I’m a cell out like everyone else

I accidentally left my phone at home yesterday. It was great.

It also made me take stock of just how addicted I am to my phone. Grabbing my phone has become an automatic response for damn near everything I do. It’s unrelenting. In countless situations I had a physical reaction of reaching into my pocket, only to find empty air (and old tissues). I realised after I’d gotten on the bus and reached the station. Maybe a ten minute walk from my house. I couldn’t be bothered going back, when my only worry was that people might want to contact me and couldn’t. But I was gonna be at work until 12.30am. It’s not like I had anything urgent to get to or talk about. What was I gonna miss? A bunch of robocalls telling me I’d won a cruise? I didn’t turn back.

I also realised I had a topic for today’s writing. I could simply list all the times I thought about using my phone. So without further ado I’m gonna turn to my favourite crutch, Bullet Point Time:

  • Once I realised I wanted to write about this, I reached for my phone to write it down in a notepad app. None was forthcoming. I crossed my fingers and hoped I remembered on my own.
  • On the TTC I saw a photo for some pantomime, Little Red Robin Hood. Every year the same company does pantomimes for kids, usually revolving around some fairytale. The same guy seems to be in each poster. A jovial looking older dude with bright red hair. He usually seems to play some kind of uncle type character, and he has this infectious smile. I saw the poster and wanted to take a close up photo of the dude to post on Facebook. Something like “this guy is my favourite part of the Christmas season. Hands down.” Obviously, I didn’t.
  • I usually listen to a podcast on the way to and from work. It’s a great way to unwind after a shift. Instead, I listened to St Vincent. I’ve been delving into her back catalogue over the past few days in order to figure out my preference order of her albums. Currently I’m at Strange Mercy>Actor>Marry Me>St Vincent>MASSEDUCTION. In saying that, I think every song on MASSEDUCTION is great, which should speak to how much I love her stuff.
  • On my break at work I usually catch up on social media. Last night I had nothing to do, so I kind of just ate and went back to my work. You’d think that working in TV, having access to years worth of programming for 40+ channels I’d just watch something. Nope, I just ate mashed potato and meat with a large plastic serving spoon because I couldn’t find a single piece of workable cutlery.
  • I had to DV an episode of Charmed. At numerous times I wanted to post something about how stupid it was. Seriously, this new series is fucking terrible. The writing is clunky and obvious. You know how characters will fare based on how good looking they are. They’re playing in a world of almost endless possibilities (as a character in this episode said, with the right spell, anything is possible) and still they choose the dumbest narrative options to pursue. Overall, the episode still hasn’t aired, so I’m glad I didn’t post spoilers.
  • I’ve been talking about that song Low Rider for the past few days, and how it used to be ubiquitous in soundtracks everywhere. Whether it was TV shows, trailers, or ads, its funky rhythm made it perfect for endless applications. For some reason I don’t feel like I’ve heard it much over the past few years, which weirds me out a little. I realised that I had no idea which band made the track, and had no way to look it up on the go. Then I forgot until now. Turns out it’s a band called War.
  • I’ve gotten really used to posting whenever something crosses my brain. It distracts me from my work all the time. Turns out when I have no phone around, I’m more productive. Last night at countless times I turned around to check my phone, only to find a space absent of solid matter.
  • The only thing I was even remotely worried about was using my phone to check bus times post shift. Without the Rocketman app, I had no idea. So I had to walk back to Union Station in the snow. No big deal, but also not ideal.

Today I have both my phone, and my work party. So no doubt it’ll be stowed in a pocket somewhere and largely forgotten. Keeping the dream alive.

Did he at least cross it off his bucket list?

I’m going to a murder mystery tonight!

So far I’m very on theme, because I know so little about the experience. I was brought in last minute and aside from my character, it’s mostly a mystery to me. I think the setting is a 50s high school reunion. I’m playing a lady who’s the former valedictorian. I’m excited to put together some kind of costume, probably involving glasses and a light woollen sweater. Frankly, I’m terrible at solving mysteries. I lack the proper logical skills to deduce causality. I’ve devoted most of my brain cells to esoteric pop-cultural knowledge, and unfortunately that hasn’t involved synthesising the plots of old Agatha Christie novels. However, I do like playing a character and interacting, so either way I’m happy. After languishing in sickness for most of the past week, being social is a huge treat. Aside from the host, most of the attendees are strangers to me, which only increases the mystery of it all. I’m significantly excited.

