Sunday, February 1, 2009

Portrait of the Artist in Repose

I'm procrastinating.

Which, I add with no small degree of pride, is like Picasso saying, "I'm painting."

I am a world class, concert-level, weapons grade putter-offer. Seriously, folks, trained professional here. Don't try this at home.

At the moment, the putter-off-EE is a musical arrangement for symphony and chorus, which I've been working on for a couple of weeks. The idea is to take a simple, once-lovely tune, and kick it and stomp it and wrestle it and threaten its relatives until finally you've turned it into something a 40 piece orchestra and a choir can perform at their spring concert. However, this one is fighting back, fighting dirty I might add, and it's kicking my keister sixteen ways from Sunday. So I'm dealing with the problem of not having finished it by....um....you know, not finishing it.

But it wouldn't matter. The art, my true gift, is not manifest in the thing which falls victim to the procrastination; it lies in the procrastination itself. The methods employed in not doing whatever I am aggressively not doing - that's where the magic unfolds.

I'll do anything, including my most hated of tasks, if it means avoiding the monkey (or in this case, the woodwinds) screeching away on my back.

This week, I even grocery shopped. AND did laundry. AND vacuumed. AND mounted an archaeological expedition to unearth my kids' bathroom. See? I'm a desperate woman.

Now, anyone can simply 'not do what they really should be doing'. Heck, that's amateur stuff. "What're you doing?" people will ask. "Nothin'," comes the reply. Lame, lame, lame.

The mark of the procrastination craftsman is the ability to so thoroughly justify ignoring the Object Of Procrastination (or 'OOP', as we in the guild call it) that the procrastination itself goes virtually undetected.

This requires busy-ness with something noble and necessary. It can't just be going for a new 'personal best' in Spider Solitaire. And like any trained athlete will tell you, most of the game is mental.

For example, while I was grocery shopping at Smith's (the first event in my decathlon of off-putting) , I took what otherwise might have been merely a minor irritant and turned it into something so mentally consuming I simply could not think about anything else (particularly whether a trumpet player could sustain a high B for six beats without suffering a debilitating aneurysm) for the rest of the afternoon.

The sidewalk outside my Smith's store has hundreds of these inexplicable knobs all over it. They're like little hockey pucks, spaced maybe two inches apart, and the whole deal runs three feet out and covers the entire length of the store.

Now, imagine what a BUMPY sidewalk does to a cart filled with groceries, particularly if the shopper in question only visits the store once per presidential administration and therefore tends to load up a bit.

In my case, it so thoroughly discombobulated my cart that the milk - barely clinging to the bottom rails to begin with - was unceremoniously hurled onto the pavement, whereupon it was run over by the cart itself, which then saw fit to liberate the eggs I had carefully placed on top so as to not harm them (yeah, I'm laughing on the inside), which finally led to a somewhat robust bout of recommend-imperiling cursing from the cart navigator, yours truly.

(I claim immunity on the technicality that all those swear words came straight out of the bible...)

Fortunately, the grocery gods were smiling on me.

To my immediate rescue rushed two rather dapper looking gentlemen in shirtsleeves and ties. It turned out one was the Store Director, and the other was his boss, the VP in Charge of Looking Important, or something like that.

While they dispatched a teenager in an orange vest to collect replacements for the roadkill that only moments before had been the makings for a nice little omelet, they rescued the other victims, took charge of my cart, and even loaded my bags into the back of my Yukon.

So, as I had a free minute (on account of these charming gentlemen doing the heavy lifting, as it were) I decided to ask them what could possibly have possessed the architects of the store to install such a user-UN-friendly sidewalk immediately outside the doors.

I am not making up their answer:

Mr. VP said, "It's for our blind customers."

I waited for some indication that he was kidding. Nothing.

"Your blind customers?"

"Yes," contributed the Store Director. "It's so they know where the parking lot is."

"The parking lot."

"Yes."

"The sounds of traffic and the rush of air and the closing of the store doors behind them not being enough of a hint that they were, in fact, approaching the parking lot, I suppose."

I was merely trying to understand.

"Well...yeah, I guess..." Now no one was sure.

I queried further: "So, where are these blind customers heading, exactly?"

"Um....."

"To the parking lot? Where they'll......what? Load their groceries - those they could find after they had been bounced out of the cart by the discombobulator knobs - into their cars and then....

...drive home, maybe?"

They looked at each other. Clearly, neither man had given it any thought whatsoever; until now they had just been humoring the pushy housewife. But neither one wanted to look foolish in front of the other, and this one was a real stumper.

Finally, the VP said, "Well, I'm sure they would have someone with them. We wouldn't just send blind customers out of the store without assistance."

"Very considerate of you, to be sure," I replied. "And these helpers, presumably, would be able to see?"

"Of course."

"Then why do you need the knobby sidewalk out there in the first place?"

May I say, that little encounter kept my brain completely occupied for the remainder of the day? For the life of me I couldn't think of a single reason for the existence of the Smith's Sidewalk Discombobulator Knobs. Still can't, even after pondering about it and googling it and discussing it at length with anyone who couldn't demonstrate conclusively that they were dead.

And my whole week went like that!

I worried over the problem of where someone goes for help if they're addicted to 12-step programs.

I mulled over the incongruity of "flammable" and "inflammable" both meaning, you know, "flammable".

I mentally composed several letters to the editor on the subject of apostrophe abuse in retail signage. ("Car Stereo's! Speaker's! Illiterate Nincompoop's Making Sign's!")

In short, I retained my title as Heavyweight Procrastinating Champeen of the Universe.

But no more. It's back to the compositional grindstone for me. That music isn't going to write itself, you know. Although in an existential way it kind of does that already. I mean, could it not be argued that the music is always there, and we just affix subjective labels to it in an effort to quantify the ephemeral and.....

