Priorities

Yes, I’ve my own. We’re both consultants, I’m too young but am retired. My husband has his priorities. Sometimes they are not in sync. Picture that he has a weekend off and spends a bit of time walking our dog but spends all the time on his cell phone reading news or emails. Most likely he spends all day puttering around on his laptop or iPhone and  a few hours after breakfast I bring him a sandwich and veg for lunch.

I ask what he’d like for dinner and I go out and get it, do mise en place and cook in advance like stews or make and rise dough. Then we agree on a time to have dinner and as I must have my back to him after prep, attentions must be elsewhere. Two burners sauteeing, a horrible kitchen fan running, something in the oven that needs to be checked and a salad to put together, he starts opining on a technical matter that is of interest to him. I’ve the fan going and and am taking out the cold food from the frig, and am constantly running the kitchen sink to wash my hands or rinse a dish.

We agreed on priorities so I left him a day to be alone with his thoughts and mostly laptop and iPhone. Twenty minutes before dinner hits the plates he starts talking about his technological concerns, methods, writing. I can’t hear a word he’s saying and tell him so. I serve dinner and he shuts down and turns on the television, and gets needed rest.

If it’s a long trip home for a him after work for a weekend I just want to let him sleep, but to do that would mean prying his electronic devices from his cold, dead hands. He always wants to research something and I always want to cook or write, and we can relax together, on opposite sides of the sofa watching Episode IV of Star Wars: A New Hope. He taught me about that one, both versions.

While I’ve had bosses and clients who told me what they wanted done, I usually, after college, got to decide how I was to accomplish these deeds. The first was getting away from home all the way back to my college town. I got an eight-week temp job correcting applications for a minimal college scholarship. The applications, not the tests. We got a bit more than minimum wage but were watched and extremely regimented. There were kids with apps who could not spell their own name or street address, but we had to correct their application for a college scholarship.

I learned a lot about poverty and its effects on a child’s education that year. I was given apps from my school of about 1,500 to fix and there were only two mistakes. Inner city schools it was at least 70% of students who failed the application. Why? Parents or lack thereof, and/or teachers and curricula. The same government educational system that gave me one of those scholarships for $800 if you went to college.

We had to use pencils and were issued one per day. Hours were severely regimented, we may have even been locked into the room between breaks. I broke my pencil one day and went to ask Assistant Ned, as the “boss” of that minuscule portion of the clerical staff was out of the office, could I please borrow a pencil?

Ned had a large coffee mug with perfectly shaved pencils, arranged, tip-up as if a floral bouquet. He said “No.” I now knew he had a love of pencils so asked to see one he was already using. It had “Ned” etched into it I I complimented him on his enthusiasm for the job. These people were nuts! My goal after college was to never be Ned.

A week in I got a great interview to work for the legislature and asked if I could take only 15 minutes for lunch and 1/2 hour for afternoon break because I had a Dr.’s appointment. NO. I left for my break, came back an hour later and quit. I did not have a decision or offer, or now a job, and waited ’til Thursday for the A-OK and took the job that started two business days later. It changed my life. Today my husband still asks me, “can you pass me a nedcil?” He is a physicist and software engineer/consultant. I never had or wanted to lead a Ned life, it was just a month paying rent.

The worst is yet to come. After years as a legislative analyist, a dream job came up out of the blue. Twice the pay, my own office in mid-town Manhattan. But I sold my soul to the devil and what was promised was not delivered to me, no matter how hard I worked. It was a bait & switch.

One day I was called in to my devil, who said I had “99” things on my desk to do so we need to prioritize them. She went through 27 things on my entire list, actually only about 8 because she was bored, then she told me that every one was of equal importance and had to be done immediately. It was a class system where of course the rich people were first, everyone else last.  At the end of the meeting she said get back to work, and everything is first priority! How is that for being an educated person in the workplace? I quit soon thereafter and spent my life savings to go to a professional cooking school.  Then a consultant. And the beat goes on….. Dee

 

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