Monday, April 24, 2017

How You Know It's Monday

This is how you can tell it’s Monday. But to fully explain it, we take the Wayback Machine to Saturday night. Well, actually Friday night. You see, the kids had spent Spring Break at Disneyworld with their dad, which meant that I didn’t get them back until Friday evening. They were supposed to go camping on Saturday, but since they’d walked roughly 50,000 miles during the week and hadn’t been home in six days, they decided they just weren’t up to camping. That’s all well and good, as I always miss them when they’re not home – until they’re home for about 15 minutes and start sniping at each other, at which point I don’t miss them as much. But I digress. 

So my Saturday was thrown off, because it’s hard to work when they’re unexpectedly home. So I was falling progressively behind. At about 10 PM on Saturday night, I had the choice of either working late or going to bed early and starting work early on Sunday. In my vain attempt to have a regular sleep pattern, I decided to go to bed early and get to work at 7 AM on Sunday and kick everything out by noon, so I could spend the rest of the day with the boys. (This always sounds so plausible in my head.) 

I do manage to fall asleep at about 11 PM. Victory! About 45 minutes later there’s a loud explosion. That’s not hyberbole. A really loud explosion.  The power goes out. But we have a whole home generator, which kicks on immediately. And sits right outside my window. And sounds like a jackhammer. I get out of bed to check and make sure the air conditioner is off. You should not run the air conditioner on the generator.  (The thermostat in my house is haunted. Even though I have expressly forbid anyone else to touch the thermostat, whenever my back is turned, it is mysteriously set to “arctic,” which at my house is an actual setting. I blame the boys’ father, who always kept the house at a temperature suitable to play ice hockey in. That seems to be an inheritable genetic trait. Although neither child will ever admit to being the one who set the thermostat to “Minnesota in January.” ) The air conditioner is off. I check the outage map on my phone. Whatever blew affected only 12 houses, all on my street. We can get into an argument later about whether Thor was trying to specifically smite me and missed. 

I trundle back to bed. I try and watch something on Netflix on my phone, because that invariably puts me to sleep. I start with a Danish crime drama that was recommended to me. I forget by whom, but they are stupid and evil. I become annoyed with the moody Danes and move on to a horror movie. I could tell the director had good intentions, but he would be better off working a key-duplication kiosk at the mall. Strike two. The jackhammer is still going, so I check the outage map again. ETA on power restoration is 7 AM. Lovely. (The S/O later asked me if there isn’t a way to turn off the generator. I’m sure there is. I don’t know it. A well-placed axe blow might work, but seems inadvisable at this juncture.) I finally do drift off somewhere south of 3 AM. I am awoken at about 5:45 by sudden silence. The power is on, the generator is off. But it’s really cold. Too cold. I trudge to the hallway. Someone has turned the thermostat to 60 degrees. When this happened, I don’t know. No will admit to doing it, of course. I turn the air conditioning back off, and go get back in bed because it’s freezing, but just for a few minutes.  This was a mistake. All of the sudden it’s 11:45. I was supposed to be done with work at noon. That’s not going to happen. 

But there are bills to be paid and a full inbox so I start to work. Nick comes in a while later in a panic. He’s worried about his country report, so I put work aside so we can knock out a rough draft for him to take to his teacher. “Knock out a rough draft” when dealing with a picky and indecisive 11-year-old takes a lot longer than you would think. It took us an hour to choose a font for the cover page.  And then you try condensing every fact about Japan into six pages. It’s harder than it sounds. I feel like I’m compounding his indecisiveness, so when the S/O calls at 5-ish to ask if I want to go walking at City Park, I jump at the chance, telling Nick to keep writing, and I’ll help edit when I come back. 

I’m gone for a couple of hours, because it’s a lovely evening and the weather is nice and I really don’t want to know any more about Japan. In my head, I’ll come back and Nick will have finished the last four pages and we’ll spend 30 minutes or so editing and be done with it. When I come through the door, Nick is in his room watching MST3K.  I ask him how the report went, and he says he “wrote some” but needed more help. Well, it’s nearly 8 PM, so we make dinner, eat, and then head back out to the office. 

“Wrote some” turned out to be a sentence. At which point he was stricken by writer’s block. Sigh. So it’s back to work. Loch comes out and mentions he has to do a paper too. Of course he does. He says he’ll wait until Nick is done. I realize, at this point, Nick may never be done.  It is a slog. Loch comes back an hour later. I tell him to do his Sunday night chores, which include doing his laundry, cleaning his bathroom (because teenage boys are filthy disgusting animals) and taking out the trash, which means emptying the trash cans in my bathroom, my bedroom, Nick’s bedroom, Loch’s room, Loch’s bathroom, and the kitchen, sorting the recyclables out, and then taking both the bagged trash and recyclables out and taking the cans to the curb, because the trash pickup is Monday morning around 6 AM.  This is the same routine every Sunday night, so it is not a surprise.

