Monday, September 17, 2007

I, Robot

I'd make a terrible robot.

I can't multiply or divide. I talk
too much. And I waste a tremendous amount of time. I don't just waste
time; I thrive on wasting time.

If I were a robot, I'd run on procrastination and futzing.

I tell Hubby, at 10 p.m., that I'm exhausted and need to get to bed
early, he can be sure that I'll be starting a load of laundry at
midnight. My weekly column deadline is usually heralded by the
organizing of my closet. I pay all my bills on time – but only because
writing checks is something I can do instead of prepping dinner.

I recently discovered that, were I ever forced to be someone's robot
(I'm looking at you, China), my overlord could easily squeeze me for
every second – simply by reducing the seconds I have to myself.

day care provider surprised parents at the last minute by announcing
she'd be closed an extra week at the end of August. Her three-week
summer vacation was hard, but this fourth week was a killer. I had
already planned my work schedule around her being open, so I had to
plow ahead, writing every minute that Zev slept.

I worked for two
hours during the day, when he napped. And then I started up again at 9
p.m., working until about 2 a.m., when I'd wander to bed in a
bleary-eyed daze.

True, the house was dirtier than normal. And
laundry piled up a little high. And, yes, I didn't return anyone's
calls or e-mails. And my skin turned sallow and my throat hurt all the
time; but other than that, I was amazed at what I was able to
accomplish, simply by cutting sleep and social interaction from my life.

finished some magazine pieces and expanded my client base, all on
virtually no sleep. Plus, I got to spend lots of time with Zev. At one
point, Zev had to pry my eyelids open with his tiny fingers, but at
least we were together.

On the last day of my intense work/Zev
schedule, I found I had become so robotlike in my efficiency, that I
was even able to cook a fairly involved Shabbat dinner. It was my
version of a victory dance – celebrating my ability to essentially work
two full-time jobs at once. Without collapsing.

I could afford to
be gleeful – day care would be opening up again (finally) the following
week, and I would be able to get work done during "normal" business

Then, on Saturday, we got the news: The school was having some staffing issues and would not open until the following week.

called each other in a panic. Some were indignant, some were in tears.
I was just tired. How could I maintain this for another week? On
Sunday, one of the work-at-home dads and I came up with a plan: We'd
both work at my house, taking turn watching the kids, fielding calls
and writing. It wasn't ideal, but at least our children would get some
time with their friends, and we'd get to spend some time on our jobs.

Zev went to bed, I went to work, cleaning the house and planning snacks
for the kids. Then I went to "work," researching and writing until I
couldn't see straight.

The next morning, I got a call from my
would-be co-worker's wife. She had found a day care that was accepting
refugees for the week. I had already heard gushing reviews of this day
care from friends, and so I rushed Zev over, settled him in and left.
Though a voice in my head said, "What am I doing?" Zev knew a lot of
the kids there, and seemed happy to be able to play with his friends.

got home to an eerie silence and my computer waiting for me. How odd to
see the glare of the morning sunlight bounce off my monitor. I finished
off a few small assignments, caught up on some e-mail and was about to
start up on a larger project, when the phone rang.

It was Maayan.
She sounded overheated and overworked. The heat wave hadn't yet broken,
and her kids had been stuck in their air-conditioned house for too many
days in a row. They were all driving each other crazy. Her older
daughter's preschool wouldn't start for a few days, and she still
hadn't found a place for the youngest.

She was sweaty. She was frustrated. She was headed to the mall. Did I want to meet them there?

stared at the blank screen on my computer monitor. Finish my work, or
go to the mall? I could almost hear the little robot in me sputtering
and melting into a pile of broken parts.

"Sure," I said, grabbing my keys. I had all the time in the world.

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