Watching the lifeguard at my local YMCA doze off recently has me thinking about complacency. Having been a bridgetender for nearly 20 years, it is my utterly unscientific opinion that the vast majority of injuries due to operator error on drawbridges come not from inexperienced bridgetenders. No, they’re caused by very experienced bridgetenders who have become complacent. I suspect it’s the same with lifeguards.
I think most humans, by their very nature, are prone to take shortcuts. We get lazy with time. We become overconfident. We derive false security from our past success.
This doesn’t just happen in my job of choice, but by way of example, a seasoned bridgetender might say, at least on a subconscious level, “I don’t have to make an extra effort to see if someone is standing in that blind spot, because no one ever stands there.”
That can be your undoing. Killing someone is what we bridgetenders most need to avoid. It’s important to remain vigilant.
I’m well aware that the bridgetending audience is rather minute. I’m not just talking to bridgetenders. This one is for all those people who operate power tools or climb on ladders or drive or walk or take care of others. It’s for the nurses and the truck drivers and the managers and the factory workers and the chefs. It’s for the parents and the teachers. It especially applies to voters!
It’s for us all. Don’t slack off. Avoid shortcuts. Don’t get lazy. What you do matters.
My fiancé and I are preparing for a future consolidation of our two houses. After 50 plus years of separate accumulation, needless to say, clutter has been on my mind quite a bit of late.
I think the mistake I’ve been making with my clutter is assuming that it’s all due to an overwhelming amount of laziness and an utter lack of organization. I’ve always felt that if I could get off my behind and just get with the program, all my clutter problems would be solved. Well, after a fair amount of internet searching about clutter and it’s causes, I now think a lot differently about my stuff.
In particular, I found this short video, entitled THE two things that cause ALL clutter to be most helpful indeed. Basically, it demonstrates that there are two reasons for clutter: Deferred Decisions and Incomplete Actions.
Some examples of Deferred Decisions are:
I am keeping this item because I might use it as xyz. Or maybe I’ll just throw it away. I haven’t decided.
These clothes don’t fit me. I don’t know whether to keep them in hopes that I lose weight, or give them away.
This is a pile of books I will probably never read. But you never know.
Some examples of Incomplete Actions are:
I’ve been meaning to give this to my sister, but I haven’t gotten around to it.
I put that there to do something with, and I forgot all about it.
I plan to sell this, but I haven’t posted it on Craig’s List yet.
I have these craft supplies because I plan to make something with them, but I haven’t found the time.
I’ve been meaning to sort through these obsolete phones and computers and get rid of them, but I haven’t taken the time.
I’ve been meaning to transfer these photos/Cassette recordings to digital to create more space. One of these days.
Once you look at things from the lens of Delayed Decisions and Incomplete Actions, it’s a lot easier to get moving on them. With the former: Make your decision! Don’t put it off. There’s no time like the present. With the latter: complete that action. Just do it.
Easier said than done, I know. But what I’m finding is that it’s a lot simpler to follow through on this stuff if my fiancé is present. He doesn’t judge. He just acts as a logical sounding board, and points out the obvious.
“Are you really ever going to play that ukulele again?” “Even if you fit into those clothes again, are they your style anymore?” “I know a great place where you can have your cassettes digitized. Let’s consolidate them into one box and do that on Wednesday.” “Do you really need 8 garlic presses?” “If that has sentimental value, maybe you should keep it. Or maybe you should take a picture of it to keep, and then pass it on to someone who could use it.”
I’ve made more progress with his help in the past few weeks than in all the time I’ve tried to tackle it alone. When I die, whoever has the unenviable task of sorting through my personal effects will want to kiss him on the lips.
Another thing that has incentivized me is that my neighborhood is planning a community garage sale later this month. That would be a great opportunity to try to sell stuff. But anything that doesn’t go will NOT go back into the house. Period. It will either go to Goodwill or I will put it on Craig’s List for sale THAT DAY, and leave it on the back porch for a maximum of two weeks in hopes of sale.
