Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Portrait of the Artist in Repose

(Note: This is a repeat from back in January. I'm still trying to get on top of my life and have had neither the time nor the mental wherewithal to come up with something worth reading.

Or maybe I'm just demonstrating what a prodigy I am when it comes to the fine art of putting-things-off.

Anyway, enjoy! I'll be back soon...)


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."


"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?"


"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?


R Max said...

You are SOOO good.

I had this same procrastination moment at the drive-thru ATM machine where they considerately placed BRAILLE. So that the blind person could safely get their money from the comfort of the driver's seat of their CAR.

Makes perfect sense.

Sarah said...

Sooo glad its not just me!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

MommyJ said...

I remember this post, and I remember the discombobulator knobs at Smiths when I lived out west. So very annoying.

Thanks for the re-read, I laughed just as hard as I did the first time.

The family said...

Oh my gosh - my sides hurt!

L.T. Elliot said...

AND mounted an archaeological expedition to unearth my kids' bathroom.

HA HA HA HA HA! Dang, girl! You're good! I loved the bumps outside the grocery story. I frickin' HATE those things!

Melanie J said...

Oh, man, I'm such an amateur. My approach has been to just not do anything.

Clearly I have much to learn from you.

Kristina P. said...

Did he actually say the blind customer thing with a straight face?

And when are you coming back here? I need to smush that muffin in your face.

The Garden of Egan said...

Wow, you are a champeen! I'm gonna nominate you for the Nobel Peace Prize!
DaNae the new Noble Peace Prize winner simply because she's a procrasinator!
I totally heart you.

Kazzy said...

Are the blind people pushing carts? Sheesh

I have dropped gallons of milk in the parking lot and it is humiliating. Only, I had no bumps to blame it on.

wonder woman said...

I do this. All the time. When I have a task I think MIGHT be hard, I make it impossible in my head. I turn it into something that intimidates me. And then put it off till the last possible minute, when it really IS intimidating and impossible.

i.e. my bedroom right now.

The plight of the knobby sidewalk is a perplexing one. Their reasoning makes absolutely no sense.

Annette Lyon said...

I thought I was good.

And those knobs make no sense whatsoever.

M-Cat said...

You never fail to disappoint me. NEVER.......

Happy Mom said...

You make me happy!!!

This is true greatness in procrastination. I'm good, but you, you are poetry in motion!!! You have elevated it to the level of true professionalism.

My sights have been set higher and I will achieve!

charrette said...

You are definitely a pro! And unfortunately so am I! But thank you for making me shake my head in disbelief over the braille sidewalk!

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