Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Cruel Summer


Nothing was going right.  Since mid-April to the end of July, nothing had gone smoothly.  A lot of stuff was going on, some for the better, some just adding challenges to everyday life, and then there was one, uber-time-consuming project.  I won’t go into details on this project, but it has to do with my job, the implications of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, and a certain cheery but ineffective co-worker, who is inconveniently located twelve time zones ahead of us.  Since the term, ‘The Manhattan Project’ has already been taken, I’ll refer to this endeavor as ‘The Long Island City Project’. 

The Long Island City Project spanned three months and it’s one of those projects that didn’t even have the self-respect to come to an official close.  We kind of declared it dead.  Over.  Kaput.  Sort of unofficially like how the State can issue a death certificate without a body.  Finis. 

The Long Island City Project required a lot of meetings, and thus, a lot of dry cleaning, a lot of doing my own hair (yikes!), a lot of doing my own nails (why bother!), a lot of rearranging or switching Day Care pickup/drop offs, and it yielded absolutely nothing.  It’s one of those ‘Life’s a journey, not a destination’ periods, where absolutely none of the intended goals were achieved, though contacts were made and functions were better understood at the end of all this.  And part of it was conducted in secret until certain milestones were met, further adding to the stress of going into the office all jazzed up only to falsely assure people that nothing was going on.  Yep. 

When it became evident that something was going on, opinions were split.  My boss took the stance: you gotta do what you gotta do.  A former supervisor of mine was so in favor of the Long Island City Project being successful, he’d coach me on things to say in these meetings via blackberry email at 8, 9, 10 PM each night.  He loves this company so much that he gets so excited over every opportunity to talk about it.  When we used to work in the same office together, you could gauge his level of excitement (or stress) by what time of day he’d eat lunch.  If he ate lunch after noon, and it was just a sandwich and a Snapple, it was an okay day.  If he was ordering Chinese food delivery at 10:15AM while on his way to the snack vending machine, something was definitely blowing up.  The head of our department was not in favor of the Long Island City Project.  He took the approach that everything has its time and its place and this was neither of those for the LICP.    If the Grumpy Cat (on Facebook) was a fifty-five year-old CPA who lived in New Jersey, this would be the head of our department.  The facial expressions are identical, it’s uncanny!!  A foodie, a financial accounting genius, and as excitable as the Grumpy Cat, that’s our director of Financial Control.

But, no, I’m not going to talk about The Long Island City Project.  I’m going to talk about my cruel summer. 

Sometimes in life we emerge from a haze of sorts.  Sometimes it’s just getting past a hangover.  Sometimes it’s a break after devoting all our energies into accomplishing a major goal.  For example, about 4 years ago I emerged from a 10 month stint of intense study for my CPA exams, only to find the New Kids On The Block were touring again.  Dazed and confused, I wondered if I had been so preoccupied with the Federal Income Tax code that I had actually time-traveled back to the Seventh grade.  But no, it was almost 20 years later and the NKOTB were making a comeback. 

As the Long Island City Project was fizzling out, I was coming out of the haze of the frenetic pace of being on my own Midtown-Long Island City roadshow for 12 weeks.   During this period, other things in life had sort of also gone awry, out of busy-ness, distraction, neglect, or low prioritization.  As you, dear readers are well aware, the Seventh Borough News was one of them.  And it’s time to make a comeback!

As the mental exhaustion of the Long Island City Project was starting to pass, I realized that Summer was already upon us, and I longed for the care-free (perhaps NKOTB-infused) days of a grade-school summer.  I was kicking myself for not taking any vacation time in June or August (July being our busy post-quarter end time) and the rest of the department staff had snatched up vacation time for the remainder of the summer.  I was trying to be flexible, not knowing how, or when the LICP would come to a close, and now I’ll be the lone staffer holding down the fort come the end of August.  I really could use some time off and I absolutely had it in my time bank, but all I managed to eke out was one vacation day (read: mental health day) where I watched about seven hours of Netflix and drank a whole case of seltzer. 

My one, lonely mental health day was spent entirely sprawled out on our leather recliner, covered by my two cats, watching the final episodes of series I had not caught on DVR.  It was also one of those rough summer days where the temperature and humidity are both well above 90.  These are not the kind of days you want to spend covered in cats, though I did feel bad for my two girls, covered in fur at 90+ degrees.  And after every 20 ounces or so of seltzer consumed, I’d have to take a potty break, peeling my skin off the leather chair and dumping the furballs on the floor for a bit.  Well, it’s good to stay hydrated. 

Sure, we have air conditioning, but did I have the mental wherewithal to turn it on?  No.  One more episode and then I’ll go outside/take a drive/get an iced coffee.  One more potty break and then I’ll go for a walk/take a nap/make a phone call.   Sure, those were all good ideas, but the entire day was summed up: Netflix, seltzer, cats.  Yep.

My mental acuity was clearly taxed, then throw in the added workload and hours of the quarter end and I’m lucky I make it through the day.  One evening I found myself in my bathroom trying, with no avail, to remove my nail polish.   Put the pink liquid on the cotton ball, swab, swab, swab, nothing’s happening, huh?  Just because it’s in your medicine cabinet, does not nail polish remover it make.  Let’s just be glad no one had to call poison control that day. 

