Long Days, Short Nights

I find that the longer I work at the pub, the stronger I get. This is naturally what’s supposed to happen. You can’t carry stuff that heavy and do what’s basically a cross between Zumba and hot yoga for six to eight hours at a clip and not feel a change in your muscle mass. Although I will admit that though I’ve been tempted, there’s been at least twice where I just wanted one of the guys to take over. I couldn’t bring myself to ask.

I’m short, and I have trouble dead lifting 50-60 lbs over my head. I also have trouble admitting that men have better upper body strength and are taller, because what comes to me first is that women can do anything men can do, and I’m just admitting weakness and proving to myself that they can’t. Simultaneously, I would kill for someone to say, “that looks heavy. Let me carry it for you,” while I am thinking ” I would legit fall over and die before I admit defeat.” I feel I am forgetting something important- that it’s not my femininity that’s the problem. It’s that I personally am short and weak after long years of computer butt. To my credit, the “I would legit fall over and die before I admit defeat” part of me won, and I muscled through. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of working smarter and not harder. The walk-in refrigerator is set up the way it’s set up. There’s nothing to lever, pulley, or otherwise physics into being. It’s just mind over matter. If I think I can or I can’t, I’m generally right.

It makes me feel good to see these changes in my body after such a long dormant period. Even working in an office is physically lazy, though I mean no offense. It is mentally taxing to an enormous degree. This has changed due to Bluetooth, people bringing their laptops to you on battery power, and wi-fi, but when I was low on the food chain in IT (late 90s, early 2000s), I did get workouts from climbing under desks to fix cabling and the like. In IT now, you barely have to get up.

Even with the relaxed atmosphere physically, depression and anxiety build up for two reasons. The first is that you tend to see the same problems every day, sometimes from the same people… every day. The second is that they’re always mad about it, and no matter what they did, it’s all your fault. I had one person get mad at me because their thesis disappeared- they’d stuck their floppy disk onto their refrigerator with a magnet and of course, had no backups, because why would they?

For me, the difference between working in IT and working in a restaurant is that with cooking, it’s always fresh hell instead of stale. It is also a proven fact that movement is an excellent treatment for depression, anxiety, and PTSD. None of my own mental problems were caused by working in IT, but if you’re already feeling all of these things, being mentally taxed and not physically makes it ten thousand times worse.

People haul off and call you a piece of garbage and you’ve agreed with that for years, despite the fact that you cannot help them fix their computers while their computer is on their desk at work and they’re out driving and just thought to call you from the car. I am sure that now it’s possible with remote desktop, but not if their computer is off and they’re in New York and you’re in Oregon. I’ve often been sorry for not being able to plug a computer into the wall from 3,000 miles away.

You might laugh at this, but I guarantee it’s a sad place to be, because the feeling is so helpless. You couldn’t do anything to fix the problem and even though you’ve just spent 15 minutes on the phone with a total idiot explaining in three different ways why you’re useless, it gets to you. You live for the moments when all you do is walk into a room and press one button and the entire office thinks you have magic powers.

IT jokes about idiot users conceal deep, deep rage for the very scenarios I’ve described… especially when the customer is always right and their idiocy has to come with an “I’m here to serve you” patois.

With cooking, there’s a buffer zone called waitstaff, and never think I’m ungrateful for it. While cooking is busy, it’s not nearly as abusive as working with the public.

It is, however, perpetually exhausting even as you get stronger, because I can’t speak for everyone in my profession, but my sleep cycles have gotten shorter as my body rebels against my natural circadian rhythm. If I don’t go to bed until 0200-0300, I’m still up by 0630-0700. Part of this is that there’s a ton of natural light in my room. Part of it still is that the rhythm of the world keeps going- traffic noise, lawns being mowed, construction… I try to nap, but so far, that isn’t doing anything for me. I just “keep calm and coffee on.” Because of the noise, even if I take a sleeping pill, it doesn’t keep me asleep. I just feel like I’m walking through a Jell-o mold at dawn.

