Today’s topic … well, I really don’t know.
Usually, I have an idea and a few notes when I sit down to write my daily post. Today, however, finally emerging from the mental mists of backache medication, I find myself feeling very unprepared. If only the buzz from anti-inflammatories could incite the same creative juices that liquor seems to inspire in famous writers.
Let me check my backlog of topics that seemed like a good idea at the time. “Live blogging of Ambien effects.” Talk about a snoozefest. “A critique of the pulmonary system, like you’d review a movie.” Makes me winded just thinking about it. “The over-automation of modern cars.” “People who always end their phone calls saying ‘I love you.’” “My cat’s opinion on the debate over health insurance reform.” “Some kind of fun link.”
I can at least do that last one …
…but I’ll need to do better than that.
Maybe I’ll write a little about the different venues I typically choose to work on blog posts. There are four of these, and I have a feeling it’s going to take a visit to each in order to finish this entry.
For starters, I’m sitting at University Fire Grill, a fast-food outlet located across the street from the university. They’ve only been open since the start of the school year, so workers have yet to sink into the sullen surliness featured at the larger chains. To the contrary, they’re annoyingly helpful, stopping by my table several times to ask if I need anything, maybe some extra ketchup, and have you tried our cookies? I’m trying to get by with the purchase of a soft drink in return for their free wi-fi.
“Just a small Coke for the moment,” I tell them as I set up my laptop. “I’ll be studying your combos while I work.”
“We don’t have small. Will medium be alright?”
“Yes, whatever is smallest.”
The first time I worked here, the manager didn’t even know he offered wi-fi. As I searched the available networks — wading through the dozens of slyly named routers I was picking up from a nearby dorm — I asked him what to look for. “Don’t really know how that works,” he admitted. “But we did make too many fried mushrooms this morning. Would you like some?”
I accepted the fungal offering then asked him to show me a wall outlet I could plug into. One was awkwardly located under a booth while the other was immediately beneath the self-serve soda fountain. Either I’d have to crawl on the floor of a burger joint, with all the health risk that entails, or combine a sticky keyboard with my greasy fingertips (maybe the two would offset each other). I decided to operate on battery power.
One last observation about the UFG work environment: They have some of the most thorough hand-washing signage I’ve ever seen in a public restroom. With everyone from the President to corporate managers encouraging hand hygiene during this flu season, it’s good to finally see someone telling us how to wash our hands. A bank of signs tells me that a 38-degree Centigrade water temperature, a vigorous scrubbing lasting at least 20 seconds that includes both the fingernails and the forearms, and a single-use paper towel are essential. Also, don’t handle dangerous chemicals or take out the garbage after you wash.
Moving on to the next location, it’s now about two hours later and I’m camped out in the EarthFare cafe. EarthFare tries to be a lot of things — purveyor of organic produce, friend to local farmers, profitable — but tends to fall short at all of these. Basically, it’s a grocery store, and that’s good enough for my tastes.
You see, I absolutely adore grocery stores. I would’ve gotten married in the cereal section if my wife’s relatives didn’t threaten to withhold the wedding gifts (talk about clean-up in aisle five!). I almost never go food shopping any more, as it seems to degrade and objectify the element I find so intriguing, the items offered for sale. I prefer to approach it instead like I would an art gallery, where guacamole, fusilli, cream of celery soup and cassava chips are museum-grade objets, and the meat department is a post-conceptual post-organic installation. Let us each summon our own impression of the aesthetics of each display, and remember that the coupons are tripled on Tuesdays.
It’s perhaps a little odd I would feel this way, since my first-ever job was a much-hated stint as a bagboy during high school in Miami. I only lasted eight weeks, with the last three of these spent loitering in the adjacent department store while my parents thought I still had the job. My primary memory now, 40 years later, is the urine stench of the employee’s men’s room, and the need to put cans on the bottom of the bag, boxed items in the middle and bread at the top. Oh yeah, and don’t pee in the grocery bag.
It’s starting to get a little crowded here in the cafe corner of the store, and I’m worried that security camera over my left shoulder may have picked that last phrase in the previous paragraph. So I’ll shut down for now, and resume early tomorrow morning at another favorite spot …
… the kitchen counter.
The challenge at this location is easy to see in the above photograph. Somehow, our home has become infested with three small furry automatons who generally operate in a sleep mode except when there’s activity in the kitchen. The cats haven’t yet learned the difference between me blogging at 2 o’clock in the morning and me stumbling around packing my lunch for work. All they know is that the Big Ugly One Who Sometimes Gives Us Food is active, so they need to be on the lookout because anything could happen.
I’ve started a bad habit of giving each of them a small shred of lunchmeat as I prepare my sandwich, and the whole thing has gotten out of control. Seems there’s this thing called a “conditioned response” and I believe they’ve used their studies in the field to purr and meow and rub against my leg to make me give them a piece of food. Apparently, intermittent reinforcement is supposed to work best, but I don’t think they made it to that chapter yet in their reading of the landmark work of L.Y. Abramson, M.E.P. Seligman and J.D. Teasdale on “Learned Helplessness in Humans” (1978 – Journal of Abnormal Psychology). (I found it hiding under their catbox.)
Otherwise, I actually enjoy working on my blog at this early hour when the rest of the house is asleep. I’ve got the pressure of a deadline driving me on (I have to leave for work by 4:30) and I can take occasional breaks on the couch watching updates of the news and learning about the details of ABC World News This Morning’s anchor Vinita Nair’s upcoming wedding. (The groom is from Texas!)
Great — now there’s a fight somewhere down the hall; they’re involved in their traditional post-prandial inter-cat squabbles brought on by the increased energy you get from a small slice of oven roasted chicken breast. I’ve got to break this up, then start getting ready for work, where I hope to finish this post in between projects before the daily 8 a.m. posting deadline…
I’m now at my desk at work or, I should say, I’m at my desk located at work. Business in the world of financial services is still a little slow, so I can usually squeeze in the last few paragraphs of a post in between the proxy statements and the offering memoranda. I just have to be careful about any cut-and-paste copy getting from a work document to the blog or, God forbid, vice versa.
The sterile environment of an office is not the best locale for creativity. All the background chatter, gossip and occasional need to do real work can be distracting. I’m usually able to prohibit or limit, by regulation or order, payments by any insured depository institution or its holding company for the benefit of directors and officers of the insured depository institution, though sometimes I can’t. And when I can’t, it really, really hurts.
Uh-oh. I see that I’ve just pasted a boilerplate phrase about banking regulations into the previous paragraph. That means that, some time in the next four to six weeks, common and preferred shareholders of First National S&L of Salleem are going to be getting notice of a special meeting at which I’ll be peeing into a bag of groceries. They can vote on the issue via the Internet, by proxy, or by attending the annual meeting in person.
I’m going to have to stop working at work.