Wednesday, August 26 2020

backup alarms, feeling like a work alien, and my scary ninja story

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! How is your Wednesday going? My day is already a remarkable improvement from yesterday. Thanks to a backup alarm, I sprung out of bed right when I was supposed to. I brewed coffee, placed a grocery order, and - I don't mean to brag, but I also showered today.

"If you have questions about backup alarms, let me know," said Marissa wryly. "You know - now that you're turning into a rissa."

I rubbed my chin, acting like I was confronting a hard truth. "I've never needed to use more than one backup alarm. Still not operating at your level yet."

It's no secret that Marissa doesn't like to wake up in the mornings. She likes to show off her slew of alarms, set to go off every five minutes over the span of an hour, and even then on some days I still have to shake her awake.

Marissa laughed. "If you want, you can do what I used to work mornings. Remember when I would set an alarm on your phone and just reach over and turn it off before it rang?"

"Ah, it's like a small doomsday device, with a grumpy spouse at stake" I replied.

Waking up was easy today. Thanks to Marissa for holding it down in the kitchen last night, I had plenty of time and energy to put things away and tee my Wednesday up for success.

Sip. I guess I'm leaning into the morning routines so hard because I still don't feel natural at work. I took notes. I chatted with people over slack. I even worked a few tickets and did some easy code changes. But no matter what I virtually shuffled around, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was an imposter. A con man posing as a software engineer. An alien in a skin suit, sent to earth to study the behaviors of a remote office.

"Don't worry if it doesn't feel normal yet," said Heath. "It took me like a full month before I felt natural again."

I think the remote aspect is to blame. In fact if not for a quick sync up with Heath in the late morning, I wouldn't have talked to anyone face to face all day. Thus far my return to work has been completely immaterial. My family is still hanging out and living their lives downstairs, just as we were all summer.

To amuse myself, I described the sensation to my family over lunch as if I were indeed a work alien. "So this work thing," I began. "It's not as fun as not working. It's like I have to sit there when I would rather be doing other things. But when I'm all done sitting there? Woah man - that's a good feeling."

Quitting time came. The first official work day on the books. I locked my laptop, and after collecting Rodney from his naptime, we joined Marissa in the kitchen.

"I have jobs for you two," said Marissa. "You guys want to husk corn?"

Rodney and I sat on the back porch, husking corn for dinner. When we had finished, Rodney led me to the front yard to show me some of the construction that was going on. This week, they've started to dig up some of the road on the corner of our house, and that has made us the proud stewards of a bright orange "ONE LANE ROAD AHEAD" sign.

"The sign says... NO WALKING," said Rodney, tugging on the velcro strap.

"Hey, no touching that," I scolded. "It may be in front of our house, but it's still not ours to mess with."

Marissa prepared a Mexican salad with chopped bacon and a side of corn on the cob. Since there was also corn in the salad, she redubbed the meal corn with a side of corn. Delicious nonetheless.

"So this came together pretty fast," said Marissa. "What should we do with our extra time?"

"We could go for a walk," I added.

"NO NO NO," said Rodney wagging his finger. "Dada, the sign says NO WALKING."

"You know," said Marissa. "Rodney was asking about the roller coaster today. Think we can finish it?"

Together we built the final segment of track, assembled the cart, and attached the orange cable all along the rails. Rodney was my parts guy.

2020 08 26 parts guy

My parts guy, zoning out on the job.

Before sending the cart on its maiden voyage down our beloved family quarantine project, we pulled Rodney aside for a quick conversation about troubleshooting.

"Troubleshooting?" asked Rodney.

"That's when you figure out why something is broken. And it's part of building things."

"It probably won't work the first time, honey," said Marissa. "But we'll figure it out, that's the fun in this stuff."

How cynical must we have sounded to Rodney, planning for our mighty roller coaster to fail before we even tried it! Nevertheless, we lined up the cart. The crank slowly carried it up the track. It paused at the top. Rodney gave it a nudge with his finger, and it inched forward. Slowly, like it was being pulled by an invisible string, the cart crept forward.

"Here is goes," I said.

The card ripped down the hill, climbed the first leg of the loop-de-loop, then crashed. It was an admirable attempt.

"Let's do it again!" yelled Rodney.

2020 08 26 complete

Not quite a functional roller coaster, but already a cool fort.

I put Rodney to bed. "We stayed up too late with the coaster, no story," I said bleakly. But I had one last surprise up my sleeve. The other day, Rodney asked me if I knew any bedtime stories about He, Miles, and n-jins, which I translated to ninjas. I stowed the memory away for the next time I put him to bed. Keeping the element of surprise, I clicked his light dimmer and jumped in bed with him.


Rodney stared straight ahead, his neck locked nervously as I went on to tell a tale of evil ninjas attacking our house.

"The ninja stood, lifting his gleaming sword into the air. He was getting ready to bring it down on Miles, when all of the sudden THWIP. A bolt of web from the shadows! It was Spider-Man Rodney!"

I finished my story, but Rodney was not pleased. He just awkwardly nodded and smiled, trying to hide his anxiety.

"Did I scare you dude? I thought you wanted to hear a story about ninjas?"

"Kinda pretty scary," said Rodney, his eyes skidding around his bedroom.

"Dada, n-jins means engines," said Marissa overhearing us in the hallway.

"Yeah," said Rodney. "M-m-motorcycles and monster trucks, dump trucks, excavators."

"You... wanted to hear a story about you and Miles... driving dump trucks?"

Rodney gulped, nodding.

"Dude, daddy screwed the pooch on this one. I'll tell you a better story tomorrow," I laughed.

"Why would you tell a story about Miles getting attacked by ninjas?" said Marissa, cross examining me as I left his bedroom.

"I guess I just got carried away," I laughed. "I wanted to tell a good ninja story."

"If he wakes up crying tonight..."

"I know I know," I said, waving my hand dismissively. "I'll get him."

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a wonderful day.