AUTHOR: Beth TITLE: DATE: 3/25/2004 09:57:00 AM ----- BODY:

Breaking rocks and serving my time

I am very proud of myself. This morning I sat up in bed at 6 am and managed to get out of it moments later. Okay, my mother helped, but I mostly did it myself. Just like ripping off a Band-Aid. So I managed to get to work today, even with a stop at Dunkin' Donuts, by 7 am. Patrick was in early also, prompting George to ask if he'd "missed the clocks being turned back, or something." No, what actually happened was I overslept and was almost an hour late yesterday. Considering I had to go home sick Monday, and I have a non-negotiable doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon I have to leave early for, this was, as you can imagine, Not Good. Add to that the fact that when I was nearly fired a couple months ago, my "attendance issues"--calling in sick twice in three months--were part of the problem, and it was, in fact, Very, Very Bad. To my surprise, I still have a job, but as you might expect, I got the Cold Shoulder (tm) yesterday, and resolved to change my ways starting today. Now, normally, I roll out of bed sometime between 7 am and 7:15, depending on whether or not I'm showering. I've perfected my morning routine to the point where this will get me out the door and on the road between 7:20 and 7:30. But, obviously, I'm cutting it very close, and mornings like yesterday, when I sleep till 8:10 am due to my alarming ability to turn off my alarm clock while totally unconscious, things go awry. Awry, as in: I run into work at ten of 9, breathing heavily and nearly dripping in grease because my nasty ass didn't shower, and due to my lateness I'm forced to eat breakfast and lunch out of the vending machine because I think if I leave the office for a nice leisurely lunch break I might be told not to come back. So my new plan is: re-set myself to get up between 6 am and 6:15, getting out the door between 6:20 and 6:30, getting to work by 7 am. That way, if I'm on time, it'll actually feel like I'm an hour late, which will hopefully assuage whatever internal, deep-seated need I have to avoid being punctual at all costs. Hopefully. One minor crimp in this plan is the fact that I now officially have two full-fledged jobs: one 40-50 hour per week day job in Woburn and one 20-30 hour per week part-time night job in Lowell, writing for the Sun. Trying to keep these plates spinning is enough of a hassle when I don't fuck up, but when I do, each tiny error combines to cause a Massive Nuclear Cluster Fuck. Witness my further travails yesterday. Actually, we have to go back to Monday. Monday I got to work on time, but had to leave at 11 am once food, coffee and Tylenol had failed to assuage my shakes, aches and chills. I had some kind of 24-hour bug; I went home and passed out for about six hours, got up, tentatively tried some chicken soup, felt better, got up and got in to work on time on Tuesday. Unfortunately, I've gotten the guys in my department used to a certain pace. It is, how should I So when I got back on Tuesday, the deluge of work on my desk was roughly the same height as me. I managed to dig my way out--mostly--and went home around 6. Which is about when all the "Daily Life Stuff" I promise myself I won't put off, then put off, then have to catch up on all at once about every two weeks or so reared its ugly head in the form of bills, laundry, and an increasingly out of control "monster" in the corner of my room. I managed to wrangle all of these, but since I had to wash my bedding, didn't get to bed until the final load of blankets finally stopped tumbling around and around the dryer at around midnight. This, combined with my continued ill health, led to the oversleeping. Which made the backlog of work start snowballing. The added pressure of the fact that my coworkers all hated my guts yesterday made the day quite the interesting experience. Especially when I found myself trying to type up a quote, make a follow-up call, and ingest a Meatballs N Mozzerella Hot Pocket that could probably legally be enrolled in kindergarten all at the same time. Unfortunately for me, I couldn't just skip lunch and stay till 7 to get it all done. On Monday, I had also had to cancel on a story assignment for that night, and so though I tried every single possible way to think of a way I could get out of last night's story assignment, the fact was that I couldn't--unless I wanted to risk both of my jobs this week. And last night's story was at 7 o'clock in Hudson. So I absolutely had to leave by 5:30 pm. Which made the oversleeping that much worse. I ended up staying till 5:30, going through the drive-thru for supper, which made me hate myself, especially since the Hot Pocket was still sitting like a rock. Then I drove to Hudson, which was a lot farther than I had estimated, and on the way I had the added pleasure of noticing a weird grinding noise in the front end of my car that I'm too busy to fix and too busy not to fix. But I finally made it to the Planning Board meeting about five minutes ahead of time. No one is ever going to be able to tell me that I haven't "paid my dues" as a journalist after covering fucking Planning Board meetings. They are the worst thing I can think of. I'd rather sit in ear training class. I'd rather sit on the filthiest subway car of the Orange Line in Boston with a leering, reeking homeless guy trying to whisper in my ear. I'd rather sit at a Yankees game wearing a "Nomar Sucks" T-Shirt. I'd rather do just about anything than sit there and listen to people argue about variances in the zoning laws and conservation easements and traffic study waivers. Don't know what any of those things are? Guess what? I don't either!! Usually, being the Vocabulary Queen, I have a pretty decent idea what someone's talking about if I sit and listen to them talk about it for long enough. Context clues, and all. But this is my second interminable Planning Board experience, and it still seems like just when I think I know what's going on, someone says something that makes me lose what tenuous grasp I had of the conversation, and then I start to just zone out due to overstimulation, which is bad, because I have to go back to the paper and write this all down at a sixth-grade reading level, and under 15 inches. Last night, this Planning Board quibbled and nit-picked and squabbled and groused and hemmed and hawed over plans for a driveway for a full 90 minutes. I shit you not. It was hell. And it's not like I can go back and write, "Nine residents of the town who seem to have absolutely no lives whatsoever sat and yelled at each other over complete nonsense for way too long last night at the Town Hall. The ultimate verdict on the meeting? Be glad you weren't there." After this 90-minute fight, everyone had to go back into their corners and spit out their mouth guards before diving headfirst into the ensuing 60-minute debate over road improvements, so I used this time to head out to my car and call my editor in the hopes that he would say, "Okay, fuck it," and let me leave then. Which was, for the record, 9 pm already. No such luck, of course, so after calling home to let my parents know I would be out late, I willed myself out of the car to head back to the meeting. About three steps away from the car, I realized I'd forgotten to bring my pen. About three seconds later, I also realized that I'd locked my keys in the car. What to do? Go back to the meeting, cover the rest, and call Triple A later? Or call Triple A now, stay out in the parking lot waiting for the tow for God knows how long, and miss what could be an important part of the meeting? The deciding factor was the fact that my cell phone and Triple A card were in the car along with my keys, and there was a very nice man on his way home who had a cell phone right there, right then. So I called Triple A, and the woman told me cheerfully that it was Triple A's goal to have someone there by 9:50 pm. I had finally reached the end of my proverbial rope. I'd been fighting all day to remain positive about the rampant disorganization in my life of late, and to get back on track, and now I was beginning to lose that fight. I was now standing in the parking lot at 9 pm when I had to get up at 6 so as not to lose my day job, and now I was risking my night job because my dumb ass locked the fucking keys in the fucking car. I was, in a word, fucked. Then the tow truck drove in not ten minutes later--a freakin' miracle!--and the nice man got out what looked like a blood pressure cuff and proceeded to completely break the power lock on my passenger-side door. But it got the door open, and got me back in the meeting just in time to listen to an engineer argue with a guy on the Planning Board for a full hour about something that ultimately didn't even matter, because the board then voted unanimously to approve the guy's plan anyway. The only thing that got me through this--and helped me quell the overwhelming physical urge to yell out, "JUST VOTE ALREADY, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!!" was my cuticle. On my left hand, pointer finger. I chewed that puppy till it bled. Which is pretty disgusting, but it helped, dammit. Thank god for that cuticle. At that point, I'd had three, count 'em, three cigarettes all day. Did I mention that? I finally just up and left when it got to be 11:45 pm. That's right. I'd been in that stuffy little basement meeting room listening to thrilling tales about land fill and culvert cleaning and flood planning for nearly five straight hours. It was time to go--and write up the highlights for the eagerly waiting public. I was all set to do it, too. I was going to By God go to the paper and write the story. But when I called my editor (who also knew all about how I locked the keys in the car), he gently suggested that I write it today instead and email it in, or write it tonight after I cover the Littleton School Board meeting. Because I was delirious, I told him sure, I could write it today and e-mail it. He told me he'd tell the day editor to expect it, which means I'm locked into that now. And I have exactly no time to do it...except my lunch hour. You know what that means. I'm eating out of the vending machine again.