Yet another reason why my shift drink is usually club soda with extra ice and lime. The sugar rush of beer keeps me up even later. I give in when I don’t have to work the next day, because sometimes a cold one after work is a good thing, and it is also important to say that I’ve at least tried our products…. I haven’t had a bad beer yet, and it is vital to me that what I’m drinking is local to my adopted hometown.

I have also learned the hard way that too much alcohol makes my medication less effective, and the last thing I need on earth is that happening. And, apparently, too much alcohol, for me, is having a beer every night… something lots of people do, and I joined them until I had my own epiphany about it. Too much for me is different than most people, and I’m okay with that.

Plus, beer doesn’t have ice in it, and by the time I get out of the kitchen, it is the first thing I want. I could take a bath in ice and it wouldn’t be too much…. and in fact, might be a good idea given how badly I have osteoarthritis in my back and hands.

But for all my aches and pains, I never think about what’s happening mentally with me. I just act on instinct. Childhood trauma and adult chemical imbalances mean nothing to the ticket machine, which, for me, is all about saving the waitstaff from customer abuse. In a way, it’s giving back to all the people who’ve helped me along the way.

I do get a break on Memorial Day, though. It’s up in the air as to what I will do, because there will be several parties going on that I don’t want to miss, giving toasts to the fallen… with extra ice.

Where Were We Again?

When I take a few days off from writing, I learn why I shouldn’t do that. I have no idea where to even begin. My last entry isn’t anywhere close what’s happening now, and herding my thoughts is less easy than herding cats.

The last entry was written while I was still in Portland, and for the first time, I slept all the way home… well, except for the last hour, from Charlotte to Arlington, VA. I was so exhausted that I missed the safety speech, taking pictures of the Columbia from the runway (that would have been hit or miss…. it was dark), and last but not least, the entire takeoff sequence. When we landed at CLT, it was a total “where tf am I?” moment, because there were no national monuments and I’d forgotten I was connecting in the haze of waking up. I had more time to kill in N. Carolina than I did last time, so I walked around looking for a UNC Chapel Hill t-shirt (Mia Hamm’s alma mater). I didn’t find one (in fact, no Tarheels gear at all, just Hornets), so I settled for a very large cup of coffee. I imagine that if I’d walked all over the airport, I probably would have found what I was looking for, but I didn’t want to leave my own terminal. I thought I was too groggy to be able to make it back in time. I took my coffee and settled in the waiting area, and when my flight started boarding, to GOD I swear I almost started crying.

Because here’s the thing… I love visiting other places, but there is nothing on earth more beautiful than landing at National, and thinking about that beauty always makes me tear up, no matter how long I live here. People will argue with me on the objectivity of those statements, but I’m pretty sure I’m right. I mean, I’ll go out to BWI or Dulles when I need to (luckily, I haven’t had to deal w/ Dulles since 2002- one of my friends called it the seventh level of hell, and I can’t disagree with her), but neither airport gives me the feeling of home like National does. It’s especially breathtaking at night, but I’d taken a redeye, so I did get a good picture on the tarmac of a small plane with the Jefferson and Washington monuments in the back. If you’re just a nerd with a camera, this is the best place on earth to live. #nolie #smile

Now, remember I am tired AF- redeye, etc. I get to the Metro around 0945 and don’t realize there are three tracks. One goes out to Virginia, the other crosses the river into DC, and the third is for broken down trains. It’s in the middle. My bench is facing a CLEARLY (in retrospect) broken down car out of service, and I sat there for 25 minutes before I realized that the train I needed was behind me. A venti coffee of the day at Starbucks can only do so much.