Fast forward to 11 PM and finally Nick’s rough draft is done. I send him to bed and fetch Lochlainn, and we finish his paper at midnight. As he’s heading out the office door, he tells me, “Oh, by the way, I don’t have my school clothes here.” His school clothes are at his father’s apartment an hour away. Nice to know at midnight. 

It is now officially Monday morning, and I haven’t done any work. This is the point where I either commit to trying to get 4-5 hours of sleep or just staying up and pulling an all-nighter. In the vain hope of not being exhausted in the morning I decide to chuck it and try for sleep. The minute I set my alarm my door opens. It’s Nick. He woke up because he forgot to do his laundry. Okay, I tell him, I’ll take care of it, because he needs to have his school clothes in the morning. So I get up and blindly shove the contents of the hamper into the washer, then wait for an hour so they can go into the dryer, realizing that 4-5 hours of sleep have turned into 2-3 hours of sleep. 

The alarm goes off at 6 AM. We need to leave no later than 6:30, because it’s at minimum a 45-minute drive on the Interstate to the town they attend school in, and we have to make the stop so Loch can change clothes and won’t be tardy at 7:40. I go to pack Nick’s lunch. He doesn’t have his lunch bag, which is also at the apartment. Never mind, I keep a five dollar bill in my purse for cash emergencies, so I’ll just give him that to buy lunch. I tell him to get his school clothes out of the dryer. He comes from the laundry room empty-handed. He forgot his school clothes at his dad’s too. So I stayed up to do laundry for no reason. Double sigh. I tell him to go back to his room and grab his backpack, while I let the dogs out. Biz is a 16-year-old lab who needs help getting up in the mornings, because he’s  old and the house is always freezing. As I’m going back to get Biz, I notice that the trash is not emptied. Because of course it’s not. Hoping that I haven’t missed pick-up, I yell at Loch to get Biz while I start gathering the trash. As I’m sorting out the recyclables, Loch tells me he can’t find Biz. So the dog is lost somewhere in the house, and garbage truck is due any minute and it’s 6:25.  As I head down the hallway with a bag full of aluminum cans to see if the ancient dog has wandered into the closet, I notice a lump in Nick’s bed, which turns out to be Nick. Who laid back down and fell asleep because Lochlainn was “taking too long.” I’m not yelling and throwing things yet, but I’m close. Now Nick is up, I have the trash, and my mom comes in from her apartment to tell me she let Biz out because he had made it to the living room without assistance while we weren’t looking. At least we’ve found the dog. I fling the trash at the boys and get in the car, where I realize belatedly that I was supposed to get gas on Saturday, but forgot. Me and the dog are both old, confused, and cold.

It’s 6:32. Hopefully traffic will be light. I stop for gas and while I’m pumping, send Loch in to get me some caffeine, because the 2 hours of sleep is not quite cutting it and dog forbid we should all die on the highway. Loch has not returned by the time I’m done, so I go in after him. He’s behind a woman who is trying to pay for her Polar Pop with either Canadian pennies or craft animals fashioned from lint at the bottom or her purse, I’m unclear as to which. Eventually a deal is struck and she moves along.  I don’t check the time because it would just make my head hurt. 

About 15 minutes into the drive, I have a horrible thought. Each of the boys has a key to their father’s apartment. Neither of the boys is ever in actual physical possession of the keys. I hesitate but finally ask Lochlainn where his key is. Of course it’s “at the apartment.” I ask Nickolas, and his key is hanging on a hook on the back of his door at home. My ex-husband commutes an hour to work the opposite direction, and I doubt he’d look kindly upon my breaking into his apartment. I yell at Lochlainn to call his father and see if he’s still at the apartment. Amazingly, he is, so I tell Lochlainn to tell him to stay put until we get there. Then I proceed to yell some more at the boys, demanding to know if they ever get tired of me yelling at them, because it sure seems like they don’t. They don’t have any school clothes, keys, lunch sacks, the trash is not out, and the temperature in the house is the equivalent of the Antarctic research station at the end of John Carpenter’s THE THING, when everything has burned down and Kurt Russell is waiting to either freeze to death or be consumed by the space critter wearing Keith David’s skin. At this point, I would welcome being consumed by a space critter. Or freezing to death. I’m not picky. 

