321. Slow Day

When making tea earlier today, I was fishing out a tea bag from the container, but found its string tightly wound around the string of another tea bag, almost like they were holding on to each other for dear life. Moved by their devotion, I set both of them back inside the container so they can have a little more time together before the inevitable end, and picked another, solitary tea bag to brew my morning tea with instead.

…Dear God, what have I become?

I guess I should have expected what sort of day it would be when I came into the office this morning, booted up the computer, opened up the work inbox, and found only 9 emails waiting, none of them addressed to me.

It’s why I always have a book by the side of the monitor. Last week, it was Anansi Boys. Today, it is The Hobbit.

(yes, I have never read The Hobbit before. No, I have not been living under a rock or inside a cave. Stop judging me)

When work came in towards the later parts of the morning, I thought to myself that non-productivity can never last, not in a fast-moving agency such as this. But shortly after completing the second copy of the day, I headed out for lunch, and when I came back to my desk, found myself again with nothing to do.

It’s like the job I had earlier this year all over again.

I absently clicked around. Facebook. Twitter. Inbox. Facebook. Twitter. Inbox. I went onto Copyblogger and read an article. Exhausted the new posts on 9gag. Looked up the nutritional contents of goat’s cheese and seedless raisins. Read a few strips of xkcd.

Heck, I even wrote a little.

But there’s only so much of a single thing a person can do at one go. And soon I found myself again clicking around absently on Facebook, Twitter, and the work inbox. Even Facebook, in a fit of annoyance at my constant clicking, refused to load for me anymore, choosing instead to show me an error page.

(I take my lessons from food: for lunch, I ate 2 Roti Canai drenched in Dhal Curry. Before I was done with half of it, I was already sick of the taste: there’s only so much of the same time a person can take at one go)

Time seems to crawl by as I sit at this desk. It’s 2.5 more hours before it’s time to go back, and it really doesn’t look like new work is going to come my way anytime soon. My constant providers of work are either out of the office or have already given me all the work that they could have given me. I suspect that they might be just as bored as I am.

Maybe I should check out Reddit. Or Imgur. I hear there are plenty of things there to amuse and distract the common man from the hundrums of a slow day.

Or maybe I’ll just continue writing.



298. Monotony

Question: Why is it that we “launch” a career but “land” a job?


There’s something quite predictable about work. I mean, sure, every new project is a brave new adventure and all those things, but there’s a certain rhythm that you just fall into when you begin at a full-time job. You learn to wake up at a certain time in the morning, leave the house at a certain time, have a certain sort of breakfast, do a certain sort of morning routine, work, have a certain sort of lunch, work, have a certain sort of evening routine, go home at a certain time, and sleep at a certain time.

More or less.

I know this because I’ve been in and out of it. The first full-time job I had was cleaning up some accounts at an office situated in the heart of KL (to this day, I wonder what form of insanity possessed them into thinking that hiring me to do accounts was even remotely a good idea). I had a routine then; and when I went off to National Service, which is routine personified, and came back from it, everything fell apart. I woke and slept at irregular hours, and filled the hours in between with all sorts of unpredictable activities. One evening, I looked out into the rain, and decided to stand outside in it and get drenched. Why? Because.

And it was so for the years I spent in college/university. I had a part-time job doing copywriting and video editing for my local church, but it never put me into a routine. Then earlier this year, as I was coerced into the full-time position at that company, it’s like the clock in me starting working again, and again I found myself waking up at a certain time, doing certain things during the day, and going to sleep at a certain time at night.

But just to be sure, I had a whole month off before getting back into a full-time job where I am right now.

There’s a certain rhythm to it that’s oddly calming, no matter how upbeat it may be. You get used to the tempo after a while. And without major breaks in the BPM, it’s easy to let the melody wash over you and forget the passing of time.

Which is how, I think, some people just lose track of the passing of the months and years as they work, only to realize that their dreams have died unfulfilled while they were hypnotized by the monotony of work.

It is the 3rd Tuesday I’m spending at work. A Song For The Rain still sits at 30,000 words. I was only reminded of it when yesterday, a friend and constant reader buzzed me up on Facebook chat, asking for the latest installment of May’s adventures. I had to tell him, regrettably, that there was no latest installment to speak of.

I could shrug it off and say that I’ve been busy working on Grounded. But there’s only 2,000 words in that story – what I used to write in a single day. I fear that if I don’t force a slot for writing into the monotony that is now taking over my life, there will be no more stories to tell.

I should get on that.

I mean. I really, really should get on that.

Before it’s too late.

