Monday, December 19, 2005

Procrastination: a siren song

Back from a work trip to Philly. Shout-out to the good people at Fork, a restaurant where the food was so good that I think I showed my O-face as I ate the curry acorn squash over rice. My O-face--right in front of my coworkers and everything. How appropriate. The entree was followed by a trio of yummy desserts: flourless chocolate cake (my fave in all circumstances, ever), chocolate mousse, and blackberry-topped creme brulee. By the time the server asked if we wanted anything else--post-pomegranate-martini, post-FABULOUS-curry, post-dessert-spread-of-champions, all I could think was I don't know, maybe some sex? I mean, leaving there, I felt good and that would be about the only thing that could top it. So I went out and had sex! Just kidding. I did not go out and did not have sex. I am a lady of virtue. Do you hear me mom and dad? You raised A LADY OF VIRTUE--this daughter is anyway. (Ooh, snap! Madelyn!)

Now let's discuss a time when I was not so virtuous (not that kind of unvirtuous, what do you people think of me? Shees!) The kind of unvirtuous that requires a little story, another tale from Shepherdstown. Before beginning, I have to say that Shepherdstown was not the pivotal time in my life that it may appear to be based on the amount of air-time I give it here. Many other life experiences have shaped me far more than the just-shy-of-two-years-in-West-Virginia (challenge: make living in Angola sound light-hearted enough for blogspace!), but I can honestly say that I learned a lesson in Shepherdstown that I doubt I'll ever forget.

In my younger years, I was a procrastinator. I thought time was my play-thing. I thought of myself as Time's Worthy Adversary. Not consciously of course--I rarely even knew what time it was, or, arguably what time itself was. In my high school--nay, elementary through high school years--I awoke many amorning (and laid in bed listening) to my mom yelling at me to get out of bed and get ready for school. Many many many an all-nighter for college and grad school papers. I just didn't value time and the pleasure of taking it (truly the way to make it your bitch). Rather, I enjoyed the hunt. The hunt for lost seconds that just weren't there. If this light's green and every other light is also green and there's a parking spot open by the building's entrance then maybe I'll only be two or three minutes late to work. I can do it! Then when the lights are not all green and I have to park in the further lot and am thus eight or ten minutes late to work for a job that I am technically supposed to be 15 minutes early for everyday to report at shift-change, well, then you can only hope your scads and scads of charm will help smooth over the inconvenience.

By playing the Procrastination Game, you get lots of opportunities to develop your creative faculties--what with 10 hours to write a 20-page paper; powers of analysis--plenty of if-then scenarios; interpretive math--if the clock is 5 minutes fast and I'm 10 minutes away and I'm leaving when the clock says I should be there, etc; and endless chances of winning-over-the-miffed which is truly a life skill not just for customer service representatives, but for all of us. So I can honestly say that my chronic procrastination has improved me as a person. And my powers of rationalization. Really, though: being late for work everyday in an environment where people need you to show up so they can leave? I have to admit makes me kind of an asshole.

I truly never meant my lateness to be a sign of disprespect and think I did a good job of conveying that to others. Personal flaw and all of that. I didn't mean to be late to that group home job near Shepherdstown all the time, I was just comfortable on the couch and hated leaving my house for work before the re-run of Northern Exposure had ended. It's a fabulous show, you know? It didn't mean that I didn't care about my job or the girls who lived there or the staff who worked there, it just meant I was watching a good damn show on television instead of driving to my job. Surely anyone would understand that. Except my boss who put me on probation for 90 days for my tardiness. I was then on time. For 90 days.

Sadly, this was not the lesson I learned.

I so didn't learn it that I waited until the exact last day I could to send away a grad school application that through some mental alchemy I figured would still be on time for the deadline. Even though it had to get there on Monday. And it was Saturday. And the post office was about to close. Given my lifetime tally of head-to-heads as Time's Worthy Adversary (Time: 1,000,012 Starpower: 4), I should have known to not wait so long. Thus, I had to launch into the mental speech, Starpower, this always happens, why didn't you do this sooner?!, etc. Not so torturous as it sounds. It's almost for show, really, so that way I don't come off to myself as totally apathetic. Just apathetic enough to put it off, not apathetic enough to not care about it once the consequences are bearing down on me.

