Every workday afternoon I log my activities and daily accomplishments into an Access database. We do this to track the amount of time each project takes. But the bonus is I can see just how I spent my day. It’s a 21st century diary of sorts.
It occurs to me that at week’s end I sometimes wonder just how I spent other parts of my life, the non-project parts. Did I experience anything interesting? Where did the time go?
Between a full time job and a full time family, it’s easy to simply live in the present. When my head hits the pillow it’s hard to remember anything but the pleasant unconsciousness that immediately beckons.
So at the end of this week I’d like to mention some of these off-hour occurrences, a typical week-in-review:
Sunday: We hosted a birthday party for my newly nine year old. We used to invite thousands (ok, twenty or so) of her friends to the house. Parents were always invited and with age-appropriate food and drink for both groups, we were told we gave the best birthday parties in the neighborhood. The downside was the pre-party prep: making all that food and, most importantly, cleaning the house to make it look like we always lived that way.
Thankfully, as our children have gotten older we have evolved. In the last couple of years we go out for parties. You know, hold them at the local bowling alley (my kids know that they will never, ever have a party at Chuck E. Cheese –we had to draw the line somewhere). This year it was a local ice cream parlor where we were told everyone would get to make their own ice cream. It sounded perfect, so old-world mid 20th century.
“Making your own ice cream” turned out to consist of picking some ingredients, mixing it up and putting in a soft serve ice cream dispenser. Not what I would call churning until it was beautifully thick and rich.
My wife and I thought the owners of the store were a bit unorganized. They called the night before to go over details we had already talked about. And when we got there they went over them again. At the end of the party, they had goodie bags just waiting for everyone, including a special one for my daughter. But we didn’t pay for goodie bags. In fact, we are morally opposed to them. Luckily, we caught them before any 9 year old was disappointed. It was a very close call.
But, guess what? The kids loved the party. They didn’t care they were served soft serve. My daughter picked a horse theme and they used pretzels as a corral all around the cake. Best use of a snack food on a birthday cake I’ve ever seen.
When it comes to delivering a good party, youngsters critical analysis is on a much different level than their parents. As it should. That being said, we’ve informed our oldest that we are downsizing. Next year it’s a couple girl friends and a movie.
Tuesday: As I was intensely engulfed on a project, in the recesses of my mind I heard chortling and a small commotion in the conference room next door. After I finished I asked our Admin person what was up.
“The Iraqi President just had coffee at the Starbucks across the street! We saw it all.” After his meeting with the President he probably needed a pick-me-up. I ran to my office window to look, but I had missed the whole thing. What good is a window if you’re never looking out. I vowed to be more observant of the street life below.
Later, as I went out to find my lunch, I ran into a barrista from our special coffeehouse. “Well, what was he like? I asked.
“I waited on him.”
“Did he tip you?”
“Yeah, a big tipper. He left a whole wad of ones in the tip jar.”
I may have missed the photo op but I got the story. Jalal Talabani is a big tipper. He must have gotten some special assurances from our Prez. My prediction: no early withdrawal.
Wednesday: Today I was prepared. I set my computer clock to chime every quarter hour so I could use the window I had been awarded. At about 11:45 I looked out to see the street had been roped off with yellow police tape. There were police cars everywhere.
At that moment the fire alarm sounded. The automated voice called to us: “A fire has been reported. Please evacuate immediately. A fire has been reported…” I am the assistant emergency marshall of our department. Our real marshall was not at work so that meant I was responsible for making sure everyone left their offices and took our prescribed evacuation route down Stairwell A. We would then leave by the front door and meet at the library down the block.
Unfortunately, when we got downstairs, guards were shuttling us away from the front door. Something was going on and they didn’t want us to know. But our evacuation plan called for leaving by that door. Note to myself: at the next department meeting better make an alternative plan.
As we left by the side entrance I ran into an Admin in-the-know. “What’s going on? I asked.
“You didn’t hear it from me, but it’s a bomb scare,” he whispered.
A suspicious package had been left at that very Starbucks the Iraqi president took his coffee break at the day before. A coincidence? I wondered. Three buildings had been evacuated. I wrote in my official time tracking database that afternoon: “Bomb Scare: 1 hour.”
Thursday: Upon entering the subway car on my morning commute a man near me saw my newspaper and started to strike up a conversation. You know I can be a good conversationalist. But not that early. Something about him suggested I politely but gently recuse myself by hiding behind my paper. I was so right.
Every person who had the misfortune to sit next to him was treated to a dialogue on numerous subjects. Oh, he was good. He’d pick up something you were reading and liberally expound on each subject. Each person pleasantly responded. But only I saw the whole performance in its entirety down the Red Line. Four people sat down. He talked incessantly to each of them.
When I got out of the train and up to the surface I was surprised to find the man who had camped out with his wheelchair and belongings the entire summer was gone.
I had taken notice of him before Katrina. But his plight and that of all the street locals had taken on added significance after the hurricane. On Monday, I had spoken to a coworker of mine and she decided to call her contact in the city’s social services office to see if we could help him.
Living in DC, I’ve become jaded to the socio-political machinations of government. He resided in an dense tourist area and it was surprising the local government took no notice, if only for that reason. Layers of social inequity and irony abound in this city.
We have no idea where he is or whether the phone call made any difference. A photo-op visit from the Iraqi President? A bomb scare? We don’t know.
Friday: I am looking forward to the end of the week. Projects that seemed to stall on Wednesday are back on track by Friday. During a break in a two-day meeting with an outside contractor, I propose to my coworkers a new Friday game:
Use the last names of your colleagues to create a company based on these names. In our case we have Harp, Champagne, Bath, and Gates. We prepare almost departed for a relaxing and melodious transition to the Heaven of your choice. Next week we start incorporation proceedings.
Ok, what can I say? It’s been an interesting week. My creativity is oozing out in strange ways. Which reminds me…
Saturday: It’s 9:30 am as I write this. My youngest daughter had just come down to show me a special keychain she got this week: a plastic nose. “When you squeeze it, boogers come out!” she gleefully displays.”
Typical? There’s always hope for next week.