but no matter; the floor needs vacuuming desperately.

So I vacuum under the desk. I also notice that, as it has been 6 days since the cleaners were here, there is now dog hair blanketing the floor of the entire room like an early snowfall. So I vacuum the entire room as long as the vacuum cleaner is out anyway, including changing attachments to get into the corners and under the potted plant.

Only thing is, the room now smells sharply of Eau de Dogge. This happens only when the vacuum bag is full or the engine filter is shot. I open the vacuum cleaner to check. The bag is not full, but the filter has come apart and is hanging uselessly inside. I have to run to the opposite end of the house and go upstairs to get the medical tape that we use for fastening the filter in place.

Filter now fixed, vacuum cleaner now put away, I climb onto the step ladder and peer into the light fixture. There, I see about as much sediment as the Colorado River has exposed in the Grand Canyon, except mine has more dehydrated flies.

I replace the light bulbs, take apart the light fixture, and clean it.

Thereby using the last of the paper towels.

Not a big deal; I get more paper towels from the pantry--causing a cascade of paper towels onto the floor, which I must pick up and put back exactly as I found them so that they will probably cascade next time, too.

Now I could open my file cabinet and extract the proper folder, sit down, and leaf thru it. Seeing as how it contained twenty years’ worth of important information, it took me a while.

There were the instructions for the cheese shaker that I gave away last Christmas (come on, now--instructions for a cheese shaker?). Better keep them, in case the person I gave it to is cheese-shaker impaired and calls me for advice.

Forty-hundred Tupperware® brochures (“Tupperware is concerned about your satisfaction and safety.”).

A note that says “IMPORTANT: WHEN USING YOUR CONTAINER FOR HOT BEVERAGES MADE WITH BOILING WATER, ALLOW BEVERAGE TO COOL THOROUGHLY BEFORE HANDLING THE CONTAINER.” I do not know what container this applies to any more, but someday I might be filling a container with beverages made with boiling water and wondering what to do next, so I keep the note.

A cover sheet from my set of 5 china protector cases, which has on it (a) a picture of my set of 5 china protector cases, (b) the title “SET OF 5 CHINA PROTECTOR CASES”, and (c) “Made in Taiwan.” Clearly important. Save.

I resist the temptation, for the thousandth time, of reorganizing my Warranties and Information folders into three-ring binders, subsorted by subjects like “glassware,” “china,” “containers that can hold boiling water,” because although I know that it would have only taken me 2 minutes to find the info if it were sub-sorted, it would probably be a 4 hour task right now, and I’m about to sit down and write and don’t want to be distracted.

10 minutes later, having found nothing about anodized aluminum drinkware, I give up and return to the kitchen. I fill the dishwasher (having decided to wash half of the aluminum drinkware in the dishwasher to see what happens) and get it running.

Lo--there is no longer watermelon in the sink; someone else must have taken it out. Perhaps the odor emanates from the garbage bag? I take the garbage bag out to the garbage can.

As I walk past the dogs’ outside water bowl, I notice that the teaspoonful of water remaining is filled with strange doggie yard crud, so I stop to rinse out the bowl. Pouring the crud-infested water on my potted plants (this is California--I’m saving water!) necessitates standing directly in front of the bird bath, which is turning somewhat green and slimy.

As long as I’m filling the dog bowl with fresh water, I might as well do the same with the bird bath. I fetch a scrub brush, scrub out the bird bath, fill it with water, and decide to save time by watering all of my potted plants so that I don’t have to turn on the hose again later.

The potted plants are so dry that the water runs out all over the driveway. Hold that thought.

As I turn off the water, I gouge a long scrape across my thumb on the blackberry vines that are growing on the fence next to the faucet. That’s just too much; they’ve borne all the fruit they’re going to this year and they just shouldn’t be that close to the faucet, anyway.

I clean and bandage my thumb, in the downstairs bathroom, whose medicine cabinet I seldom open. I shove aside the strong urge to go through it and identify all the expired medications.

I fetch the Western Garden Book and read up on blackberries to see how to trim them. Thus enknowledged, I search for a pair of thorn-proof gloves (this takes some time--we have many, many pairs of gloves interspersed with various barely-identifiable garden tools). The first pair that I finally find, I discover--having walked all the way around from the garage to the berry vine--consists of two left hands.