292. Rotten

For about half my waking hours today, I was caught in quite a spectacular rotten mood. One that pulled down the corners of my mouth, furrowed my eyebrows, filled my head with fuzz and my mind with a desire to flip things around.

(except skateboards. If I could flip skateboards, I wouldn’t have felt half as rotten as I did)

But why, Joseph? Why the rotten mood? Who made you so mad?

It’s not a question of who, but what. What made me irritated was a little booklet that, no matters how many times I edit it, just refuses to stay edited. What agitated me were some negative comments brought over from the previous Sunday. What annoyed me was that I wouldn’t get home until past 10. What infuriated me was that I still don’t understand what makes *good* writing good.

It was a certain kind of sour mood that made me want to leave work early, go home, and hide under my blankets with a funny book. Maybe Mr. Gaiman’s Anansi Boys. But remembering that I’ve already paid for a full day’s worth of parking in advance, it seemed like an awful waste to let all those extra hours go. So I stayed.

(also, and mostly, because I had to clock in the hours in order to qualify for my pay. Boo hoo)

I’m not sure if this makes me bipolar, or at least a minor form of it. I swing between rotten and sunny moods over small things. Someone more poetic might say that small rudders move big ships, or something to that effect. And for me, it isn’t the gales of trouble or high waves of life that gets me. It’s the little things that gets entangled in the rudders that really sets me off one way or another.

I thought that I’ll feel better after reading some. Unfortunately for me, The Writer’s Tower theme for May is “The Evil Within”, and so all I had to read were tales of darkness and revenge. I decided to read some recommended articles from Facebook, and apparently the hottest thing in the news is the 9/11 museum that had been built at ground zero. Reading a Buzzfeed writer’s firsthand experience there did nothing to alleviate my mood.

Also, work was trickling in at a painfully slow rate, so there was nothing to distract myself with.

Decided to make some fruit tea, which I received as a gift yesterday. Tea smelled lovely, didn’t taste quite as much. It tasted like the promises of politicians: tantalizing at first, but ultimately disappointing. I finished it anyway, because tea is tea is tea.

(also, and mostly, because there were only 30 sachets, and I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I wasted proper tea. 29 to go…)

My options whittled away with time and activity. Social media wasn’t doing it for me. Image sites were a temporary distraction. All the reading I did had done me no good. Eventually, there was only one thing I had not done yet.

I pulled the notepad in front of me, and I began to write.

And for a little while, the rotten mood left me.

291. But Wait, There’s More!

It’s almost an hour past the time work was supposed to end, and I’m still sitting in the office.

(yeah, fine; work starts half an hour later than it’s supposed to as well. But there’s a deficit of 30 minutes, you see)

It’s a strange kind of job that I have, or life that I live. When I’m working, it’s when everyone else is done with their jobs; and when other people are working, it’s when I’m aimlessly clicking around on Metacritic, AV Club, and IMDB. Guess that’s predictable, considering how practically the rest of the staff are designers and I’m the sole copywriter in this place. In job description, at least.

How work happens is that the designers will do their work – slaving away at it for most of the work day – and hopefully try and finish it in time for them to go home and have dinner. Trouble is, I’m sitting on the back end of the pipeline, which is to say the proofreading end. As far as the designers are concerned, their job is done for the day. They hit command+s when the clock hits 6.15P.M., and pass the job on to the next person. They twiddle their thumbs and wait for the next 15 minutes to pass by.

Then I, having sat around all day doing nothing, now has 15 minutes to fulfill my role in the pipeline if I intend to head home in time.

Needless to say, it almost never works.

I keep finding myself sticking around as the sky darkens outside the window from baby blue to deep navy, and then finally to the obsidian of night. And the work keeps coming in the longer I stick around.

The day ends, I head home, come back in the next day; and what awaits me is more work, left over from the designers who stayed through the night to get their end of the work done. I complete that as the other employees come trickling into the workspace, and by the time it’s 11A.M., I’m done with my tasks, the designers are back at their desks making corrections, and I have nothing to do again until 6.15P.M.

(the same dynamics apply to you and the general public if you are: a) a mall renovator; b) a club staff; or c) a sweatshop worker, in which case you don’t actually get any rest at all)

On the plus side, because of how work suddenly comes in at the end of the day, I’m pretty much held up until the worst of the rush hour traffic is over. Why, just yesterday, it took me a measly 30 minutes to go all the way home, as opposed to the 90 minutes it usually takes, or 120 minutes, if some idiot decided to have his car stall along the 2-lane road home.

I’ve been wondering, though: if, say, I leave work at 6.30P.M., and it takes me an average of 90 minutes to reach home; but if I leave at 7.30P.M., it only takes me 30 minutes. Does this technically count as some form of time travel? Since I’m actually getting an hour (or wasting an hour, depending on your frame of reference) from the system.

