Tuesday, August 25 2020

emails, slip n slides, and getting my ass kicked by a frozen chicken

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone. Happy Tuesday. It's an honor to be here alongside you in an actual work week for a change. I've got a fresh outfit on. I'm enjoying the first few sips of a fresh, piping hot pot of coffee - I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

The plan this morning was to wake up early, catch up on dishes, shower, and with some coffee, perhaps stand out on the deck for a moment of reflection about the summer before jumping into work again. If it were a movie, what I was picturing this morning would have been scored by something orchestral from Hans Zimmer. A dramatic montage of me doing yoga outside, like Tom Cruise in the Last Samurai. Maybe even throw in a gleaming sunrise if it didn't look too contrived.

But I didn't get the long, thoughtful montage of reflection out on the deck this morning. My head shot up almost an hour and a half after my alarm allegedly went off. I woke up to a suspiciously bright bedroom. I greeted the day with a gruff string of cuss words as I sprang to my tired feet.

And so the work week begins like a comedy. I'm the disheveled protagonist, bouncing around the house in the morning to... I don't know... yakkity sax or something. Brewing coffee with one hand, feeding the dogs with the other, and I spent as much time in the shower as I would running through a sprinkler outside.

I would have liked to have more time this morning, but it's not so bad. Once I sit down at my computer, the morning routine is a distant memory.

Sip. I kicked off yesterday by cleaning up my upstairs office. Sweeping under the chairs, wiping off my desk with Windex, cleaning my monitor with a little alcohol rag. It was like therapy for my soul.

"Did you... clean this chair?" said Marissa sitting down in her usual spot in the corner.

"No - I just cleaned everything around it. And it must have rubbed off on the chair," I replied.

My fancy new pair of noise cancelling headphones completes the remote worker paradise. I booted up my sleepy work computer and put on some gospel music, then got to work updating software and taking my calendar off of vacation mode. The big project of the morning was going through my email.

I had about five hundred unread messages waiting in my inbox. It's not like I was going to sit there and actually read all of them - work email doesn't work that way. Plus, after three months of leave, most of it wasn't applicable to me anymore. I missed the remote tech summit we held this summer, there were boatloads of announcements about the shift to mandatory remote work for the rest of the year, and everything after that was just spam from Thousand Eyes (Thousand Eyes? More like a Thousand Emails).

Having such a full mailbox proved to be a great testing ground to spruce of my gmail filters. In less than an hour, once again I had gmail the way I liked it - everything read and archived - a completely uncomfortable white screen.

We ate some lunch, and I returned to my computer to keep chipping away at my TODO list. With my email and calendar set up again, I was off and running on the fun, less important part of my list, updating some of my personal scripts and cleaning up configs.

Out our bedroom window, I could hear Marissa and Rodney laughing in the front yard. Marissa had set up the slip 'n slide for Rodney, and the giggles creeping in through the window must have meant that he was getting the hang of it. I took a coffee break on the front porch and asked for a demonstration.

Rodney fastened his lizard goggles over his face, his eyes obscured by murky yellow lenses. He took a few steps back and flopped on his belly, army crawling down the length of the slip and slide. Marissa shrugged.

"Rodney, let's show him the other game he made up," said Marissa. Marissa took a power stance and flexed. "I'm... THE LIZZARD" the screeched. Rodney swiftly dodged an attack, rolling between her legs in the last moment.

"I feel a little jealous," I laughed. "It's like I had to go back to school while all my friends are still on summer vacation."

Marissa was handling the return to full time Rodney duty gracefully. Breaking out a slip 'n slide on a Monday morning was ambitious, but not without reward. Rodney would be zapped the rest of the day, taking a long nap and biding his time before dinner with some quiet video games.

"Don't laugh, but I'm really sore too," said Marissa. "I don't think this slip and slide was made for adults. That thing hurts."

At quitting time, I locked my laptop and headed downstairs to start on dinner. I had a chicken thawing in the basement sink all afternoon, planning to roast it in the oven with potatoes and onions. And just because I was feeling cocky, I sliced up the rest of our zucchini and Brussels sprouts too.

The trouble started after I took the chicken out of the plastic. The inside was still a frozen, but since I could pull the legs apart wide enough to stuff (and visually confirm that there wasn't any plastic inside), I decided to press on. I stuffed the bird with shallots, parsley, and garlic cloves, and trussed it on my cutting board.

"Four hundred degrees for fifty minutes," I said thinking aloud. "How about... let's do four twenty... for an hour." I had to make up for the still frozen center, after all.

An hour passed. The oven timer rang. I cracked open the oven door to check how things were progressing. The chicken had started to brown on top, but the vegetables were still ghostly white. I checked the temperature, and as soon as my thermometer broke the thigh, it gushed dark red. Crap.

I walked a lap around the kitchen and took a deep breath. "Don't worry about it," I said quietly. "It's only seven. Give it another half hour and set out some bread."

I slid the tray back into the oven and joined Rodney on the computer, who was absent-mindedly clicking around the Nick Jr. website.

"Whatcha watching, dude?" I asked.

"Oh, hi dada," he said. I handed Rodney a piece of buttered bread. "Thanks," he said placing it beside the keyboard.

The oven timer rang. The chicken was darker, but the vegetables were still undercooked. The temperature of the bird told me we still had a way to go. I started to get frustrated.

"Calm down," I told myself. "It's only 7:30. We can eat at 8 - it's no big deal."

Using my biggest knife, I cut the back out of the bird to split it open, hoping to speed up the cooking. Hidden in the center of its chest cavity was a round little ice cube shaped like a rib cage. That explained why the vegetables were taking their time - they were practically sitting in an ice bath. I sighed, throwing the ice cube into the garbage.

I removed the chicken and tried to broil the vegetables dry. I ended up just finishing the chicken in the microwave. While getting the plates out, Marissa began to tee up a joke, but I gruffly cut it short.

"I don't want to joke about this right now," I said before slumping into my seat.

After about fifteen minutes picking at microwaved chicken and grey vegetables in silence, I willed myself out of my dark place.

"I'm disappointed I didn't just throw all of this away earlier. I could have saved us a lot of time and cleanup if we just ordered a pizza or something."

"It's OK," said Marissa. "I think it actually tastes pretty good."

Rodney took a bite of his food, and in a sudden panic started to fan his mouth. "WOW SO spicy," he said taking a swig of milk with his mouth full. I held out my hand, into which he spit a full clove of grey garlic.

"What was your joke?" I asked.

"What?" said Marissa.

"The joke you were going to tell?"

"Ah," said Marissa, gathering herself. "You know Pam, in Spain they often don't even start eating until midnight."

I cracked a smile. "That's funny. Sorry for being an ass."

So sleeping through my alarm this morning after getting my ass kicked by a frozen chicken the night before - not the way I would have wanted to start off my first work week. But that's what I'm working with today. I'm still right where I'm supposed to be.

Have a great day everyone.