I DV’d an episode of Real Housewives of Orange County yesterday at work. Christ, it was confusing. There are five or six central characters who are blonde women, and they look Of A Type. The thing is, when we do Described Video, we’re supposed to use characters’ names. This show is on its 14th (!) season, so it’s likely that fans will know these women intimately. If I use the wrong name, it’s a big deal. It’s way harder than it sounds to get them all right. I had a chart of their names and faces pulled up, but still made a ton of mistakes. In the show, they’re constantly moving between smaller groups and the larger group, but they’re changing clothes and locations, which is confusing as hell when they look nigh identical. Their hair is all the same shade, even. Their faces look alike, with minor deviations. The one way I could tell two characters apart was that one of their noses was mildly more narrow than the other’s. So many times I finished a scene, then realised several scenes later that I’d been calling one of the blonde women the wrong name. One of the characters is called Tamra, but I accidentally switched to calling her Tamara at some point. I had to comb back through the show and discern where that switch flipped in my head. This show is maddening. MADDENING.

In Toronto they finally caught Poopoo Peepee Man. For anyone not immediately in the vicinity, it’s not funny, but it’s also the funniest thing in the world. Three times, this dude emptied a bucket of “liquefied fecal matter” (as per the police report) onto hapless Torontonians. He was swiftly nicknamed Poopoo Peepee Man and the name stuck. He’s finally been arrested and charged, bringing his grime spree to an end. Look, this is immensely gross, but I also have so many questions. How full is the bucket? Did he use the same bucket for each throw? Is it one poop per throw or is he accumulating a day or few’s worth? If so, does he care about the smell? What are his storage methods? Are there specifics about the poop that we don’t know? Does he have a certain signature style? Did he just come up with this idea or is he a copoocat? What was his motive, if any? Goddamn I do live in a city where shit happens.

Okay, that was for real unintended.

The answer is at least four. Four internet

I’ve been procrastinating over starting this.

Why? Because it’s my day off. Because I’m feeling laconic. Because there’s a lot of stuff out there on The Internet, and it’s kind of hard to be exploring it while I’m writing this. I resolved to finally settle in and write, and you know what I did? I opened a tab to The AV Club to check out what pop-cultural happenings are afoot. That’s how zoned in and on task I am right now. You really want to know how zoned in and on task I am? After writing that, I opened my Facebook tab and clicked around a bunch, accomplishing nothing and learning even less. It’s my day off, get used to it.

So why should you out there be reading what I’m writing here? TL;DR: You shouldn’t. There’s no good reason to be dialled into this slop. Just because I arbitrarily decided over six years ago that I’d write for at least half an hour each day, that doesn’t imply it’ll provide value for others. I kid. Sometimes I write fun stuff, but since I’ve become happy and satisfied in my life, it’s sort of delivered diminishing returns. While I think the tortured artist thing is a harmful myth, I’ve unfortunately been creatively occupied in other areas, and it’s left dwindling scraps for this project. Soz.

The concept of Ikigai crossed my mind yesterday. It’s a Japanese concept relating to finding one’s true purpose, or what activates you. Ikigai takes four poles and overlaps them in a floral Venn diagram. These are: What you’re good at, what the world needs, what you love, and what you can be paid for. There are intersections between the different poles, but the intersection of all four is Ikigai. I’ve talked about it before, but from a sense of longing. It’s such a promising concept, and staring at it from the outside can be a harsh wakeup. Wikipedia explains it well enough, but maybe not as well as this wonderful diagram.