I pull up at the apartment and order my children out of the car. They are the slowest beings on earth. They look like Ray Harryhausen stop-motion animation dinosaurs. I watch them meandering up the stairs to the second story of the fourplex while I check the time. We might make it. I wait, and wait some more. One child emerges. He has made it down the stairs, across the street and to the car by the time the second child emerges. SLOWEST BEINGS ON EARTH. 

I refrain from peeling out once they’re in the car, but barely. We make it to the high school at 7:38.  I drop Nick off at his school, remembering to give him the emergency fiver from my purse. Whew. Then I make my regular stop at the Hoppin’ Harleys for a biscuit and some more caffeine, because, dammit, I’ve earned it. 

I get a Coke Zero and get in line. You know how I said my children were the slowest beings on earth? I was wrong. Ahead of me in line are three middle-schoolers trying to decide what they want for breakfast. At least I’m gratified to know my 11-year-old’s indecisiveness is not unique to him. Finally they decide on sausage biscuits. No. Not sausage biscuits. Do they have chicken wings? No. Not chicken wings. Three servings of bacon. Where are their parents? Why is this roving pack of sixth graders out alone? Oh, they forgot to get drinks. It’ll be just a second. 

I’m back on the road with my biscuit.  I get on the interstate and I’m a mile from the junction to get on the other interstate. In the list of things you don’t want to see when driving on the interstate,  someone pulling up beside you and honking and gesticulating wildly while pointing at your car has got to be right near the top. So, of course a helpful women in a little red coupe does just that. Hell and damn. 

I pull off at the next exit and into a service station. Sure enough, it’s the dodgy right rear tire, which randomly goes a little flatish. New tires are on the list, but the list is long and getting longer. I usually check it when I get gas, but, well, this morning I was preoccupied. I know that if I air it up, it’ll be fine for a few weeks. Luckily there’s an air station here and I check and it takes $1.50 in quarters. It’s not until I get inside to get change that I realize that I gave my emergency cash to Nick for his lunch. The woman at the counter is apologetic when she tells me I can’t get cash back with a purchase. But there is an ATM machine. Of course the ATM machine wants $2.75 for the privilege of dispensing $20 of my own money. At this point I can’t make a stand on principle. I just want to go home.

I get my $20,  buy another drink, get my change and head back outside, where I see three workmen in a truck with a trailer pulling up to the air station. You know how I said middle-schoolers trying to choose breakfast are the slowest beings on earth? NO. Workmen on a Monday morning are the slowest beings on earth. And as a corollary to women not being able to go anywhere without each other, men can’t go anywhere WITH each other. Each guy goes in independently to make his purchase, and the next can’t go in until the other has returned. 20 fucking minutes waiting for them to finish their arcane breakfast ritual and vacate the air station.  

I air up the tire and get back on the road. Upon merging onto the interstate, the check engine light goes on. I try to remember if solid or blinking is worse, and fail. Ordinarily, I ignore things like check engine lights. But the S/O, who is a mechanical whiz, has repeatedly explained to me that it is unreasonable (actually I think he used the words “crazy” and “irresponsible”) to assume that mechanical problems will spontaneously heal themselves if you ignore them long enough. He called it “magical thinking” like it was a bad thing. Whatever.

But the last time the check engine came on, it was because I hadn’t turned the gas cap far enough to hear the final click. Why this would cause the check engine light to come on is beyond me, but that’s what the mechanic told me. He said to reseat the gas cap and drive about 40 miles and see if the light goes off. It did. Seeing as how I had just gotten gas in a rush at 6:30 in the morning after two days of little sleep, I decide to roll the dice. I stop, reset the gas cap and get back in the car. It’s about 40 miles more to home, so I listen to NPR and keep an eye on the treacherous check engine light. Of course, now I need to pee, because I’ve drank roughly a gallon of Coke Zero this morning, and every single damn thing has taken 30 times longer than it should have. I’ve been in the car long enough that the NPR feed has looped and I’m hearing the same stories I’ve already heard once, and most of them are about how Donald Trump is certifiably insane, like I hadn’t noticed. I keep trying not to notice it, but it’s nearly impossible when you have to check outside the window every few minutes to assure yourself there are no mushroom clouds. Although nuclear annihilation would probably render the check engine light obsolete. 

By the time I reach my driveway, the check engine light has winked out. Either because it really was the gas cap, or because it has given up trying, like most of America. My GPS reads “WELCOME HOME” with a happy little exclamation point. Indeed.