Out On The Town


The power went out when I was showering yesterday morning. For a moment I thought, well gosh, what if civilization’s just come to an end. This was the sort of merry fanciful thought you could have about surprise power failures back in the 90s when we figured civilization actually had no reason to end. “What the heck, let’s keep it going another five years,” we’d say, every time the subscription notice came up, and if it was charging two bucks more a month that was all right. If we had kept the two bucks a month we probably would’ve done something stupid with it, like buying used VHS tapes of Bucky O’Hare to watch ironically or something. Bucky O’Hare is worth watching sincerely. It’s Biker Mice From Mars you have to watch with detachment.

This clouded up my day, since the ventilator fan in the bathroom stopped working. We’ve got a pretty muggy bathroom, one prone to storm fronts. We average about four tropical depressions per year just from ordinary showering, and the extra-long shower after the Poison Ivy Removal Expedition Of 2015 is credited with starting Hurricane Danny. (We were framed.) Without the fan going I have to leave the shower groping my way blindly through a steamy mass of bathroom rainforest, dodging spiders and sloths and the ooh-ooh-aah-aah birds. I also have to do that when the fan is on, but at least I’ve taken action. It’s never the results. It’s being part of the process.

And it messed up plans too. I had figured to call my Congressman’s office, like I’ve been doing once or twice a week all this year, to demand “how dare you?” It doesn’t accomplish much, although sometimes the poor staffer who has to take me admits, “I haven’t spoken with the Congressman about how dare I”, which is gratifying. Again, it’s all being part of the process. Also about discovering that turns out Congress office reps don’t have caller ID. At the least you’d think they’d ask me what I’m how-dare-youing them about. I used to have something in mind, but that took so much time. It’s just as effective if I go with whatever is in the news today. And without power, without the Internet, I wouldn’t have Twitter and they could totally call my bluff. So that was off.

The power company said the problem was an equipment malfunction. Probably could have guessed that. They couldn’t say, “sorry, we suddenly felt shy about sending stuff into your house without an explicit invitation”, not after they’ve been sending power into the house off and on for nearly ninety years now. Or “Rick forgot to renew our subscription and we let our civilization lapse,” since Rick hasn’t been at the power company in over two years now. Equipment not working right is about all they could go for.

They estimated power should be restored by 5:30 pm, which is disheartening to hear when it’s less than halfway through The Price Is Right. I know you never want to promise service is coming back before you’re absolutely sure it will be. Last time the Internet went out the company would only concede that service should be back by the end of Daylight Saving Time. I don’t know why the Internet company cares if there’s ever a Daylight Saving Time repeal and I don’t think they’re helping the issue by making threats like that. I’d have called my Congressman about that but see above.

Thing with a power failure like that is it’s the kind of snow day I get. I work from home, because I’ve kept my exact whereabouts secret from my boss and he doesn’t know where to come get me. As long as I have Internet I can connect to my office computer and delete e-mails about not leaving the fire door open, just as if I were on site. But in the circumstances, what choice do I have except to take a long lunch out at the bagel place? The only professional choice is to ponder how they have chocolate chip cream cheese these days while overhearing a table full of older white guys agreeing with each other about all these officials it’s unreasonable to hold accountable for what happens in a frat house.

When we got home the power was back. The snow day had passed, and all we had left was resetting the clocks. It could be as long as months before we have every clock in the house re-set, and we have to deal with the more popular clocks taunting those who’re so low-status they don’t get reset. House clocks have vicious, nasty social cliques.

This morning I left the shower fan off.

Another Blog, Meanwhile Index

The index rose seven points on the discovery of a box of salty-and-sweet candy corn from the farmers’ market that had been forgotten about after Easter.

142

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Working Out The World


My love and I were reminiscing things we did in elementary school for reasons we couldn’t figure. I don’t mean stuff like declaring someone who was busy with not playing kickball “The Kissing Bandit”. I mean stuff that doesn’t make sense, like the time my class got taken to the Garden State Arts Center and was taught how to clap with our hands curled. I guess we did other stuff there too, but the cupped hands was the lesson that stuck.

But the thing we shared was the class exercise thing about telling everyone else what our parents did for a living. I realize now I don’t know what the project was supposed to prove. That we could ask our parents what they did for a living, I guess. Maybe be able to tell our peers that our parents are shift supervisors. As skills I suppose that’s up there with cursive and being able to name vice-presidents who resigned, since you can test it. I don’t know how the teacher’s supposed to know if the kid was right, though.