Things lately have changed for me, and looking at Ikigai, I realised I’m in it. I know I’ve been talking often about my job, but it’s a novelty to want to talk about it. I love my job, doing Described Video for television. It’s challenging creatively and mentally. I have to constantly think about audiences, what information they need to know, their capacity for vocabulary, what would make a scene pop for them. I have to write in my head as I go, and fit whatever I think of into restrictive gaps between dialogue. It’s something that the world needs, or at least it helps people. I’m making programming accessible for those who’d otherwise struggle. I do a lot of cartoons, and my brain always goes back to the idea of helping kids get to watch their favourite shows. I know how much I loved cartoons, and how the style of humour totally influenced my world view/creative thought. I could be helping youngsters get the same out of their programming. I’m paid well for what I do, and my shorter shifts allow me to have a real work/life balance. I can tend to my needs both physical and emotional. I don’t get stressed, I’m taking care of myself and having time with the people I love. Lastly, I’m good at it. I’m learning and growing. I care about the work enough to want to improve. I feel personal pride in knowing that these skills I’ve wanted to express for so long are getting used. It’s a bizarre nexus of unconventional skills, and they just so happen to align with ones I’ve been honing for years.

It’s incredibly humbling to look at this list and think back to the last time I thought of Ikigai. I was good at what I did, but it didn’t fulfil me. I hated the work, I was underpaid, and it wasn’t helping anyone. I felt empty, and lacked the kind of self-worth that I knew I could obtain. I’ve now achieved a kind of alignment that’ll enable me to seek out more. To do more, help others and share what I can. I feel activated, and it’s an uncannily worthwhile sensation.

Of course, that doesn’t stop me from procrastinating on my days off. Do you REALISE how much internet is out there?

Unless your show is called Lovesick, that is

Okay. Just one day left of shift, and I can be as sick as I want.

It’s coming. I’ve got the phlegm-y throat. My energy is drained. I’m sweating in bed and sleeping tons more. Despite the previous sentence, I’m not taking this lying down. I’ve been doing salt water gargles. I’m mainlining fluids and peeing heaps. I’ve been bringing bone broth to work. I’m drinking tea like a fancy lady. I’ve tried to be considerate to my body, because I have to. There’s so much freedom that comes with being an independent contractor, and I love it. Almost everything about it is an improvement. The only thing that’s lacking is sick pay. I don’t get sick days. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. No middle ground. Worse, my job is directly contingent on my voice. So no karaoke or screaming into the void anymore. If I’m coughing, if my throat is raw, it all affects my ability to do my job. I like my job. I like doing a good job at my job, and if I can’t, it sucks.

But I only work four day shifts. If I can hold on for one more day, I’m in the clear. I can be as sick as I want. I can lie in bed with popsicles and finally finish the second half of Toni Erdmann. I could even watch the 2015 film Happy Hour, in its five hour long glory. I can sup on bone broth, and hack up all the phlegm my body seeks to offload. I can break down into primordial goop and reform into a functional human at the end of my four day break. I can scatter my brain to the aether, play among the stars, and align every single one of my chakras, then crash down to earth. I’ll still have a day or so left to recover. Four days off at a time is unreal. One more day.

For today though, I’m a working boy. I did four episodes of this dating show last night. The Blind Date reboot. It was hosted (well, voice over-ed) by Nikki Glaser, who I like. The show? Well it was kinda standard reality TV dating fare. The thing I liked, is that they gave their participants all the rope to hang themselves that they needed. Some of these dates were insanely cringeworthy, with some truly odd matches. It was interesting seeing how much the subjects leaned into the date, trying to give content for the show. I wonder if half the kisses, for instance, would’ve happened if not for the televised element. The most cringeworthy part, however, was the endless parade of graphics, animated thought bubbles and tag lines they posted over the dates. Someone would say something, then an animated thought bubble [sounds like something a virgin would say] or whatever would pop up. Meh. It did help me make interesting descriptions, and challenged me to think of how to convey them to a partially sighted audience. So that aspect made the show fun to do.