Maybe I’ll stay back a little bit more to figure it out.

290. You’re A PC, You’re A Mac

And I like one of you a lot more than the other.

Every day, I find new reasons to hate using a mac. It started, on the first day of work exactly 2 weeks ago, with the mouse.

I don’t know which engineering genius decided that the a little… nub-thing… was better than the standard scroll wheel. I must admit, the squeeze buttons on either sides of the Apple mouse was a touch of genius; unfortunately, they are also just about the only thing I like about it. The little nub that passes as the scroll wheel is nigh impossible to work, and it upsets me that it’s easier to scroll up than to scroll down.

What irks me to no end, still on the topic of the Apple mouse, is the right-click. I use it on a link, sometimes it opens a standard drop-down menu; sometimes it opens the link in a new tab; sometimes it opens the link in the same tab; and sometimes it reanimates the dead. There’s just no telling what it will do next.

(for that reason, I will take to calling it “George Martin” from now on)

I also don’t get why, when I click the little red button on the top-left corner of a window, it doesn’t shut the program down. It closes the window, yes, but I’ve found that the program is still running – on standby, but still – in the background. And I have to command-quit for the thing to actually shut down. It doesn’t irk me as it does strike me as strange; I’m just used to accepting that, as far as computer applications are concerned, if I can’t see it, it’s not there.

The Mac users around me insists that it’s a more intuitive sort of OS. To which I say: intuitive, my ass.

(or maybe I’m just not the kind of user they were preparing the OS to be intuitive towards. Either way, screw y’all)

Allow me to tell you a true story:

I was pretty excited when Half-Life 2 came out. With the release of Half-Life 3 set for a couple of days after the second coming, most of us will just have to content ourselves with it. Now, one of the things that the game boasted – and reviews raved – about was the “intelligent AI” that was built into Alyx’s character. Myself, I thought it was a pretty cool idea, and went on to try the game out.

Soon after meeting her, as she was giving some expository lines, we were supposed to step into a lift that was supposed to take us to “Dog”. Being me, I was getting Gordon Freeman to jump all over the place, and I guess I must have missed some sort of cue; because when I eventually got around to stepping into the lift, Alyx just continued to stand outside, looking at me, and reminding me every once in a while to get into the lift.

I went out of the lift. Went in. Went out. Went in. Attempted to push Alyx into the lift. No avail.

I couldn’t move another step further into the game because nothing would happen until Alyx’s “intelligent AI” told her to get into the lift.

(I would have threatened her with physical violence as well, but Gordon Freeman didn’t even have his trusty crowbar at that point of the game)

See, if you want to create a program that’s intelligent, or intuitive – make sure you get it to work for all kinds of people, not just people who work in a certain way. It’s why I loved Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite: she got out of my way when I needed to get things done, and magically teleported to wherever I was so that we can get on with the script. That right there – that’s brilliance.

Somewhere, someone is saying, “Well if you don’t like it, don’t use it then. No one’s forcing you. You don’t have to be such a whiny asshole about it.”

Oh, but I am. I am being forced to use it.

It’s apparently the only acceptable OS for use in the office. I offered to bring along my trusty laptop (which is lagging beyond reason) to work, but the boss said to use the Mac, since it’s just sitting there anyway. And also because all the computers in the workplace are linked, and it’s easier done when they’re all Macs.

iPhone. iMac. Next thing I know, I’ll be carrying around an iPod as well.

God save my soul.

289. Dude, Where’s My Weekend?

I find it terribly unsettling and upsetting that I barely had any chance to enjoy my weekend.

On Friday, after retiring early from work on account of my migraine, I slept the rest of the evening away and woke up feeling much better at 8P.M. After a little dinner, I realized that since I was scheduled to lead worship in church on Sunday, I had to get the songs figured out. And what was what I did.

On Saturday, I woke up early to have some breakfast, and went to have music practice for 3 hours starting at 10A.M. and ending at 1P.M. Following that, I had to pay my ex-boss a visit to check out something she needed my help with, which turned out to be more proofreading. At the same time, the pressure came in to get some scheduling done for an upcoming video project. Before I knew it, it was already time to attend the Saturday service, and there I went until 7P.M.

Got back home after dark and remembered that I had to prepare for Sunday morning. With a voice failing after 3 hours of belting out notes, I knew I had to rest early, and got some perfunctory tasks done before heading to bed at 10.30P.M.

This morning, woke up, went for run-through at 8.45A.M., attended the church service, had a quick lunch, attended another music practice until 3P.M., got guilt tripped into spending 2 hours playing computer games, spent half an hour at the gym, had dinner, and now I’m here.