But, back to my original argument about laziness and lack of organization. The good news is that you don’t have to get rid of everything. Thinking you do is half of what has probably caused your inaction. No, there are some things that are
Not clutter, but a mess:
Photos. (But do try to digitize as many of them as you can.)
Things that have sentimental value (and a photo won’t suffice).
Things you really have used within the past year.
Once you’ve gotten rid of all the other stuff, it’s time to organize the mess. But that will be a whole lot easier when you have the space. And, if you’re like me, as you make more and more progress, you’ll feel proud of your accomplishments and you’ll be energized.
Wish me luck! If I can do this, you can do this. And, like a shoe that’s two sizes too small, it’ll feel soooo good when it’s gone.
When I was little, I was taught that I lived in the greatest country in the entire world. I thought we set the best example, and that based on that example, other countries would aspire to be better, and someday the whole world would be just as wonderful as we were.
Everyone would be free. There would be no war. Every individual would have equal opportunities. The world would be one big safe, happy, teddy bear of a place. I was so proud. I felt so lucky to be an American.
To me, America meant generosity, compassion, justice, safety, equality, freedom, dedication, love, and integrity.
If you had told me back then that I’d become increasingly ashamed over time, I’d have been pretty darned disappointed. Disgusted is the word, actually. And even horrified every once in a while. (Simply because I can’t work up the energy to maintain horror for long periods.)
How must the rest of the planet view us when we say things like domestic and gang violence are no longer valid reasons for asylum? What happened to “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free”?
And when did we become okay with children being yanked away from their parents? Do we think those traumatized children will grow up admiring us for that? Do we think those children deserve punishment? Guilt by association?
We were supposed to be the poster child for human rights. Are we? When our president shakes hands with Kim Jong-Un, the worst human rights abuser currently alive, and says he’ll “probably have a very good relationship” with him, it doesn’t do much for that image.
I also thought we’d be the saviors of the world. But we are one of its worst polluters, biggest consumers, and we live in a culture of selfishness and waste. We can’t even hold on to our national parks, which is an embarrassment, because we were the first country to even conceive of them. The planet cries out for us to take climate change seriously, even as some of them are sinking into the sea, and instead of setting an example, we back out of the Paris Accord.
Apparently we value the profits of gun manufacturers more than the lives of our children. We allow the very worst of our law enforcement officers to become murderers without any real consequences. We step over our homeless veterans in the streets. And we don’t seem to think anyone has a right to health care.
We elected a man who brags about grabbing pussies, thinks that white supremacy is acceptable, and uses Twitter to lie without remorse. We take great strides to make it difficult to vote, but that’s probably a waste of energy when no one can seem to be bothered to do so anyway. We spend more time keeping up with the Kardashians than we do with the real current events that actually impact our day to day lives.
We have become fat and bloated by our laziness and greed. We flaunt our hate. We exaggerate our fear. We demonize education and journalism. We are not who we said we would be.
I once told a cousin that America is an experiment. You’d think I had peed in his Post Toasties. How dare I say that?
Well, Cuz, do you still think we are solid as a rock, unchanging, and will last forever? Do you really think that this thing we have become has staying power, above all other regimes that have come and gone throughout history? Are we a shining example of the best of humanity? Have we reached some bright pinnacle? Should everyone want to be just like us?
I wish I could be that little girl again, with the star spangled banner eyes. I wish I was full of optimism and hope for this country’s future. I wish I still thought I was one of the good guys.
But I have to ask: Are we becoming our best selves? Because if we can’t do better than this, if we don’t want to do better than this, then there’s really no hope. And that scares me.
When someone gets hurt on a drawbridge and it’s determined that it’s the bridgetender’s fault, you’d think it would be a newbie who was at the controls. But no. It’s almost always an operator who has been on the job for many years.
