There are a handful of good excuses for not going to work: illness, death in the family, and actually that's just about it. But considering just how soul-crushing so many jobs are, I think that list needs to be expanded. I know for me getting to work on time and in a productive state is dependent on so many rituals, all of which must go exactly as planned or I'm just no good to anyone.
Am I being a big baby? I sure I am, but when I'm King these will all be valid excuses. (Also you will be disemboweled for calling me a big baby, you fucking peasant.)
It doesn't happen often, but once every five years or so, I dream a member of my family has died. I don't see the incident or even fully understand how it happened. I just get the news, and I get it over and over again. Like twenty times in one night. First, I learn they're dead. Then I forget. And then it happens again. It's like a sick combination of Memento and Groundhog Day. I wake up with an aching jaw from clenching my teeth, and the need to snuggle the not dead family member lasts for hours.
After this nightmare, I then go to work, but I shouldn't. I should write an e-mail like this instead:
Sorry to hear your wife is dead. I hope it was painless. Sorry. She's not really dead, but that was pretty upsetting, right? No, seriously, they asked me to write you, it's true, she's totally dead. Not! Anyway, that's what happened to me last night. I don't mean I killed your wife (that was the drug cartel this morning when they sprayed machine gun shots into your living room window - joking!) Anyway, I had that dream where a loved one dies last night. Still shaken up. See you Tuesday.
Boss, you and your now dead wife. (Not really.)
When I was in college I saw this Kids in the Hall skit extolling the virtues of the 20 minute morning dump as one of life's great pleasures. It always struck me as odd, but now that I'm a working man like Kevin McDonald in that skit, I have to say he is right on the money. The early morning dump is a pretty special thing. It gives you time to come up with a game plan. What needs to be done and in what order. Also, if you do it right, it will save you the indignity of the workplace dump in that ugly stall with the painfully thin toilet paper. Most of all, if it's a stressful day, purging yourself thoroughly in the morning will make it literally impossible for you to crap your pants at the office.
But what happens when that morning dump gets interrupted? Maybe you're out of toilet paper. Or you have some, but it's downstairs. Or the phone rings. Or you realize you'll never catch your train at your current rate of discharge. Well, then you've just ruined everything, haven't you? You're gonna be dumping at some stupid time like 10:40, well after your morning shower, and then you'll have that not so fresh feeling for the rest of the day.
Today I was like three quarters through a pretty glorious dump when I realized I had the cookies for our company bake sale in the oven. Well, needless to say I had to rush down there so they didn't burn. I washed my hands thoroughly, took them out, and then tried to get back to business, but as I'm sure you know, you just never really get it back. Now I'm all discombobulated and waiting for the rest of it, and I'm sorry, I just can't make it in today. And don't worry about missing the cookies because, come on, you know I didn't really think to wash my hands.
Trust me. You didn't want them anyway.
For me, the shower is a special, almost holy place. Not only can a warm shower clean your body, but it can help quell an allergy attack, relieve a sinus headache, and provide a relaxing environment for a good shave. It can also be a sanctuary for that other thing men and women do depending on their shower head setting, and whether there's sufficient soap and imagination. Tis truly a magical place.
But all those things are made possible by hot water. Without that revitalizing steam, the shower becomes cold and upsetting like prison, but without all the male-on-male forced sodomy. (At least in my shower). Instead of emerging clean, refreshed, and brimming with good ideas, you hop out pissed off with soap still clinging to places you like too much to expose to the harsh realities of freezing water. Your hair is a mess (no time or tolerance for conditioner) and the towel mocks you with a thousand pointy fibers that still begrudgingly accept your freezing run-off because, let's face it, it's a towel even if I personify the hell out of it.
Shower lost hot water after only about 90 seconds in. Needless to say I didn't get a chance to condition or think about that chick in the ripped fishnets I hooked up with at Madison Square Garden after the Bowie/NIN show back in the 90s. Boiler guy is coming later today. I'll be back tomorrow.
She said Trent put on a better show than Bowie, but I let it slide.
