Sunday, January 23, 2011

Time Management 2011 ('Hey where are my keys?')

Barely three weeks into 2011 and I can already hear the shatter and crash of people everywhere tossing their new year’s resolutions out the nearest window. Normally I wouldn’t notice it over the sound of the toilet as I flush my own promises away, right along with the back end of the year’s first Tuesday afternoon beer. But this January there’s a new kind of noise around the Kato household. Yes, that sound you are hearing is the smooth, even drone of methodical, almost superhuman planning.

I’ve thrown a few resolutions on the table this year. Not casually tossed under the kotatsu, or mindlessly slipped onto my desk, under a pile of what may be last year’s city tax forms and trail of related notices and summonses. No sir, I’ve been cultivating my powers of concentration in preparation for what is shaping up to be a landmark year for me. This year, no more minutes and hours will be wasted, lost forever in the vortex of inefficiency. This year, things are going to get done, frequently and fast, with none of my valuable ‘Run & Gun Time’ wasted on YouTube or dental floss or barely-bleeding kids.

It’s 8am as I sit down to pound this out. The kerosene heater is empty again and there’s frost on the insides of the windows, but I’m not going to squander a single moment on wimpy creature comforts. I just cranked out forty quick push-ups (all right, the last few weren’t too quick), and the kids can do the same when they wake up. Go push your trains around, or crawl back and forth across the living room a hundred times if you’re that cold, I’ve got work to do here. Talk about efficient; not only am I getting down to business several minutes sooner thanks to my brand-new razor-sharp personal management strategy, but I’m simultaneously teaching my nine-month-old kid the value of both time and exercise.

Well it’s coming up on ten o’clock now – I got a little too vociferous waiting for this idiot laptop from the Jurassic period to warm up and sort of woke the kids. If the apartment was so darn cold they should have stayed in bed, but out they came to destroy my first precious moments of the day. The older boy was screaming his tonsils out about the box of elephant cereal I let him get yesterday, while the little one wouldn’t stop bitching about his wet pants. Okay his wet and foul and putrid pants. With the wife up all night again trying to appease her motherly instincts, the parenting would fell once again to me. So I stuck my one kid and his dumb-o cereal in front of a Curious George DVD and sat my fresh and clean zero-year-old on my lap, ready for a little morning multi-tasking. Then the runt reached out and slapped the keyboard and the dinosaur inside froze.

I refilled the kerosene tank to help warm my 2004 Brontosaurus back up.

Okay, ten-fifteen and the house is quiet again, the wife having hauled the kids off to some sort of pre-school or another. (I don’t bother asking about the details, they only get in the way of my efficiency.) On today’s docket is this post of course, followed by a bit of editing for an e-book I want to get out this week, a few targeted emails and some time devoted to reading and commenting on strangers’ blogs so they will do the same for me and then go tell all their friends to check out my stuff. (This is the centerpiece of my ‘Wildfire’ approach to cyber-notoriety; a couple of witty, thoughtful comments on a few select pages and my world will be set ablaze.)

Ah, I just remembered, I have to go out and get something for Mom today. Her birthday is coming fast and with my laser-like focus I seem to have let that tidbit slip from my sights. Better get it done now while it’s still on my mind.

This should only take a few minutes.

I’ve figured out the best parking lots to cut across and which traffic lights are the safest to run in order to get to the department store down the street in the least amount of time. I think I just broke my own personal best, although when I got to the register I realized I’d forgotten my wallet and had to come home and get it. The silver lining to this is that I could make a second pass through that foo-foo bakery in the supermarket on the first floor. I snag a few free samples of their maple almond bread every chance I get, that stuff is amazing.

Anyway, Mom is now taken care of, back to business for this self-employed wolf. Where was I? Oh yeah, Wildfire. So the sheer amount of blog content out there is beyond human comprehension. A lot ranges from adequate to enlightening, so a discriminating reader like me has a huge palette of options worthy of my valuable time. But news and politics and gossip don’t feed my ‘2011 Time Compression’ resolution needs. So I am eternally searching for

Doorbell! And there’s a postal van outside, which means a package. I’ll be right back.