They were bearing down big time that Saturday almost-noon. The ink still drying on the application, I took the piles of papers, letters of recommendation (If you don't mind her gracing your class 10 minutes late every session...), essay and everything else that amounts to an application; shoved them all in the car and raced to the post office. To my shock--yes, shock (why oh why is the world so against me?!)--there was no parking spot immediately available. Not within a half-block in any direction visible from my car window, that is. Except for one. The one that's always available. The one you never take. Mental alchemy at work--aided by hefty body-doses of adrenaline, I think--I took the handicapped spot. I mean, what's ONE MINUTE, right? It won't take long for me to package all of the stuff and address it and wait in line and give it to the postperson and pay and leave. Of course not.

The line is long. Very very long. At first it was okay because I was then able to put it all together. But then I was finished. Ready to post. And STILL there were people in front of me. What gives? Then I recognized a woman who walked in a bit after I did. My mom worked at the library and this woman, real estate agent/rental property manager, went in there often. This was in fact the woman who told me about the farmhouse that I then went on to rent. Hmm, my property manager, if you will. I noted that she noted the tattoo on my arm, which she hadn't seen when I was signing the lease. A fairly uptight woman, she seemed to disapprove. We shared pleasantries nonetheless. It was all very these-are-the-people-in-your-neighborhood. Better yet, the post office line was finally moving.

I get to the front, hand over the documents and money and hope they reach the grad school on time (which, if memory serves, they did not). I exit the building and hear some sort of a hub-bub. A woman in a station-wagon with others in her car is yelling something. She's not parked, but idling in the street. I am on the steps of the p.o. and am moving towards my vehicle. My highly-illegally parked vehicle. As I get closer, I realize that she is yelling about my highly-illegally parked vehicle. Who the hell would park in this spot?! This is a handicapped spot!!! Who would do this?! Others are stopped on the sidewalk and are looking. I bite the bullet and advance. My very proper property manager has now exited the building and is now also watching the action unfold. I wince but continue on to my car--and the woman yelling from hers--readying my charm-the-miffed apology. The Yeller and I make eye-contact, she gets more enraged and the who-the-hells morph into Who the hell do YOU think YOU are to park here?! YOU'RE not handicapped! My MOTHER--sitting in THIS car--is handicapped! THIS car with a HANDICAPPED sticker on it! We have been driving around the block waiting for this spot to open up! She can't make it any further!


I apologize profusely. And mean it. I would have meant it anyway, but now I meant it and was scared. I get in my car, apologizing more, receiving tsks from all corners of the sidewalk and, especially, on the steps: the Property Manager narrows her eyes and shakes her head. I can almost hear the What would your mother think?

So, lesson MORE THAN learned. It more than answered my question about In the short time I'm going to be parked here, what are the chances... that's for sure. Now I never planned to routinely park in specially-designated parking places--other than spots with Starpower stenciled in, of course--but now I will NEVER even think of it again. I don't even use handicap bathroom stalls. The gravity of how uncool it is was made very very clear. With, in my opinion, a sitcom-like hilarity to it to boot. So that's good. A spoonful of sugar kind of thing.

Since I'm being all self-effacing (and you-effacing), I have to be honest. I am still a procrastinator at heart--and sometimes even in practice. You just can't tell anymore because I moved to California, where our kind rule. Play to your strengths or at least live in such a way that your weaknesses are less noticeable. And even if said weakness is procrastination--a handicap in many ways--never, ever park in a handicapped spot. Those are for people with physical handicaps. ONLY.


Blogger Andrew Lloyd Webber Raschke said...

I enjoy handicaps.

6:14 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

you really MUST come visit, you know?

4:48 PM  
Blogger Lo said...

Now let me preface this by saying IT WAS AN ACCIDENT PEOPLE! But I felt I should share my little anecdote to further illustrate your point, Starpower. I was juggling my infant and 800-year-old dog that was refusing to walk b/c of his bandaged foot on our way to get said bandage removed. Fast forward 15 minutes and, upon return to my car, I noticed the lovely aqua of a City of Norfolk's parking citation peeking out from under my windshield wiper. Turns out, in my haste, I failed to recognize the blue sign with the wheelchair on it, as well as the wheelchair painted on the actual parking spot my car was in. $250 later (c'mon, isn't that a little steep?), I can honestly say I will never make that mistake again. I guess handicapped pugs don't count.

11:08 AM  
Anonymous K-tel said...

So this is the story about why you won't use handicap stalls....and I read it while procrastinating on(?) my grad school applications.

3:18 PM  

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