However, the first train that came by after I answered the clue phone was Yellow to Ft. Totten. Bullseye. Yellow connects to red at Ft. Totten and Silver Spring is only two stops down the red line from there. That meant I had about 40 uninterrupted minutes without changing trains. There’s probably a more direct route, like changing lines at Gallery Place/Chinatown, but I didn’t want direct. I wanted “don’t make me get up.” I was also a total baby and got an Uber while my train was rolling up to Silver Spring, because I didn’t want to lug my shit on the bus and walk with it. Pretty sure it was the best $4 I spent the whole trip.

I get home and absolutely collapse with exhaustion, despite the coffee. I slept for a couple of hours, then made myself some more coffee (Donut Shop) to ensure I could get back on Eastern time quickly. This is really the first trip I’ve taken where I learned that jet lag is a thing. Coming back was easy. Moving three hours earlier was just FUBAR. I slept when I didn’t mean to because otherwise, I would have fallen down. Thankfully, I didn’t have to explain myself, because it was written all over my face.

Besides Bryn, I also got to see two other friends I’d really wanted to meet up with, and one was a total lark. Of course Volfe and I hung out… how could we not? But it just so happened that one of my friends on Guam was in town that weekend, too (we met when she was a student at University of Portland). We met at Greater Trump’s for trivia, where we lost by ONE POINT. It’s ok. If she hadn’t been there, I would have lost by at least ten more.

I walked in and she was sitting at Table Eight. The reason I know she was sitting at Table Eight is that the first time Dana and I ever went to trivia, we didn’t put a team name on our paper because we didn’t know we had to… so that’s the team name they gave us. She was sitting in my chair, so I took Dana’s. Did it feel weird to be sitting on “the wrong side?” Yes. Did it feel weird that we lost? Also yes.

The first time that Dana and I went, these two guys showed up at our table and said, “we just wanted to meet the team that showed up late when we thought we had it in the bag and kicked our asses.” We were basically an instant foursome after that, and after having won eight games in a row, David decided to get cocky and name our team “Thanks for the Free Drink.” I would like to tell you that David’s hubris cost us dearly, but no. We won that one, too. Every week, there was an alcohol question, so if we won and they had it, I ordered the drink in the game. I got to try a lot of things I wouldn’t have tried otherwise. Some were amazing. Some were not.

When it was my turn to pick the team name, I always liked to start with an ellipsis so that it was a sentence. For instance, my favorite was “and tonight’s winner is …under investigation by the FBI.” We had some good ones over the years. We were having a conversation over what could possibly be in fat free Caesar dressing one night, thus our team name was “Chemical Anchovies.” One of our team member’s names was Nathan, so one night we were “Better Nate Than Lever” when he had a work thing and came in halfway through.

On Monday, our team name was “PBRmada.” Soooooo Portland.

Still pissed about losing by one point, although thank God Hope was not there to see it. The worst part is that we tied for first and THEN lost in the tie-breaker.

Now that I’ve taken you down THAT piece of memory lane, I got home to my family going through a hurricane of enormous proportions, and it’s still going. Kelly, Will, Wi-Phi, and their dogs are holed up at my dad’s because he has a generator AND, as a paramedic, has delivered three babies…. just in case they can’t get to a hospital. Better him than me…. I don’t know nothin’ ’bout birthin’ no babies. But lucky kid that the first person she (squee!) sees may be Papa, what Wi-Phi calls him.

While my dad and stepmom grabbed Kelly & Co., I went to see the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs play the Sugar Land Skeeters. I was right behind the on-deck for the Skeeters, so I got to talk to every player, told them I hoped their houses and families were okay, etc. One player said he was only worried about his truck, because his house is in Louisiana and his truck is at Skeeters Stadium. And I thought Silver Spring to Alexandria was a long commute……..

So, it’s been a very eventful time, and I am proud of the way I handled all of it. The being in Portland, the worrying about the hurricane, the going by myself to a baseball game, everything. People always ask me why I don’t invite others to come with me to these things. Easy. I am way too focused on my camera, and I don’t want to ask anyone else if they’re ready to leave and have them say no…. because when I’ve had enough, I have had enough. I don’t care how tight their pants are, Barbara.

 

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