Saturday, February 08 2020

skeleton crews, pbs canvassers, and new independence



Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Hope this Saturday finds you well, and you’re finding energy this weekend. At the moment, Marissa is getting ready in the bathroom and Rodney is munching on some Peanut Butter Captain Crunch on the couch watching YouTube videos. Ziggy waits patiently in her crate, as instructed by Marissa. “Ziggy has no self control with peanut butter captain crunch - I don’t trust her,” she said.

I’m feeling good today. In a few minutes, we’ll hit the road for Chicago to celebrate cousin Alice’s birthday, but first, I’m going to knock out a journal entry while everyone is content.

Yesterday’s work day was nice. Our entire team took the day off, with the exception of me, Fong, and Alex. “We got the skeleton crew today,” I said as we gathered around for our morning stand-up. Fong looked puzzled. “That’s what they call a crew who is short on workers,” said Alex, shedding light on my jargon. “It can also refer to when your team is short on people, and they spend the day dressed wearing matching skeleton costumes,” I joked, dancing like a skeleton to emphasize the terrible joke.

After clearing up the American jargon, we quietly worked on projects through the morning, and in the afternoon Alex broke out some Japanese whiskey he received as a gift. We sat around his desk sipping on whiskey and chatting, and I remained by their desks through the afternoon without my computer, riding shotgun while Alex took me through a configuration library he was designing. “I hope you all don’t mind me hanging out here,” I remarked. “I think I’m sometimes a better listener without my computer to distract me, and I’d like to listen to what you’re working on.”

We concluded the work day with our end of the week meeting, enjoying a few more sips of whiskey while we chatted about work, home life, and what this year looks like for us. Fong perked up, hearing I’d be temporarily living on Willie street for a week while our floors were refinished. “We’ll be neighbors,” she said, taking out her phone and showing me her favorite spots on Google maps. I informally agreed to beach outing with the dogs.

I jumped the bus home, where I found Marissa busily working on a painting in the basement. I peeked my head into the resin tent and greeted her. “What do you feel like for dinner?” I asked. Marissa, stared blankly and shrugged her shoulders. “Feel like going out?” I asked. She nodded, and I happily ran upstairs to crash on the couch with Ziggy until dinner time.

Soon, Rodney joined me on the couch after waking up from a terrible dream. He was in such a bad mood, he barely greeted me before nestling under his blanket on the couch, sheepishly asking me to put on water slide videos. “I’ve got a better idea, dude,” I said. “Have you ever seen a roller coaster?”

Roollerrr… coaster…?, repeated Rodney. “Dude, they’re awesome,” added Marissa joining us on the couch. “It’s like a water slide without any water.” I took a moment to appreciate how odd, but accurate of an explanation that was. Could you imagine using those words to describe a roller coaster to someone who’s only seen water slides?

We spent the next forty minutes lounging around on the couch watching videos of roller coasters, eventually transitioning to skateboard videos. As we lay there soaking up a precious, lazy Friday afternoon, there was a loud rap on the door. Marissa looked at me and rolled her eyes. “I’ll get it,” I said, groaning while emerging from a pile of blankets and snuggles.

On our porch waited a thin, pale younger kid bundled up in a winter jacket and gloves. He was holding some pamphlets and a clipboard - the dark harbinger of a terribly awkward conversation. “Good evening, how are you?” he asked while staring at me blankly. “Do you have a moment to talk about the financial needs of PBS?” I patiently listened to his pitch, waiting for an inlet to dismiss myself, but he was persistent and tenacious. “I’ll take care of it online later,” I said, waving my hand dismissively and reaching for the door knob. “Sir, I’m going to be honest with you, most people who say they will sign up online don’t follow through, and I’d really like to get you set up right now, tonight.” Almost as if being conned by a slimy street magician with crafty sleight of hand, suddenly instead of holding my doorknob, I was holding his clipboard, turned to a blank page with a sign up form. “I’m different. I promise you,” I stated, gently shoving the clipboard back into his arms. “I follow through with things.”

“Sir, but you already admitted you find PBS programming valuable,” he interrupted me. Suddenly his tone changed, like I was about to be fingered for a murder.

“I promise you. I’ll do it online,” I repeated, wrapping my fingers more tightly around our doorknob. The canvaser surrendered, nodding and trudging away from our door. Spoiler alert - I didn’t sign up online. Yes, at some point in the awful conversation, I admitted to finding PBS programming valuable. But it’s 2020. You can’t bully people during dinner time on their front porch. That’s the kind of psychological warfare that’s only socially acceptable on the Internet.

“OK, I’m getting hungry, can we get on with this night?” I said clapping my hands, trying to get everyone off the couch. Marissa frowned at me, and I immediately realized my error. “Sorry,” I admitted in a softer tone. “That PBS guy really put me in a bad mood.”

We jumped in the car and found a table at Glass Nickel. I enjoyed a beer and a toasted BLT while Marissa and Rodney polished off a veggie pizza. At some point, Rodney flagged down the waitress to tell her about all the animals he saw in the zoo, and she was a good sport about it, thanking him for letting her in on the day’s events. We paid the check and headed home. The beer and the sandwich put me in a good mood, and the pushy PBS canvasser that put me in a bad mood was a distant memory.

While putting Rodney to bed, I was suddenly inspired to try something new. “Hey Rod,” I said. His head perked up. “You’re wearing a diaper, would you mind getting your pajamas on then brushing your teeth? I’m going to start a load of wash.” Rodney nodded, and there was a new sparkle of independence in his eyes. I trudged downstairs with a basket of laundry. Marissa spied on Rodney from around the corner in her gallery.

“He did really well,” said Marissa as I was coming back up the stairs. “You should have seen how carefully he rinsed his toothbrush.” Rodney was in his room seated at the foot of his bed. He looked like a tiny Mr. Rodgers, carefully stepping into each of his slippers in preparation for bed time. I read him a story, then tucked him in for the night.

Hope you all have a wonderful Saturday. If you see Alice, wish her a Happy Birthday. And if you see someone with a PBS clipboard at your door this evening, do yourself a favor and wait until they walk away.