Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Shakes


The Christmas season is over now, which for me means an end to two months of anxiety. In my case this seasonal anxiety isn't born out of hurrying from store to store to buy Christmas presents, spending long hours trying to address Christmas cards to relatives I haven't seen in years while attempting to make them personal, or from the stress of realizing that all the magic of the holidays I once experienced as a child has long since dulled. While these all these add to my agitation in small ways, the main cause of my holiday madness is due to the fact away from my job as a professor I wait tables on the side, and the holiday season is our busiest time of year.

For two months I don't know what day of the week it is. I am only aware of what time I have to work. On an average day I might attend to the needs of anywhere from one to five hundred people. Seconds are spent juggling the needs and concerns of people who measure the time they spent waiting for their salads with nervous forkplay and looks of annoyance. It weighs on you. You become a smiling pinball. Your nerves go first.

I noticed that after a month into the season I began to experience a phenomena I had only seen in long-term servers, grandmothers and middle-aged men who still come in everyday to carry plates to secretaries and warm bottles in the coffee cups. My hands began to shake. It started as a tremor, but as the weeks passed I suffered the same fate as the long-timers. At the end of the night I would wait for a manager to appear with my check-out slip and cash shaking in my hand. My nerves had gone.

The holiday season at a restaurant has the effect on the staff that combat or other stressful situations might in that it brings out the worst in you. Every personality flaw is amplified. If someone is a racist they stop hiding it. Sweet single mothers become spiteful and suspicious. Closet alcoholics rush out to down margaritas between the lunch and dinner shift. For my part, I spent the last two weeks punching walls and staring at knives.

But its over now. My hands are steady as a tattoo artist. Wrapping paper lines the dumpsters, and the crowds have thinned. My Christmas shakes have passed, and now at my part-time job we are much kinder to our fellow man.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Online Dreaming and Dosing


A recent study I don't remember well enough to cite showed that college-age students spend more time on average each day surfing the internet than they do watching television. I'm not surprised as my daily routine leads me to a desktop far more often then it leads me to a remote control. Since I had a rare day off today I spent most of my time imagining myself doing incredibly benefitial things which I left for the most part half-done or postponed. While I did get a few pages written, a baby fed and adored, and some random shoes stowed away, most of my time was spent online dreaming all the things I would do later. Since that time has yet to come, here are some of the things I found on the net today.

First, I searched to see if the Hells Angels have a homepage. Hunter S. Thompson's book on the outlaw motorcycle gang was one of my favorite non-fiction books in college and AE insists on running documentaries on the Ching-A-Lings and Mongols every day, so the idea of tire iron wielding thugs surfaced from the depths of my unconscious mind at the keyboard for some reason.

Of course they did. Not only do the Hells Angels have a homepage, they have many. On some the first question asked of visitors is whether they have high or low bandwidth. Once inside the main homepage visitors can navigate to chapters all over the world, each with their own homepage and estore.

I have to admit this was a discouraging revelation. I have long held the suspicion that every Harley Davidson that passes me on the street is driven by a dentist or architect, but the fact that the most notorious motorcycle gang in our country's history is internet savvy and populated by part-time iMac operators broke my heart.

Secondly, I found a great clip of members of How's Your News (a news group staffed by the handicapped) performing with the The Polyphonic Spree. To check it out click here.

Lastly, I spent almost an hour answering quizzes at Mental Floss' homepage. Mental Floss is a trivia magazine I subscribe to which makes me feel smart and informed in spite of myself. I learned interesting facts about ladybugs and lighthouses and answered quizzes covering important topics such as "ham" and "Are there product placements in novels?" If you are a dedicated procrastinator check out there homepage for trivia...whenever you get around to it.

The alluring thing about the internet is that it allows you to imagine how wonderful it would be to have things. When people browse they are stimulated by the images of all the great products they could have if they clicked here and entered in a credit card number. It's sedentary shopping; a deadly combination of two American loves: wanting and doing nothing.

Once again, internet browsing trumped television for me. Writers are on strike. Shows are in reruns. Commercials can't be clicked away. Now it's past midnight and my blogging is almost finished. Time to get to work and do all the productive things I've pictured myself doing all day long.