....am I good or what?

14 comments:

Lara said...

You're good indeed. I am a pretty darn good procrastinator, too. But I think I could stand to learn a trick or two from you.

The knobby things at Smith's seem totally weird, but as long as you only go once a year and they replace any groceries lost to the knobs, I suppose it's dealable.

Good luck on your arrangement!

Becca said...

"champeen"??? Do I spy a Homestar reference? (Which would make you super cool and in touch with the teenage generation.)

As for procrastinating, well. Like Scarlett O'Hara said, "I won't think about that today. I'll think about that tomorrow."

And the bumpy things at Smiths also beg the question: why braille on drive up ATM buttons???

Brooke said...

Grammar police here . . . I'm afraid it's bad form to end a blog post with an Object Of Procrastination. Isn't that what fouled up the whole inaugural oath of office? Tsk. Tsk.

(Oh, and by the way, your blog for some reason gives me the best "word verification" words. Today's is "spanxx." How'd you arrange that?)

brudcrew said...

Oh Denae, I bow to your procrastinating prowess! I only aspire to reach your proficiency! I am humbled in my amateur status. Although I do wonder if there is some ADD involved in the inability to focus on the task at hand? I think my children have sucked enough brain cells from my gray matter that I easily.... huh? what was I doing? cleaning the bathroom?
BTW, I have finally decided it is time for me to become literate and read "The Ultimate Hitchhikers Galaxy". I am only on page 20 and I have gained such insight into your writing style and mental state! My favorite quote so far is, "This must be Thursday, I never could get the hang of Thursdays."

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

You are a way better procrastinator than I am. I just don't get stuff done while also not getting other stuff done. It's ugly. And thank you for vocalizing your complaints at the store. Sometimes bad things can be fixed when a few thinking people open their mouths.

Jessica said...

I think that I would be better at getting things done if I tried to procrastinate them more. You managed to do tons while not doing what you should be doing. The degunking of the kid bathroom...that is a bit desperate for me.

Life in the Highlands said...

I'd leave a comment today, but then what would I do tomorrow?

Lisa Loo said...

You ARE my twin--seperated at birth. (Lucky you) If I could just out-think myself and figure out what I really want done and then procrastinate something else so that other thing would get done.Did I ever mention that once I created 3 ENTIRE photo albums instead of packing for a move???

wendy said...

Knowing now that I belong to a guild OOP makes me feel so much better about things. I am a worse procrastinator now that I am a blogger. Your stories are so funny and you have a great way of writing. You compose music?? Do you write books too?? The grocery store story is hysterical. What a crazy idea!! you sure had them baffled with trying to come up with a good idea for why theu were there in the first place.

Lesia said...

Oh, yes, go ahead and trash yourself as a procrastinator. But we procrastinators secretly know it is the process of procrastination that helps us create such astounding feats: beyond even the most creative even-paced achiever. By contemplating the action, obsessing over it, and, yes, even importing the crazy thing into our nightly dreams, we are able to honestly say, “Oh, it only took me a day, maybe two, to complete this project!” Then everyone oohs and ahhs over our vast talent and ability to pull something so fabulous out of our crinkled little hats at the last minute, while unbeknownst to them, that the “mental” process may have taken months! The only time that this did not work for me was when my lovely daughter was a newborn, often forgot to sleep and would spew six times the distance of her own tiny length of 22 inches! That really took a bite out of my well-oiled skills of hat-pulling miracles! But that hasn’t happened in 13 years! Talk about a scary couple of years!
As for those bumps, from one putter-offer to another….The bumps are there to discourage shoppers from taking out a cart with only a few items. Why be so irritated with the cart when you can carry your two bags of groceries? This saves the store SO much money in cart retrieval. Another theory is that the bumps irritate the skateboarders and discourages them from hanging out in front of the store. I think it was promoted by the same people who created the mosquito ringtone that was invented to discourage teens from hanging out in front of the store. You see, teens can hear this annoying buzzing and leave. Us oldies, the ones who listened to Loverboy and the Eagles WAY too loud are unable to hear the buzz and continue to…
What? My action research paper that I have needed to complete since last March so I can finally get my degree…No, I am busy explaining about the bumps….
Oh, gotta go!
Thanks for the distraction, Denae!

Amber said...

Wendy--YES!! She DOES write books. Well, one at least. Go on, DeNae, tell her about it!

"The knobs are there for our blind customers...to trip over." Or "they're there to scramble the brains of the newborn babies when their mothers push them across in the grocery carts."

I can see why we'd need those things here in Utah. They could aid in knocking the snow off the carts or shoes, thus preventing slip and fall, thus preventing a law-suit. But in Vegas? It just doesn't add up.

And last but not least. For some reason I'm still amazed at how talented you are. I knew you did this choir/orchestra thing, but it never occured to me that you actually wrote some of the music and arranged it and everything. You're freakin' Bethoven, dude!

MommyJ said...

And now I would like to be your very best friend.

So, so funny.

InkMom said...

The funniest part is that the official representatives of said grocery store did not know what the knobs were for either. Because they were obviously shooting from the hip when they said they were for blind people.

I cried because it was so funny.

And you know the arrangement will be better because you waited so long to do it . . . added stress and pressure tend (with some people, myself included) to improve the end result. Procrastinators rule the world!!!!

Scooby and Jon said...

I have somehow missed this post until now (I think because when it was posted I was a water retaining sea cow with a couple of parasites in my gut).
But the Smith's by our condo had those knobby thingies, and I hated them. Especially after those parasites were born- they'd be so sweet and sleeping, and then we'd hit the bumps, which felt much like entering a war zone, and up they were.