You know, I’ve been pondering this one for nine years now. If the law really states that every household in Japan is required to pay this television fee why don’t they just bill everyone, or better yet simply deduct it from everyone’s paycheck or welfare check or bribe money? Why does the NHK continue paying these otherwise unemployed people to go door-to-door trying to extract 2,400 yen from me when all I have to do is tell them very politely to piss off and close the door?

The package was for the girl next door, by the way.

I was just sitting back down to my laptop when someone from another tax-funded do-as-you’re-told agency called. Their timing is flawless like that. I think they’re in cahoots with those change purse toting NHK mercenaries. They can probably guess as soon as I say ‘moshi-moshi’ that neither am I Japanese nor am I very good at faking it. Yet they launch into their dokuhaku anyway, replete with all this specialized and ultra-formal lingo. I can barely understand the flood of syllables gushing out of their mouths. Heck I don’t even know if they’re talking about them or me or the girl next door. Just introducing themselves takes the better part of a Daniel Powter video (say what you will, I think Bad Day is a great song). They’ll go on reciting the entire prefectural tax ordnance bible if I don’t interject with an unmistakably foreign ‘um…uh…’ Then they spend the rest of the video apologizing for my being foreign and promising to call back when there’s a full-fledged human around.

And suddenly it’s lunch time.

Spitting bits of tofu and soy sauce onto my computer screen while I yell into the kitchen for my son to sit in his chair and eat his lunch is hard to reconcile, even with my new year’s ‘Food is for Wimps’ slogan. So I have to chalk up this time to ‘Family’, one of my resolutions that has yet to develop any clarity. I maintain my edge by keeping a pen and a piece of paper next to my plate and making loud slurping noises to fend off any distracting conversation. The afternoon is always a crap shoot; the wife may whisk the kids off to afternoon playtime or leave stinky pants with me or keep them both home for hours of raucous, docket-killing fun. In this last case I look for mindless chores to keep the circus mentally at bay; today it was speed-drying the last load of laundry over the kerosene heater to clear the hangers for tonight’s batch. And in between the shifting of socks and extra small shirts and cloth diapers I can sneak into my room and peck away at this post.

Here I redefine incongruity. I can’t float between laptop and laundry without my train of thought constantly derailing. Yet in the process I can forget about the laundry long enough to merit a call to the fire department. My ‘Take Control in 2011’ resolution appears to be finding a foothold, but a little while later the fire chief showed up anyway for a mandatory (according to some law everyone knows about and no one has ever actually read) on-location lecture about fire safety. My wife served up some green tea as Chief Yakitori was launching into his spiel, but somehow we got on the subject of cycling (‘Roll Like a Lion in the Year of the Sheep’) and by 3:30 the Chief and I were cracking open the beers I found under the steps.

He left an hour later when one of his men came to drive him and the fire engine back to the station.

The wife then asked me to go get some onions from down the street. Can’t have miso soup without onions when the older boy has a cough, picked up from one of his friends at school. With this I realized I hadn’t checked email all day and tried to log in for a peek while changing my still-smoky clothes, but my dinosaur was stuck in the tar pits again. So I shut him down and sped off into the dusky afternoon. This time I was only into the first parking lot when I realized I’d forgotten my wallet again. When I got home to a locked apartment I found that I had also left my keys and my cell phone inside. Where was my family all of a sudden?

I sat freezing on my front steps for thirty minutes before my wife emerged from the apartment of the girl next door with a small bag of onions. ‘Didn’t you get my text message?’

I spent dinner silently cursing George Stevenson and promising my son ‘Yes I will play trains with you after dinner now please eat your soup!’ Then after three trainwrecks and eleven rounds of ‘Daddy stop touching the trains!’ it was dirty dishes, bath time, throwing out burned clothes and charred pieces of wallpaper, milk, stinky pants and hanging more laundry. It was 10:30 when I got back to my laptop.

It was quarter to twelve when I closed out my email, put away the coconut cookies and pulled this post back up on screen. Now it is almost 1:30am.

What was I talking about?