Walking back to the garage, grumbling, I resist the temptation to reorganize the gloves-and-garden-tools shelf, although it occurs to me that I could probably find a perfect container suitable for gloves only and devise some clever kind of quick-release fastener for attaching pairs of gloves to each other, with only an hour or two of work. After all, I’m full of great expectations about my writing career.

I trim the berry vines, which is no mean feat as the thorns catch on everything in sight every time I move even so much as a leaf. I cart the trimmed remnants off the the compost heap, intertwine the new growth around the fence and tie it back safely away from the water faucet, and stand back to admire my work.

An unfamiliar Siberian Husky picks that moment to come wandering in from the street and touch noses with my dogs. I am reminded with a bittersweet jab of my own husky who, in her youth, found more ways to escape from our yard than Houdini had for escaping from people trying to get him to a seance. I step outside the gate to see whether the husky has tags, and she retreats fifteen yards down the driveway.

Knowing how thankful her owners would be if only they knew where she was, if I could catch her and hold her in the yard, I fetch some especially odorous doggie treats from the kitchen and plonk myself down out in front of my house within view of the stray. She is clearly fascinated by the treats but seems to have the unfounded suspicion that I will attempt to catch her and put her in my yard. She comes within 2 or 3 feet several times to retrieve goodies, but never close enough that I can snag her collar.

After about fifteen minutes, she gathers her courage to leave the goodies behind and trots off down the street. So now I have to call my husband at work to ask him to look up any ads for lost huskies in the newspaper that he took to work with him that morning.

My dogs, meanwhile, frantic that not only is there another dog in their driveway but that their mom is feeding their odorous treats to a complete stranger, have run back and forth a zillion times through the muddy water from my plant-watering and directly into the dining room, leaving a path of splattery footprints around the floor that rivals the films I’ve seen of the Serengeti after the antelope have passed.

I get some rags, mop off the dogs’ feet (8 of them, there being 2 full-equipped dogs) and crawl on my hands and knees all thru the dining room and kitchen, mopping up the splattered mud and water.

Finally I can sit at my computer--and there’s e-mail regarding a project that I’m not currently working on but that, in a fit of Expertise Pique, feel obliged to respond to, which takes yet more time.

And then--miracles never cease--I sit at my computer and type for an hour; no, not on the projects that I had started last week and the month before and last year that my great expectations told me I was capable of completing today, but rather putting into words why it is that nothing ever gets done around here.

Revision History:
Typed all July 21, 1994

----Note on February 12, 2013: I was just quickly skimming my email so that I could turn it off to finish getting some actual work done, when I discovered this link in an email from my dad. I should not be watching videos right now as I am actually working, but maybe it's very funny. OK, it is funny, but (a) I've seen it before and (b) I wrote essentially the same story back in 1994. Maybe I should send dad the story. I try opening the word file, but it's an old format that needs some conversion. So I did that. Then I read the whole thing through, and it made me laugh, so then I thought that I should maybe reformat it and post it on my blog (done). So just before I hit the "Publish" button, it occurred to me that it would be even better if I could post some photos of the environment in which the events took place, so I started looking through my photo folders to see whether I had scanned in any of my photos from that era. It appears that I hadn't, so I started to get up to go into the living room to start looking through my photo albums to decide which ones to scan in right now, when I suddenly reclaimed my senses and this is all you get for today. Now back to work. Except that iCal just popped up and reminded me that it's time to water the plants out in the yard. Hmmm.

5 comments:

  1. Sounds like a normal maddening day to me! One thing leads to another and never ends!

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  2. Holy jeez! Haven't we all had days like that... well, maybe not *quite* like that! Loved the postscript too :-)

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    1. I think we all do! My dad is trying to blame his days like that on his advanced age, but I wrote this for myself 20 years ago, so that's clearly an invalid assumption.

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    2. 20 years ago? I thought you said this was written in 1994.

      Oh, wait...

      Man, time sure flies.

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    3. LOL! That's my kind of reaction, too.

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