If anything, someone new to the job tends to be hypervigilant. When you’re training someone, you can feel that person’s nervous energy radiating throughout the room. Newbies are like coiled springs. I’ve never tested this theory, but I’m fairly certain that if I were to walk up behind a new operator and say, “BOO!” that person would be clinging to the ceiling like a cartoon cat.
If you make it past your second day, you’re usually a keeper. You’ve seen how quiet and isolated it can be, and yet you’ve come back, so you can handle it. You’ve also seen how important it is that safety be your top priority, and you’ve chosen to take that responsibility on board. Welcome to the trenches!
After a while, you’ll start to relax. You’ll get the hang of things. You’ll know where things are. You’ll have experienced a few bridge malfunctions, and you and the bridge will have survived. You’ll get familiar with every creak and groan that your bridge makes, and what each one means. This is a good thing.
But now your real challenge begins. From here on out, you have to constantly battle complacency. Don’t get lazy. Laziness in this context can equal death. A little voice inside your head might start saying, “Why bother walking across the room to check that blind spot? No one is ever standing in that blind spot.” Or maybe you’ll start rushing from one step to the next. A bridge console should be played like Clair de Lune, not like the Minute Waltz.
You may not even realize you’re floating down that lazy river of complacency. I suspect it happens in increments. You slack off a tiny little bit, and it’s almost unnoticeable. And then a year later, you slack off even more. Before you know it, you’ve developed some really bad habits.
But on this job, laziness can kill someone. And the one time that you assume that no one is standing in that blind spot will be the one time that someone is standing in that blind spot. The bridge Gods can be cruel that way.
So every day when I come to work, I remind myself that what I do is important. Most people don’t even know I’m here, but I have their lives in my hands. That’s a heavy responsibility, and one I take very seriously.
And every day when I leave work in one piece, and no one who has crossed over or under my bridge has been harmed in any way, I give thanks. The biggest thanks I give is to myself for not having gotten complacent, and for never having forgotten why I’m here.
When I was younger, I used to think a lot more stuff was urgent or important. I’d make mile-long to-do lists and experience unbelievable stress when I didn’t complete those tasks in what I considered to be a timely fashion. Now, not so much.
Now, in order to even make my to-do list, things have to meet certain criteria. Will not doing these things result in starvation, homelessness, or nuclear disaster? Then yeah, maybe I should jump on that. Otherwise, screw it. I’d much rather take a nap.
The closer you come to your expiration date, the more you understand what the term “life is too short” really means. I just worry that if this trend continues, in about a decade I’ll be living in squalor. Ah well. I’ll worry about that some other time.
At the monthly storytelling event that I attend I was introduced to a unit of measure that I didn’t know existed up to this point. It’s called the Pajama Radius. Basically, it’s how far you’re willing to go in your pajamas.
I immediately rushed home and Googled it. Much to my amusement, it is, indeed, a thing. It’s gotten quite a bit of discussion on line, particularly in blogs, so I’ll just be adding to the overall murmur, but I had to write about it because for some reason it just makes me happy that someone has come up with this concept.
I’m guessing that the average pajama radius extends out to one’s mailbox, or at least to the sidewalk to pick up the morning paper. (Remember those?) Heaven knows my neighbors have seen my jammies.
There isn’t much to see. In the winter I usually wear sweat pants and a sweatshirt. People who see me probably think I’m about to go out for a jog. (Ha! How little they know me.)
But I will posit the theory that if your Pajama Radius begins to increase and you find yourself going to the convenience store down the street, the grocery store a few blocks away, or dropping the kids off at school in your footie pajamas with the trap door in the back, then you might want to seriously contemplate your level of depression or your level of laziness.
But there’s something else to contemplate here. Why does anyone care? Why are pajamas supposed to be hidden from view? If I’m wearing a flannel ensemble with pink bunnies all over it, I’m still covered. My taste might be questionable, but my dignity should remain intact, more or less. And yet, it seems to be a point of shame or scandal.
