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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Path of Most Resistance

Some people dream of being caught in public in only their underwear.  Others dream of their teeth crumbling and falling out.   I've had those dreams.  But I constantly have dreams where I am late for work or some other appointment and as much as I try to get to my destination, something always keeps me from reaching it.   Usually, I am late for work, but on occasion, I am late for school in these dreams.  That is such an odd concept for me as I've been out of school for ten years now.  Still, the dream always has the same premise.   I am late for something and I need to get there, yesterday.  I either have no clean clothes to wear or my car doesn't want to start.  A few times, as I'm heading to my car, the phone rings or another member of my family get in my way to tell me something that causes me to stop my progress.  Ultimately, I wake up, never reaching my desired location.  Sometimes I wonder if my dreams are just an interpretation of everyday life. 

Try this on for size.  This has probably happened to you.   You get up for work the same time you always do.  You go about your normal routine but something happens.  You get something on your clothes that forces you to change, or perhaps you realize that those pants don't fit anymore.   Now you are three minutes off of your normal schedule.  You think, "No problem.  I'll just make it up in the car."    So, you head out the door and you are on your way.  That's where the issue escalates.  Because you are three minutes behind, you are now in sync with the school bus schedule and that big yellow bastard just pulled out in front of you.   Worse yet, every three houses there are kids waiting.  You spend more time on your brake than the gas pedal.  The clock keeps ticking but you aren't moving.  You get to a school zone and of course have to slow down to 15mph or you'll be pulled over.   The bus finally turns and now you've traded for a vehicle that constantly stops for one that doesn't know how to go.   The car that is now in front of you is the kind that brakes up hill and thinks that the speed limit is an insane concept designed by drivers on the autobahn.   The driver is either half asleep or fixing their make up and doesn't know what the long skinny pedal looks like.   For what feels like a half hour, you are stuck behind the tortoise and once they get out of your way you now find yourself 15 minutes behind schedule....and you forgot your purse briefcase, lunch, homework, etc. 

I face this challenge everyday.  Thursday's are even worse.  I have to leave work at 3:30 PM so that I can make it home in time to take over baby watching duties for my piano teaching in the evening wife.    The trip is only 12 miles and I can make it in less than a half hour.  But for some reason it doesn't matter if I leave work five minutes early or five minutes late, I am always running behind and have to juggle changing out of my work attire with a baby who now can crawl faster than the people drive in front of me on my way home.   I either catch the back end of a yellow light that screws everything up, or I get behind a school bus on its way to drop off the youth of America.  I will probably have to adjust my schedule even more and leave an hour early just so I can anticipate the funeral procession that I will probably be stuck behind next time.    Going to work, I'm not so concerned with because I tend to leave early anyways, because I know the issues I deal with on my trek across three school districts.  I do know that if I leave at a certain time I have a clear path all the way to work's front door.   If I am running behind and get out the door a little later, I know I'll have to deal with at least three school busses on every leg of the journey.  Fortunately, I know a few short cuts that get me ahead of the curve. 

Another example of what I call "Task Resistance" is the idea that if I have a plan to do something, whether it is work or play time related, I will never get the full use of my time.  Last night was another usual example.  I came home from work with the plan that once I have the baby down for her afternoon nap, I will have at least an hour of time to myself before my wife is done teaching and will want to watch the news.    With that time, I plan to get reacquainted with the world of Grand Theft Auto for my Playstation 2 because on Tuesday, April 29th, Grand Theft Auto IV will be released and I will be picking that up from work.   So, I get home, the baby goes down, and I'm free to fire up Vice City Stories.  First, I have to move all of the baby proofing from the glass entertainment center doors.  Then, I had to try and locate the memory card with my saved game which took me almost ten minutes to find.   Check and Check.  Off I go.  I get settled in and my wife decides she needs to get something in the back of the house and ultimately makes some noise that wakes the baby.  She goes back downstairs to finish teaching and I'm left with an awake and cranky baby.  I venture into the nursery and console the little one, finally getting her back down and by 5:38 PM I am back to my post.   Due to load times and a misfire by a rocket launcher, sending me into the stratosphere, I've managed to actually play for about five minutes.  The wife finishes up her lessons, so I switch back to the regular channels and we watch the news.  After the weather, I know I can continue for probably another half an hour before we have to get the baby up.  The weather segment ends, I pick up my controller, and the baby monitor springs to life as if I'm Mel Gibson and aliens have just landed in the corn fields outside my house.   So much for that.  

Today, when I get home, I will have an empty house because my wife has to drop off the baby at her parents' since our schedules don't line up.  This affords me maybe two hours of free time until I'm needed elsewhere.  However, I can only imagine the amount of obstacles I will face on my way back to Liberty City via my couch.  I have to leave work and drive a half hour to the store.  I'm sure there will be a line or some inept employee will screw up my order.  I spent five dollars to reserve the game, so they better damn well have one there for me.   Then, I have to get home in one piece.   Once there, I will probably have a half hour left before my wife shows up.  From there, any number of issues will arise.  "There's a spider in the bathroom."  "The garbage needs taken out."   "Why won't the dish washer run?"  "I can't reach this." 

I am constantly plagued by the work of outside forces bent on destroying me.  I have no way of clearly justifying my actions because they are in fact the childish actions of a 33 year old man who still plays video games, yet, I will beg, borrow, and steal whatever free time I can to enjoy five minutes of game playing.   I now know why men find solace with a newspaper in the bathroom.  I imagine that there are men who have bathrooms with walls that spin or retract to reveal all sorts of free time distractions.  Sort of a speak easy hiding our distractions and hobbies from the world.  Flat screen televisions fixed on Sports Center drop from the ceiling and the room becomes sound proof.  See, men don't actually go to the bathroom.  That's a myth.  We actually go there for peace and quiet.  We keep up the allusion by using a spray can of derider that is really filled with the nastiest fragrance on Earth.

So, here I am at 9 AM on Tuesday, hoping that the world doesn't end by 4 PM.  Perhaps I could get to the store faster if I stole a taxi, used a special code to make it jump over traffic, and showed total disregard for traffic laws and public safety to maximize my free time.   Who am I kidding?  With my luck, I'll still get stuck behind a bus.

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