It’s now 11P.M., and I feel like I hadn’t even had a weekend.

(for those of you wondering how does someone get guilt tripped into playing computer games, the story goes like this: I agreed to join in some good LAN-gaming fun some months ago, but had to cancel after making said person wait for an hour, because I had work to figure out. Said person remembers it to this day, and used it as considerable leverage to make me give away my available free time)

A weekend isn’t a weekend, IMHO, until I get at least 3 hours in which I’m entitled to do absolutely nothing. Laze on the couch with a Stephen King novel; lay in bed wrapped up in blankets; play Skyrim; whatever. I’m free to do anything I want. The same logic applies to holidays. If, at any point during that 3 hours, I get a call to look at some work, or I have a visitor to entertain, it is automatically disqualified as rest time.

Which is to say, my weekend was hardly a weekend. And now that I’ve gotten all those things out of the way, it’s already time to head to bed to rest up for a new week at work starting tomorrow.

(meanwhile, on the work whatsapp chat, my new coworkers are talking about how they drank so much they almost got drunk. Or something close to that. I’ve never been one to pay a lot of attention to texts in which excessive consumption of alcohol is mentioned)

But what is a man to do? How did the saying go – time and tide waits for no man? While I’m not too sure about tide, time had most definitely passed me by, evidenced by the little clock at the bottom right hand corner of my computer screen.

Suck it up. Chest out. Chin up.

Resist urge to belt Let It Go.

Carry on.

288. Stress

There’s a nerve right underneath my left eye that won’t stop twitching.

At this point, I’m almost convinced that if there’s anything that’s going to kill me, it’s going to be stress. After starting work at the new place last Monday, it seems that my stress levels have increased drastically. During the weekend, I lost my appetite, got worked up really easily, developed stomach problems and nausea on top of it, and at one point during lunch on Sunday, I could feel the force of my blood pumping through the veins in my wrists.

You can understand why I thought that my heart was on the verge of bursting. I still have a little suspicion that one of these days, it will.

I blame it on all the proofreading work I’ve had to do. Not that proofreading in itself is stressful, but squinting my eyes to read the fine text and spot for errors that might or might not be there – that shit right there. That’s stressful.

(“What is this, a brochure for ants?”)

That, and also the 3 hours I invest daily into being stuck in traffic jams. Whoever was the bloke who invented traffic jams, I hope they’ve caught and hanged him a long time ago. Though traffic jams would not be as bad if it weren’t for morons behind the steering wheels. Why do we keep putting morons behind steering wheels? People should be made to pass a moron test, and failing that, they will not be allowed to own a driving license for a year.

That way, we’ll have less cars on the road, smoother traffic, and happier drivers – everybody wins!

While I’m blaming things, I should also add the various little responsibilities I have scattered all around: making money, serving in church, doing this writing thing daily… It all adds up, man. Like work, it all adds up, these little bits and pieces that suddenly becomes an overwhelming force.

(someone more poetic would write a song out of it, titled Avalanche or something, and then get some bubblegum-pop star in the recording booth for instant profit. Unfortunately for me, I am neither as enterprising or undignified)

Yesterday, on top of the twitching nerve under my left eye, I inexplicably developed a terrible headache. It felt like a lemon spontaneously decided to begin growing in the middle of my head, and it was pushing, pressing my brain matter against the insides of my skull.

I thought it was dehydration, and so I washed it down with half a liter of earl grey tea, but still it persisted. I thought it was the cold, and so I took a little walk out for lunch, but when I got back, it was still pounding away in my head. I thought I’ll wait it off, but when 3P.M. rolled around, I literally had my forehead on the table because of the pain.

I sent an urgent message to the family whatsapp chat (it’s useful for things sometimes), asking them if these symptoms were serious enough to warrant a doctor’s attention. Dad immediately responded with a “yes”, and so off to the doctor I went after excusing myself from the workplace.

(word to the wise: any time you find yourself at a discomfort, do these two things: 1. Drink water; 2. Sleep. It’s your body’s equivalent of “turning off and on again”. Attempting to self-diagnose with the help of Mr. Google will only convince you that you have contracted a terminal illness)

The doctor looked at me with what looked like amusement as I told her about what I was feeling, and after assuring me that I wasn’t dying, she gave me some pills and charged me RM55 for the medicine and the session, which lasted all of 2 minutes.

And now I’m stressed because I don’t have money to last until the end of the month.

(as I’m typing this, my internet connection is stressing me out with its erratic behavior)

Beneath my left eye, the rogue nerve twitches on…