I suppose it’s because pajamas in public are a symbol that you’ve given up. You’ve stopped caring. By not bothering to put on your “outside clothes”, you’re admitting to a lack of energy that society has decided is below the norm.
Am I the only one who sees how silly and arbitrary this is? Maybe that’s because I don’t sleep in anything that could even remotely be considered lingerie, and haven’t felt the need for a bathrobe in decades. I better watch out. I may be perched at the top of a slippery slope.
You know you’ve put off defragging your hard drive for way too long when the software says, “Estimated running time: > 1 day”. Oops. My bad.
All of you computer savvy folks can skip the next two paragraphs. For the rest of us who struggle with the subtle nuances of all things technical, this is how defragging was explained to me:
Imagine you have a shelf of encyclopedias. (Remember those?) But you also have a house full of lazy kids. One of them has left volume S in his gym locker. Another one has Q propping up a table leg. B got loaned to a random friend. So now you’ve got a shelf of info with some gaps, and books scattered all over hell’s half acre.
Now imagine you have to access information from several volumes. You can’t just look on a neatly ordered shelf. Oh, no. This is going to take more time and effort. This is how your computer feels, pretty much daily. By defragmenting your data, or “defragging”, you’re putting order back on your shelf, and therefore speeding up your computer. It’s a good idea to defrag now and then. Most of you probably have defragging software on your computer already, but for those of you who can no longer find it (Thanks a lot, Windows 8!) you can get a free version called Defraggler here. End of lesson.
Anyway, while watching my computer defragment itself for hours and hours and hours, I started thinking. I really need to defrag my whole life. To say that I live in a state of barely controlled chaos is a gross understatement. I used to be so organized. At what point did I lose all control? I have no idea.
I have a pile of things on my nightstand that urgently need to be dealt with, but it’s been sitting there so long that the things on the bottom of the pile have long since lost their urgency. I have a room full of boxes that I’ve yet to unpack from when I moved to Seattle a year and a half ago. I have books that I haven’t read in years and I know I never will. Why do I keep them? I have tons of things that have sentimental value, but the older I get, the less sentimental I seem to become. I need to get my act together.
The funny thing is, I know that I feel better about life in general when I’m more organized. I have no idea what’s holding me back. Pure laziness? It feels more complex than that, but I can’t be bothered to figure it out. I just need to keep chipping away at it and hope that someday I’ll reach that magic tipping point where I actually have a handle on things again and life gets easier.
As a Floridian, I see it all the time. People plant fruit or nut trees in their yard for the pure novelty of it, but then when the oranges or the pecans emerge, the bulk of them are left to fall on the ground and rot. This is such a travesty.
First of all, at least here in Jacksonville, the food bank will accept your fruit. Check to see if that is the case where you live. I’m sure a soup kitchen wouldn’t be opposed to taking it, either. There is no excuse for letting food go to waste when there are so many hungry people in the world.
Currently, one in six Americans faces hunger. That means you look into the eyes of someone who is hungry every day, often without even realizing it. As you can imagine, those statistics are much worse in third world countries.
Given that fact, why are we not planting fruit and nut trees and community gardens in every single public park and school ground? How hard would it be to plant an orange tree rather than an oak tree for a change? Make it a cultural norm for people to help themselves to nature’s bounty, regardless of their income level or employment status. God knows that obesity is also a problem these days, so it wouldn’t hurt any of us to increase our vegetable and fruit intake.
I’m sure that some people would see this as a way to encourage laziness and vagrancy. Tell that to someone working hard at a minimum wage job who still can’t make ends meet. Tell that to a child who hasn’t had anything to eat all day, whose only source of nutrition is school lunches, and therefore starves through the weekends and holidays.
Maybe if you give people the nourishment and strength they need to carry on, they might actually surprise you and pursue aspirations that are similar to your own. I personally would be more than willing to find out.