Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Insomniac, Part 7

Harold liked classical music, but hated the announcer between the long symphonies. She sounded depressed and she complained about the weather. 

"We all live in Seattle, you idiot.  It rains.  Get over it," he yelled at the radio as he backed out of his driveway.  He wondered how much gas he'd save if he didn't have to drive around the little traffic circles in the middle of the street every day.  The streets were too narrow too.  Sometimes it seemed a little dicey, like trying to maneuver a wheelchair through the clothing racks at a department store. 

His phone rang.  The damn phone always rang once he got into his car and he'd never figured out how he could get the phone and the hands-free going while he was trying to dodge traffic circles and parked cars.  Roger often called to work out problems about work at 7:53 when he knew Harold would arrive in about thirty minutes.  What the hell was flex time all about if he couldn't relax and get to work at 8:30?  Harold wanted to tell Roger he was an idiot.

"Roger, keep your pants on. I'm driving my damn car and I can't fix your problems right now," he yelled without actually answering the phone.  He drove up over the curb of another tiny island. 

"What the fuck!" he yelled.  The grinding metal against concrete jangled his frazzled nerves.  He wondered if this was what it was like coming back from the war, jumping at the sound of cars backfiring and helicopters flying overhead.  No, he knew it would be much worse if he'd gone to Iraq.  He knew if he'd signed up, he wouldn't have come back alive.  He didn't know how the soldiers slept at all.

Harold liked to wonder how different people slept.  He considered the President.  Did the man have an alarm set for 5:00 am every morning, or did a secret service man come and shake his shoulder?  Did you have to be a morning person to be the President?  Harold hated morning people.  The cheerfulness, the self-righteous attitude.  Roger liked to tell him he was up at 5:00 am every morning, so Harold had gotten into the habit of telling him when he was up at 3:45 or 4:15 in the morning.  It didn't shut him up.  Anne was a morning person.  She woke up slicked back and clean.  She didn't even have morning breath, though back when they shared a bedroom, she wouldn't even kiss him until he'd brushed his teeth.  He felt like that was the beginning of their breakup, when he stopped leaping up to comply.  He also blamed his hairline.  He looked and felt like a different man than when he had hair, but in all reality, he thought, he was probably just as much of a dork back then and just didn't realize it.  Harold didn't like thinking about that.  He wondered, if the President were allowed to really sleep, could he get through the four years without getting so old and gray the way most Presidents did.  He didn't imagine you could be President and really sleep. 

Harold sat at a long light to get onto the bridge.  It let through three cars each cycle.  He wasn't even on the same block as the light yet. 

He sometimes wished he could go into an isolation chamber to sleep.  Maybe that would help.  He daydreamed of silent and dark rooms with deeply comfortable beds and down pillows.  No phones chirping.  No LEDs glowing beams through his brain.  The master bedroom in his house had skylights.  Even at night, light from the city glowed over his head.  What kind of an idiot would put sky lights over a bed?

He thought about waking up this morning, 5:33 am.  He had sat at the edge of his bed long enough that he'd fallen asleep again and the alarm had gone off on his phone.  He had to get up to turn it off.  The hell of it was that there was a plug behind the headboard so he could have charged his phone up where he could turn it off without getting up, but he'd have to get on his knees, crawl under the bed as far as he would fit, which wasn't very far, and stretch out to plug the damn thing into the socket.  He hadn't bothered.  Even if he had, he thought, the damn cord would probably keep falling down behind the headboard and making him repeat the process over and over. 

He thought of the myth of Sisyphus.  Harold imagined himself nearly getting to the top of that hill only to have the stone fall back down every time.  Then he'd have to start all over again.  Of all the Greeks, Sisyphus was the one that he got.  He thought of the poor guy every time he looked at the pile of dishes on the counter.  It was never ending. The leaves in the yard worked that way too.  It seemed that everyone else in the neighborhood had beautiful green lawns with not a brown leaf in sight. Harold would blow his leaves into a pile and lose them before he fit them all into the yard waste bin only to have them strewn around his lawn by a stiff breeze. 

Harold also had a coworker who loved turning him into Sisyphus.  Harold would get the stupid format of the 364 1/2 page document ready and in the form that had been decided upon by the committee.  He still couldn't believe they wouldn't just let him decide on simple things like that.  His boss formed the committee of people from different departments, an electrical, a CAD designer, a systems engineer, a software guy, and him, the sole technical writer.  They met, according to the rules they set up, on a biannual basis, defining biannual as twice a year instead of once every two years.  Harold hated words like 'biannual.'  Nobody liked coming to those meetings, though he tried to make them easier by bringing Dunkin Donuts back when they still existed.  They all blamed Harold for holding the meetings. 

It came down to this - Helvetica, twelve point, a space before paragraphs.  Everything was defined down to the header indentations.  Boring. 

So, the systems engineer, Mike, used to argue for a different font, smaller font, different indentations.  It made the first four or five meetings really long and pointless, as if they weren't already pointless.  Harold had struggled with that ever since the boss's boss casually said to him, "Nobody ever reads this shit anyway" when he first started working for the company.

So Mike, the pointless-pain-in-the-ass, as Harold thought of him, had been changing the document to the way he liked it on a regular basis for the past sixteen months. 

Times New Roman, ten point font, no spaces between paragraphs, blue font.  Blue.  Oh, he had different fonts, sizes, and indentations for every heading too along with captions for all the diagrams.  It was Harold's job to come into work on Monday morning, find that the entire document had been turned blue Times New Roman and to turn it back, all 364 1/2 pages of it. 

"Have you ever tried to select all 364 1/2 pages of a document?" Harold said out loud as he pounded the steering wheel.  He was four cars back from the light now.  In a minute, he'd be on the bridge.  Harold's morning would also include a half an hour in Pain-in-the-Ass's office, trying to explain that engineers shouldn't waste their 'valuable' time bothering with the font when they were paid the big bucks to design stuff.  Then Harold would spend another half an hour trying to get his boss to do something about it.  Nada.  Zilch.  Resistance is futile, as the Borg used to say.  His boss was one of those unusual non-confrontational guys who are generally great to work for until there's a pain-in-the-ass problem and then you had to work it out yourself or live with it. 

Harold could feel his eyes starting to bulge out as he drove in the two mile and hour traffic across the bridge just thinking about it.  Blue font.  Blue.  He was a fucking Sisyphus with a fucking blue font stone and he knew this morning after his toast had fallen butter-side down and he'd slipped on the slick spot before taking a cold shower because Victoria used all the hot water, that the damn thing had just rolled down the hill once again and it would be blue.

He knew he'd open the damn file and the whole thing would be blue Times New Roman.  And what the hell?  It had taken him an hour and twelve minutes to drive six miles.  He was exhausted.  Harold sat in the parking lot of International Data Systems with his head on the steering wheel and fell asleep. 

Thank you for listening, jules

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