But adult jobs are baffling concepts for a kid, anyway. What do adults need supervision for? They’re adults. Kids need supervision, because if you tell a kid, “stand right here, by the school bus stop, for five minutes and don’t wander away”, there’s an excellent chance before you even get to the second comma they’ve wandered off and got a beehive stuck in a nostril. All a kid knows is that their parents go months without unintentionally ingesting beehives, or they would know if they asked their parents.

For that matter, what’s a job to a kid? It’s just a place adults go to become tired and unhappy somehow. There are maybe five adult jobs a kid understands. There’s being an astronaut, there’s fighting stuff (fires, supervillains, crime, wrestlers [other]), there’s being a nurse, there’s being a teacher, and there’s driving a snowplow. Everything else is a bit shaky. For example, when I was a kid all I quite grasped about my father’s job was that he worked in a chemical factory in the parts that normally didn’t explode. He had to go in for eight or sometimes sixteen-hours shifts and I understood that most of the time things didn’t explode. But that leaves a gap in the imagination about just how he filled his working days. Come in, check that things hadn’t exploded, sure, and then it’s four hours, 56 minutes until lunch.

A kid might understand what someone in a service job does, because they could see a person bringing them food or taking clothes to clean or so. It’s why someone would be hired that’s the mystery, because getting that service means giving someone else money. Money’s hard stuff to come by, what with birthday cards arriving only for a one- or two-week stretch of the year, and maybe a bonus at Christmas if they’re lucky. The tooth fairy can help cover a little capital shortage, but that’s too erratic stuff for a real economy.

But non-service jobs are harder to understand. What is an office job anymore except fiddling with a computer? And a computer job is a matter of pressing buttons so that electrons will go into different places than they otherwise might have. A bad day at that sort of job is one where the electrons have come back for later review. On a good day the electrons all go somewhere you don’t have to think about them again. But the electrons aren’t getting anything out of this. They’re not happy, or sad, or anything at all based on where they’re sent. And they’re not the one getting paid for it anyway. They’d be fine if we just left them alone. All we do by getting involved in their fates is make ourselves unhappy but paid, and we get tired along the way.

The jobs might be leaving us alone soon anyway. Capitalism interprets a salary as a constant drain of capital, and does its level best to eliminate that. For service jobs this means doing less service, making the customers unhappy and making the remaining staff tired and unhappy. For office jobs this means never getting electrons to where they’re supposed to be, because otherwise you’d be an obvious mark for layoffs.

I know my father eventually moved to a job as an ISO 9000 consultant. In that role he ordered companies to put together a list of every word they had ever used for everything they had ever done. Then they put that into a cross-referenced volume of every document every word had ever appeared in. By the time that was done, the company might qualify for a certificate. Or my father had to explain what they had to do again, using different words and Happy Meal toys to get the point across. As a kid, I’d have been better off if he just told me he taught companies how to clap. Sometimes he probably did.

Maybe I Could Be A Generalist, Though?


Like most of us I’m looking for the sort of job where people give me money for no clear reason. So I have a couple web sites that send me their comic attempts at locating jobs and I think in seven years of having them set up none has ever sent me anything remotely plausible. But today I hit a grand new one. It’s for a “Specialist Sputtering Engineer”, in Singapore.

I never realized sputtering was the sort of thing needing engineering. I thought it just came from trying to get your point across with more exasperation and less time than you really need. Alas, I know I’m not qualified. I sputter only very rarely. If they needed a stammering engineer I’d be set. I don’t mean to brag but I can stammer even before I’ve really woken up for the day.

So if you know anyone looking for a world-class stammering engineer — freelance or fulltime — please let me know care of the address. Any address will do. I don’t know that I can qualify for a specialist stammering engineer right off the bat. But there’s probably some online certification I could get for it if I knew there was demand.

Keeping Busy


I know you’ve been busy. I’ve been busy. We’ve all been busy. The major pastime people have anymore is being too busy to do whatever it is they meant to do. But the question is what are you busy doing? Because there’s different classes of busy. If you’ve been busy because for some reason you had to bake a million billion kerjillion cupcakes that’s one thing. If you’ve been busy because you’ve had to run around to every corner of the known universe patching up cracks in the spacetime continuum threatening to destroy all creation that’s another. And if it is the latter, then I have to kind of gently ask if you’re really positive that you’ve got every single one of those cracks filled in, because while I’d like you to have some time to unwind I’m also pretty fond of all creation, even the parts that include bubbling pools of organic goo that are near pieces of rusting machinery I have to deal with for some reason, and not having all that destroyed is pretty important to me too. So, please, just evaluate a little what kind of busy it is you’ve been.