Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Snowflakes, Beamers, and Existential Crises

It snowed last night; perhaps up to an inch. And when it snows in Columbus, Ohio, people become insane. For starters, they forget how to drive. What is normally a 25-minute commute to work becomes an hour and a half commute because people resolutely refuse to move faster than 5 miles per hour. And so this morning I sat stalled on the “freeway,” surely one of the more mocking titles for a highway ever invented. I waved to my neighbor in the Beamer one lane over. Neither one of us was moving, and I was just trying to be friendly. He looked right at me, and he didn’t wave back. He looked down instead and appeared to be absorbed in The Wall Street Journal. I cranked up the Radiohead in the minivan. It was jittery, paranoid music that didn’t really help on a morning like this, when your neighbor doesn’t wave back, and you wonder what’s wrong with your bad self. Kate tells me that I ought to pray for people who make me feel invisible. “Asshole,” I thought. Then I prayed for the blessed asshole, beloved of God.

Yesterday was Martin Luther King’s birthday. I was gloriously free from work, free at last, thank God almighty, although I ended up getting a lot done anyway. We spent some time with some new friends in the morning, then Kate and I went out to lunch together, to a real restaurant and everything. Otherwise I wrote and wrote and wrote, pretty much the entire day. I checked off several items from the reviews To Do list, sent off the reviews, got almost immediate feedback about what a wonderful reviewer/writer/human being I am, and generally felt good about the universe and my place in it.

Then this morning I sat in traffic, waved to my asshole neighbor, and arrived late to work to find a frantic email informing me that the arrows on my Powerpoint slide were confusing, and that even though the tip of the arrow clearly extended right into the middle of the Q2 2008 box, the CIO still thought the delivery date was sometime in 2009. “Redo the arrows,” my boss told me. “Teach the CIO how to read,” I wanted to respond. I didn’t. I bit my tongue. Good thing.

It is one of those days. Objectively life is good on almost every front. Objectively work is good, too. I have a relatively non-stressful job that pays me a salary that allows me to send two kids to college simultaneously. I have a boss who is supportive and understanding, and who is both a good manager and a nice human being. She shows me photographs of her toddler. I show her photographs of my two co-eds. She xeroxes copies of the articles I write for Paste and pins them up on her office door, and she introduces me as her illustrious writer/friend. I would be a fool not to recognize that this is a good thing, and that most people would be thrilled to have it so good. And I do recognize that.

But I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to redo the arrows, which were fine in the first place. I don’t care about the arrows. I want to write about music. I want to daydream during the interminable technical discussions and write a poem called “Ode to a Cisco Node” in my head, in which I do for routers and servers what John Keats did for Grecian urns. I sit in these meetings and watch people get apoplectic over firewalls. “We’re more and more susceptible to a security breach,” they say, their faces reddening at the thought. I think about breaches, which in turn leads me to think about breeches, which in turn leads me to think about pantaloons. Soon I am off in my head constructing a swashbuckling pirate tale. This is the way it goes, pretty much every day, and I have to force myself to put on the alert, pensive face that suggests that I lose sleep at night over possible security breaches. I don’t. I’ve been faking it for twenty-six years now. But apparently I can pay attention long enough to mimic the technobabble and use it in sentence constructions in seemingly coherent and grammatically correct ways. And they pay me a lot of money to do so.

I don’t know. Most days it’s okay. Most days I can find a sort of minor pleasure in sorting through the technobabble and triumphantly spitting it back in terse, technically correct, active-voiced prose. Not today, though. Today I think about how much time I will waste dealing with those stupid arrows. And I think about that asshole in the BMW, who is probably somebody’s boss, thankfully not mine. I want to write “Ode to an Asshole” on my lunch break. Maybe I just did.


Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh, the joys of being cursed with a Writer's heart forced to navigate the strange and dangerous waters of apathetic capitalist pursuits.
Does it get any better Andy?

Still waiting to catch up with you again...


Andy Whitman said...

Mike, yes it gets better, at least if you can find some writerly (real writing, not involving the use of arrows on Powerpoint slides) pursuits outside the workplace. It doesn't get better at work, although, as I mentioned, my current lot in life is the best that a less-than-ideal situation can be. And there really is much to be said for being able to pay the bills, something I would never be able to do from music writing alone.

And yes, I really do want to get together. Let's touch base on Sunday and set something up.

Anonymous said...

Sounds good Andy.


senormedia said...

“Ode to a Cisco Node”

I originally read that as Crisco and went off on a completely different mind-tangent.