So you've woken up without incident. You've excreted and showered like a champ. Even gotten dressed. Now it's off to the kitchen for the most important meal of the day: breakfast. Just a little sustenance to keep you focused. You're no dummy. You know no one likes processing TPS reports with a rumbly tumbly. You pour yourself a bowl of cereal, get a spoon, and . . . oh dear God, THERE'S NO MILK! You've poured cereal with no milk, and now your cheerios mock you with their round cardboardy dryness.
My stomach is digesting itself as I write this. I know you're always talking about the need to plan ahead and, of course, you're right. In fact, I hope you've noticed the extra hours I've been putting in to stay on top of my assignments. The bad news is that with all the extra work, I haven't had a chance to go shopping. I'm guessing you can see where this is going. Yeah, I didn't buy milk. This cereal is not happening. I guess I'll head out and buy some milk, but I'll have to wait another hour for the supermarket to open and then by the time I buy it, come back and eat it, it will be like midday. So I'll see you tomorrow, and I'll buy some extra milk today in an effort to plan ahead and prevent this in the future.
So you've made it out of the house. Congratulations, but the road to compensated labor is a long one filled with treachery and deceit. One of the most dangerous threats to the completion of your mission? Public transportation and its evil companions, seats and coffee. I see some of you already know what I'm talking about. (Because I have super blogging powers that allow me to see my readers. Duh. I told you I'd be King some day.) Anyway, for the rest of you, let me explain. It can be super difficult to drink coffee on a bus or train without spilling it on yourself. You hit a bump; a passenger with a backpack gets careless; or Starbucks accidentally sets your coffee from "way too hot" to "flesh-peeling-scalding" and you jerk your cup, dropping a big brown amoeba of an eyesore onto your shirt. Especially, if it's a light blue shirt. Spilled coffee loves light blue shirts. (I know these things for a fact. Again. King.)
Or maybe you successfully navigate your coffee, but the armrest catches your pants pocket as you sit, ripping a hole, or you sit in gum, or you didn't notice that the duct tape holding the seat together is now all over you. The point is, it's a war zone out there, and starting your day with ripped or stained clothing just guarantees failure.
Some people just want to fail.
So close today. Really. Was about to come in, but wouldn't you know it. Sat in gum and spilled coffee on my light blue shirt. Don't worry, I'm getting it all professionally laundered, but that could take all day. I know. I'm disappointed too, but I wouldn't dream of reflecting poorly on the office, looking anything other than my best.
You're almost out of the woods. Head free of fear; bowels voided and steam-cleaned; stomach filled with goodness; and looking your finest in stain-free clothing. This is the day you'll finally make quick work of the Penske file and maybe even clean your desk. You head towards the office and there it is: your ex with her new man. (Or your ex with his new girl if you're a girl, or your ex with her new girl if you're a lesbian or your ex with his new guy if you're a gay man, or maybe you're straight, but now your ex is gay and with their new partner, or maybe yours was an intergalactic romance with a species that eschewed traditional notions of gender, but you see what I'm saying.) They look happy. As happy or happier than when you guys were together. And now you're not together. Maybe you're even glad you're not together. Maybe you were even the one to break it up. Even so, that image will stick with you as it sears into your brain while you hide behind a newsstand to avoid being seen. And if they broke up with you? Well, then forget it. You're not getting any work done today.
For a time, you two were very happy.
Remember that time you asked me why I wasn't married, and if I were "some sort of a fag?" And then you laughed and walked away as I tried to explain? First, let me just thank you for taking an interest in my personal life. Also, I wanted to let you know that your question -which obviously had to be meant ironically if you want to avoid allegations of creating a hostile work environment- was really funny. Well, if you'd stayed instead of reading Money magazine in your corner office while occasionally sending me e-mails asking for ETAs on assignments, you would have heard about Rachel - the one who got away. Anyway, I saw Rachel this morning, sucking face with a Calvin Klein underwear model. I'm taking the rest of the week. Thanks.