Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Undeniable Truth 

Your headache has arrived.

The last few weeks I’ve been working late and racking my brain around an entirely useless, inane and tedious project. Everyday there are meetings about how urgent this work is and if it isn’t completed we’ll potentially lose a multi-million dollar deal. This isn’t my mess. It isn’t even the mess of the bosses demanding the work. It’s someone else’s mess entirely. Yet, not only have the originators of said mess outsourced the fixing of it, but they’ve also outsourced the anxiety. I don’t even really care anymore but for some reason when someone is putting demands on you and the only way to shut them up is to deliver something, you do it. When it doesn’t shut them up and their insatiable need for more of the same isn’t met you start to wonder exactly why you are doing the stupid thing you are doing in the first place. It was against this backdrop last Friday that I began the day with a headache so monstrous it had previously starred in several mid-50’s era disaster movies set in Tokyo. I’m sure the headache was due to lack of sleep I’d had the night before. I was prevented from sleeping by my desire to put my fists through any available wall. I spent the Friday nursing my head, wincing at bright lights, working to make sense of the tasks at hand while trying not to vomit at my desk or poop my pants. At some point I couldn’t take it any longer and decided to call it quits and leave work early. It was 5:30 PM.

It was my hope that I could get home in time to take a handful of ibuprofen, put a warm compress on my forehead and take a deep and dark nap so that I might recover in time to attend a concert I had purchased a ticket for months before. As luck would have it, the drugs, compress and nap helped and within a few hours I was on a streetcar headed for Toronto’s Great Hall (it is pretty Great but not so “great” I’d name it that) to see the British rap/pop/funk/rock band The Go! Team. My head had stopped pounding but I was still a little light headed (which is why I didn’t ride my bike). For some reason and against all reason, I thought an overpriced beer might ease both my head and quiet my stomach. Again, against all reason, it actually helped, so I had another. As the warm-up act took to the stage I briefly wondered if I was in fact, too old for this crap.

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The truth? You can’t handle the truth. Well actually I’m pretty sure you can. I can’t. The truth is I’m not one for going out anymore. My bladder can’t handle the truth. The truth is if I go to a concert now I’ll have two watery beers, moan about the price, then spend most of the show waiting in a queue for the bathroom because downing a litre of diuretic liquid leaves me pissing half my body weight in pure gold. With the hindsight of age I’ve realized I only have two natural talents; the ability to immediately turn carbohydrates into fat and the skill to convert about 300ml of beer into 1 litre of urine.

As the coloured light strobed into my eyes and the amps blasted my head I had a handful of other revelations. I realized I’ve become an indulgent adult. With no one to answer to but myself I’ve become inconsiderate. I’m indulgent and inconsiderate of many things but primarily money and time. I don’t need too much so my spending habits would be considered miserly to most of my peers who spend a lot more on their children, pets, homes or travel. Not me. Yet I can’t remember the last time I packed a lunch for work so I buy take-out, not like once a week but all of the time. It’s not even quality take-out either from some little known but exquisite ethnic gem of a place. It is simply convenient. Then there are the stupid amount of shoes I seem to own. Or jackets. Why so many jackets that are so similar? Am I subconsciously hoping to open a store one day? I guess I like to have options. It seems every kind of weather deserves its own eccentric jacket or shoe combination. It’s like I’m on a quest to one day unlock life’s mysteries through outerwear and boots.

Of my time, I am much more careless. I practically give it away. Despite being a well compensated technology professional my contract with my employer clearly states I’m only expected to be available for 40 hours a week but I’m routinely at the office or at home working 50 hours or more. This is a conservative estimate and a number that probably pales in comparison to other working folks. To be honest, you can never really complain about working too many hours within earshot of a manager or executive who will tell you just how many hours they work. Entrepreneurs are even worse, and no, I don’t believe that number of hours you just said you worked (mostly just to see the look on your face when I say it). What these people fail to understand is I really am not in competition with them. I genuinely do not care how much they work. I’m in my body, in my life and I am paid to be at my office for only 40 hours. I have other things to do than churn out one document after another, one iteration after another, honing and polishing a design to make it slightly less terrible (oh, and it is terrible – I mean, I could go on in deep detail about this but it would be petty, mean and vindictive and make me look like an immense jerk).
“headaches that you affectionately nickname “Godzilla” or “Kong” or “Skull Crusher””
At the rate I’ve worked, I’ve easily given my job 10 extra hours a week, at least 40 times a year for years. I figure I’ve given away a year of my time since working at this company. I had the same habit at previous jobs too. And to what end? In the beginning, sure you want to give the extra bit of sweat or if you’re working for a small company, you may even have equity and reaching any immediate deadline feels like a real line of death. When I’ve worked for start-ups I didn’t put in extra time because I “believed in what we were building” nor did I do it thinking I was building value that would eventually pay off in equity. I did it to keep my job. Now I’m in a job that I don’t really want to keep that much. What’s more, the insane pace I’ve been on lately is actually not that different than the last two years. Oddly, there was a year when I was completely under worked. Did I leave early during that time? Nope. I went to the gym. I went for runs at lunch. I set aside time and took refresher courses online. I even took on additional work because I had the time. All of that stuff is what a lot of people call normal work days. So now, when a new manager asks everyone to really “step up” I don’t think they realize that a some of us had already “stepped up” and after awhile, stepping up gets really boring, frustrating, exasperating and tiring and winds up giving you headaches that you affectionately nickname “Godzilla” or “Kong” or “Skull Crusher”. Yes, I think I really am getting too old for this particular flavour of crap.

The Great Hall main stage during a Sloan concert. Image via BlogTO

Back at the concert where the sound mix had blurred guitar, vocals and synth into an unrecognizable fuzz and hum, I spent a moment admiring the fine craftsmanship of the renovation of the venue. It’s an older building that is kind of an iconic anchor to that part of Queen Street and was one of the original YMCA's in the city. The last time I had been there was for a wedding reception and at that time it had the charm and pastiche of a place beyond its years. This was the first time I’d been back since the renovation which was nicely done, respectful without being too precious. It’s funny to think you’re being distracted from very loud (and fun) music by the tile work in the toilet which I had visited several times (as I have previously noted). It’s also funny that at almost every live show I go to in Toronto I see a yoga-fit middle-aged woman, dressed with the body confidence of a much younger woman, dancing so over enthusiastically and unconventionally that she might be on acid (or amphetamines or maybe just cocaine). My guess is she never thinks she’s getting too old for this crap. I’ll raise a bottle of this expensive domestic beer to her — right after I relieve myself in this well appointed toilet.

When the show ended and the crowd had emptied into the street and waiting cars, I walked for a bit until a streetcar came. It was midnight which is considerably earlier than a lot of live shows would end so Queen Street was still busy with people coming and going. When I got off the streetcar, I was reminded I had skipped supper in lieu of my disco nap and it was catching up on me. The only thing open between the streetcar stop and my place was a Domino’s Pizza. I went in and picked from one of the three ready-to-go pizzas they had under the heat lamps (ie pizzas that had been ordered and never picked up). I paid the $14 with my debit card and noticed its original price was $24.95 and I wondered unselfconsciously who would pay $25 for lousy take-out pizza. Apparently there is some crap I’m still not old enough for.

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