Sandstorm

sandstorm
"I'll be residing in solitary until I spring myself …"

I privately consider myself to be a world-class procrastinator. I'm no rank amateur at the practice, but recognize myself to be a professional-class crastinator, firmly believing that, like hastening slowly or meditative mindfulness, it pays subtle dividends to those who develop the practice into what we who really work at it consider to fully qualify as high art. Procrastinating can be its own reward. The dog that doesn't bark is rarely bitten. It can also be its own worse punishment, when avoidance comes seeking payback on some debt it believes I owe.

Payback can show up as a shakedown artist carrying a Louisville Slugger.
Yesterday, a late afternoon appointment in an adjacent city adjourned just as the sun set. I figured the payback thug would show up shortly thereafter, and he did. The Muse and I in separate cars, she zoomed out of the lot ahead of me and quickly melted into traffic. I immediately found myself behind a winking tow, moving at fifteen miles per hour slower than the prevailing traffic which whipped around me like an enveloping sandstorm. Since my optometrist suggested that my cataracts needed removing after I'd reported that I was finding it impossible to drive after dark due to the glare projected by oncoming cars, I've avoided driving at night. I've also quite successfully avoided dealing with the cataracts, rather content with the minor inconvenience. I could arrive before dark to fetch The Muse from The Lab and she could drive us both home. I never really needed to drive anywhere after dark.

I tried, a few weeks ago, to schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist, but received no return call and, perhaps over-conveniently, found no opportunity to try, try again. Then we immersed ourselves in this massive remodeling project and the whole situation melted into that placid place professional-class crastinators know so well. I might have even felt as though I was getting away with something, perhaps the very highest value my dear departed mother instilled in me. And I
was getting away with something until I lost The Muse in the sandstorm of oncoming headlights and deepening nightfall.

I responded as I always respond, by tucking in my head and proceeding, albeit quite slowly. I think that forty five fully qualifies as a decent sustained speed in any sixty miles per hour zone, but not all of my fellow travelers do. The great benefit of going so slowly, though, comes when the blinding lights behind me turn into the guiding taillights ahead of me before receding into the far distant future. The oncoming lights cannot be so easily dispatched, as they each blind me in turn. With no one behind me and no one coming at me, I can see to the perimeter of my headlights. Approaching headlights, especially those futuristic glaringly bright ones, reduce my visible perimeter to perhaps the front of the hood, though I can usually retain orientation to the line at the right side of the road. My experience feels like serial immersion in a swirling sandstorm, almost completely disoriented in space.

The usual hour drive took something more than an hour and a half, and though The Muse tried to call and check up on me twice, in the rental car I was driving, I could not figure out how to answer the phone in the deep darkness of the passenger compartment. I was uncertain if I could maintain the deep introverted intuitive trance that served as my primary guidance system had I been trying to talk on a phone anyway. The Muse later reported that she'd resorted to using the Find A Friend app to reassure herself that I was still on the road and heading, albeit very slowly, in her direction. Once I arrived back in town, I called her from a gas station where we met up and returned the rental, me crawling through sand-obscured streets, grateful that I knew the route well enough that I might have been able to successfully navigate the way blindfolded. I will not recommend the experience.

I considered about a hundred times during this small ordeal just pulling off to the side of the road and overnighting it there, but I couldn't see where to pull off any better than I could see where I was going and, though successively blinding me, oncoming traffic delineated the leftward limits of my lane. When I almost overtook and rear-ended that unlighted RV being towed by a much smaller pick-up truck turning off on an unlighted side road, I nearly swallowed my heart. I slowed another five miles per hour, tucked down my head, and quite foolishly drove on, concluding that, however it might damage my reputation as a professional-class crastinator, I needed to at least try, try again to connect with that ophthalmologist.

I think that the very most difficult part of any professional-class practice lies in the practitioner recognizing the limits to their usual, quite casual mastery. We tend to rather automatically reach for the old reliable, even when immersed in a context where no old reliable could possibly make any difference at all, and might even suddenly become a looming liability instead. The moment when the master might make any useful distinction might find that master making no distinction at all, but merely mimicking whatever seemed to work so reliably pretty much every time before. Civilizations have crumbled in exactly this same way, by repeating what always worked before in response to events which could have never possibly happened before. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Never be able to repeat again.

Some of you might find yourselves smirking into you tea while reading my cautionary tale, smugly satisfied that another so-called professional-class crastinator has received his Louisville Slugger comeuppance. I felt utterly exhausted after The Muse fetched me back to a late supper. Numbed and shocky, I felt my way down stairs into our temporary lair, to simply sit with what was left of myself for a spell. Skin clammy, fully cognizant of the danger I'd subject everyone else driving through my sandstorm to, I felt like a repentant sneak thief, who might have started out thinking he could get away with anything before realizing that his conscience wouldn't let him get away with anything. Guilty, that insistent old internal judge proclaims almost too joyfully, guiltier than sin. What began as an inconsequential sin of simple omission morphed in one moment into a series of apparently unavoidable venial sins, each committed with clear volition, curiously committed as if I had no other choice. My professional-class crastination had robbed me of the latitude that might have made some other choice possible.

There's an old adage somewhere insisting that one should pay special attention when observing anyone acting as if some apparently unremarkable situation constituted a life or death one. It likely means something interesting's going on inside that person. More difficult to discern, though, is the situation where someone reacts to life or death situations as if they were completely unremarkable, for their act is one of omission. No dog barks. No bee seems to sting. No observable anything could possible catch the eye. The professional-class crastinator knows this criminal well.

I hang my head in the sort of shame only a finally penitent procrastinator could possibly understand. I've exhausted all my clever excuses, no longer getting away with anything, simply, powerfully, personally irresponsible. Don't bother chastising me for my overly obvious shortcomings, my internal judge has referred my case to my internal department of corrections, sentences to be served sequentially until I make my more responsible move. I'll be residing in solitary until I spring myself: prisoner, jailer, taunter, stool pigeon, and screw all in one.

©2018 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









blog comments powered by Disqus