Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Don't Lose Your Nerve 

After reading a brief article extolling the practice of reducing stress and increasing productivity by scheduling some quiet time, it occurred to me that I might benefit from some scheduled quiet time. I’m one of the millions of sad people who tend to eat their take-out lunch at their desks. Usually I click through a few videos or simply keep working. Lately, since the time change (end of daylight savings? Beginning of daylight savings?) I’ve found myself caught off guard by looking at my watch to find I’ve been in the office until the ugly hour of 7-7:30PM. Doing what? Endlessly chipping away at the rock that Sisyphus is pushing, presumably. Why? The excessive tricky daylight cunningly convinced me it wasn’t that late, but still… what’s the point? The sadness of my realization cannot be fathomed. I’m still here, no longer being paid, filling up the bucket of unearned labour for my employer because I do not have anywhere else to be.
“a black garbage can labelled “Waste”, the most accurate title I’ve ever seen on a rubbish bin”
Not today. It was an unseasonably warm and sunny March day so it seemed a fine idea to leave the tower I work atop and descend to the photon filled daylight to find some lunch. I walked to a nearby Sobey’s and bought a slice of pizza and a can of water (they have that now). I walked out into the brightness and found an empty picnic table. Moments after having bitten down on the first half of my slice of pie a wind of gusty intensity swept over me. As I reached to stop my can of water from spilling I thrust my arm out, only to realize my elbow was now one of my pizza toppings. When I lifted my arm to assess the mess, another gust whipped my remaining pizza slice off the table like a sheet of paper set free in an updraft. The pizza slice immediately slapped itself upon the concrete pavers. There it lay, $4 worth of cheese, tomato sauce and bread, on the ground. I gathered up my paper napkins, paper plate and abused lunch and dropped it in a black garbage can labelled “Waste”, the most accurate title I’ve ever seen on a rubbish bin.

I inhaled deeply through my nose and looked up at the bald-faced sun. I work on Toronto’s Waterfront (now named since apparently “Harbourfront” went out of fashion) where numerous benches and Muskoka chairs can be found. I parked myself facing the Lake while the sun glowered down on me. I sat for some time before I reached for my pocket to consult my phone for no particular reason other than habit. Yet my phone wasn’t there so I assumed I had left it on my desk. Perfect. I had ventured out for the very purpose of being away from my computer and phone so why not embrace it? Sitting on the plastic chair was surprisingly comfortable and momentarily I thought I would fall asleep but instead I watched as numerous people passed by running, strolling, walking a dog (or three), and all of them with one hand held in front of them, as though they were being guided by some magic compass, magnetically locking their gaze to their phone. I wonder if the dog knows she’s being ignored, I thought. The dogs didn’t seem to care and were much more focussed on their own olfactory version of social media. I stayed there until the boredom seemed excessive and bordered on contempt.

When I got back to my desk, I searched for my phone but didn’t see it which was worrying until I removed my jacket and felt the distinctive heft of a phone in the outside pocket. I’d had it with me the entire time. I concluded you really can ignore the pull of modern mobility if you focus your energy to believing you don’t have it with you. You really can disconnect from your devices if you want to, as long as you don’t lose your nerve and really concentrate on forgetting that you ever had the thing. For a minute there, at lunch, I lost myself by forgetting my magic compass. I didn’t miss it all. It certainly didn't miss me.

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