One morning on my way to work, while WALKING up Park Avenue, I noticed a woman with a rather bizarre outfit for a weekday morning, or for a day that’s not Halloween, in general.  As she stepped behind me, I thought I could catch another glimpse of her costume in my rear view mirror.  Sure, because pedestrians have rear view mirrors.  Had my pedestrian self also had a windshield, I would have looked through it and welcomed a familiar face in Francisco, my coffee wagon man.  When I saw Francisco, he was actually quite upset because he had just received a $300 citation for blocking a garbage can or some other trivial street vending issue.  But $300 = 200 cups of coffee.  200 cups of coffee = like 10 months of coffee.  Or when I was studying the tax code, 200 cups of coffee = 1 week.  Francisco is going to have to find a dozen or so sleep-deprived students to pay off that ticket, and this is exactly the wrong time of year for that.    

 Nothing was going right.  Since mid-April to the end of July, nothing had gone smoothly.  A lot of stuff was going on, some for the better, some just adding challenges to everyday life.  I was having zero success at work and zero success at getting off from work, and unlike last summer, this summer I had no intern to run reports for me nor entertain me with intricate details of how one expects the zombie apocalypse to go down.  Rob has a new long-term project that has him working every Friday night and Saturday morning, exactly the time of the week when no one wants to be working.  One of my furballs (you KNOW it was Rita) peed in my dishwasher, (I can’t even explain that one, but fortunately you can run dishwashers on very, very high water temperatures and you can run them 7, 8, 9 times in a row if you had to, and we did – also we have paper plates just in case).   Also, there is currently a hole in my kitchen floor, which is part of a small-scale renovation, but it was also a gateway for major ant infestation of my kitchen, yay!  Then there was a coxsackie virus outbreak at day care (somehow, we dodged that one).  All this junk going on in 90+ temps and 90+% humidity, the kind of days I just want to give up, lay down on the pavement and have someone wake me up after Labor Day, but you can’t, because the pavement is too hot and the asphalt is starting to melt.  The kind of days better spent under shade of tree or by ocean breeze, and not spent with throngs of sweaty people on mass transit, nor near hot pizza ovens during brownouts (Mezzaluna: you should have comped us dinner for that night!!)

But one weekday evening, in early June, under the hum of the air conditioner, while I was in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, out of the corner of my eye, I caught my little cruiser walking, unassisted across the living room floor.  I was so excited I wanted to run over and pick him up, but that would defeat the whole purpose, so I just jumped around with excitement from a safe distance away.  Six weeks earlier, when the Long Island City Project was still very much a go, we had to meet with The Specialists on the request of our pediatrician, as to why Nick wasn’t walking yet.  I knew he would get there, I knew he could do it, and I also knew Nick came from a long line of late walkers, but I didn’t feel the pediatrician nor The Specialists would understand my rationale of genetic late-mover-ness, which I instinctively understood.  Rob got out the camera.  Nick was elated with his new-found skill and independence.  Just in time too, Summer’s here and there’s so much to explore.

And so we have.  The beach.  The pool.  The park.  The mall.  The Children’s Museum.  The baseball stadium.  The sandbox.  Nick will now walk over to the back door and say ‘outside’, though he also says this during thunderstorms and hasn’t quite differentiated the weather yet.  The second half of this summer is still very much a possibility for fun and excitement.  Things at work have started to calm down and we will make the most of Baby’s First Mobile Summer even if we have to jam all our activities into the weekends, and spend Monday through Friday with the Grumpy Cat.     

 

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While emerging from my Long Island City Project-induced fog, I knew this blog was one of my prime victims of recent neglect, but I felt absolutely spent and un-creative.  I felt I was in a position similar to ‘Confessions of a pope-less Catholic’, entirely stressed out and time-strapped for writing, yet this time around, I had nothing to say and was hung up on a few partially written entries.  The juices, as they say, were not flowing.  There was definitely news to report, from the Seventh Borough, but I just didn’t see the humor or entertainment value in anything going on.  So I made myself read some of my favorite ‘reads’: Ralph Gardner’s and Joe Queenan’s columns in the Wall Street Journal (these guys are not Finance guys, and they are funny!), The Smith Alumnae Quarterly (sure to light a fire under your butt as it makes you feel utterly unaccomplished, yet longing for tea and cookies), and I began my 40 credit hours of Continuing Professional Education self-study, because while there is little humor in a 325-page primer on ‘Fin46: Consolidations of Variable Interest Entities’, sometimes I feel I get good ideas after doing something very boring or dry.  Not that FIN 46 is that boring, it relates to the scenarios which created the Enron debacle, but does it really have to stretch over 325 pages????

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Like a pre-workout warm-up, I had to read stuff I liked, to write my own stuff I liked.  But I also had to avoid this cycle of try to write all the time - not do it - feel bad - get nowhere.  My original plan for one submission a week was, in hindsight, not realistic, at least not with the long-winded, minutiae-laden junk that I write (how many other bloggers make constant reference to their coffee wagon man?), and a full-time job.  So my new plan is to run in ‘seasons’, each with their own theme, with inevitable breaks in between each season, and try to publish 5-8 submissions per season.  All that stuff out there already, is Spring ’13 season.  The theme of that season was mostly the starting up of the Blog itself, with a few current event topics (‘Across Five Aprils’) interjected.    Starting here with ‘Cruel Summer’, my next few submissions for the Summer ’13 season will be, aptly, about Summer itself:  Baseball, beaches, birthdays, vacations and school, or the lack thereof.  I think this new approach will work out, and I think we’re starting off with a good seasonal theme.  After all, Summer is my middle name!

No, really, it is.

Welcome back to the Seventh Borough!

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