Being on a dating show is 100% on my bucket list. I’d love to take part. I mean, I like dating. It’s fun to get to know someone on a deeper element. It’s even more fun when you’re actively engaging in neat activities. Whether that’s getting drinks, going bowling, doing paintball or what have you. Placing people in scenarios that’re outside their norm and seeing how they adapt helps you gauge them better. I almost had a chance once or twice. The first time, I applied for Beauty and the Geek Australia. I got shortlisted, but the audition was on a date where my friend and I had booked a holiday. I wasn’t gonna leave my friend in the lurch, so I opted out. The second time, my girlfriend and I were in London. She went to a drag show, and I hung out in a nearby bar to drink and mess around on my phone. I sat alone, and a woman approached me. She said she was in casting for a dating show, and wondered if I was interested. I said that I absolutely was, but I was poly/partnered and that turned out to be a no-go. Alas. Will lightning strike again? Will I get my chance? I think what I’m saying is, if you have a dating show and need a male contestant, call me.

Just let me recover from my plague first.

How long until I just make my own? Now that’s an economy of scale

So here’s a thing I’ve discovered about shift work: Reality seems to come apart at the edges a little.

My waking hours have shifted. It’s not like I can just get home at 1am and go straight to bed. I need time to power down, and inevitably this means an hour or two. Cue a 3am bedtime and 11am or later waking. It’s kinda jarring. You get up and it feels like the day’s half done. Coffee helps, but ultimately there’s a funk that takes hours to shift. By the time you’re ready to interact in any meaningful way, it’s 2pm.

In more ways than not, it’s neat. You can meet friends for leisurely lunches. Running counter to the norm means that most tasks run more smoothly. You’re not dealing with busy periods of anything. Public transit is never full. You’re not packed at the back of a long lunch line. Getting a deli sandwich? You’ve got pleasant banter and extra toppings on your sandwich. I don’t know if anyone goes to the bank these days, but I’m sure you’d walk straight up to the counter. If anything needs to be done, it’s done in a carefree, relaxed manner.

If you’re not doing anything, you’re still in your bathrobe at 1.30pm, flitting between the same social media pages in an endless refresh. I imagine the life of a shift worker drastically changes when kids are in the house, or if you’re expected to be a contributing, upstanding member of society. We have a loud cat. I have the freedom to be an amorphous blob any time I’m not in the office. It’s enabling, to be sure. Structure makes most of us thrive, directing energies helpfully. Without it, it’s all too easy to flail. I dunno, if I have nowhere to be my eating habits get weird. I’ll eat sparingly and graze instead of just having larger meals. When I’ve got work to get to, I’ll wake around 7.30am and eat immediately. If not, it’s getting up at 11am or so and maybe eating before 2pm, and even then it’ll probably be spoons of kimchi, cottage cheese and peanut butter. In that order.

Oh right, that’s a thing. I’ve got a true shit or get off the pot moment. My local Asian supermarket has stopped stocking my favourite brand of kimchi. Kinda. They’ve stopped stocking the 1kg jars. Big tears from me. I stood dumbfounded at the kimchi cooler for several minutes looking around just in case I’d missed it. I asked a staff member if they’d be coming back in. I got no straight answer. In desperation, I searched for one. Apparently, they would no longer be stocking it. No why, just bad news. Do I need to find a new brand? It took me so long to latch onto this one, with it’s zesty spice and dried pear. Am I gonna have to go through the slog of buying new kimchi after new kimchi, longing for my favourite? Sure, I can get recommendations from friends, but finding a kimchi you treasure is such a personal quest. How are they to know what I truly seek in a kimchi when even I have a hard time defining it?

There is another way. While they no longer stock my 1kg jars of cut kimchi, they do have 5kg boxes of uncut kimchi in the brand I like. I had no idea about cut vs uncut kimchi (I think it’s less contentious in the kimchi community compared with the penis community), but apparently uncut is healthier, possibly even zestier. Still, 5kg is a whole different ballgame. Yes, there’s an economy of scale, but that also means finding space in the fridge for 5kg of jars that will sit there idle. I’ll need to have a real discussion with my girlfriend over holding that much fridge real estate hostage. Will it be worth it? Undoubtedly. Maybe it’ll even force us into throwing out things that have lurked there for far too long. Maybe we’ll even discover foods that’ve been marinating for years. Or a secret compartment that whisks us away to a fantasy land where we need to save the kingdom from the forces of evil.

More likely is that I plunge further into the crevasse of kimchi addiction. I’ll happily take that coin flip.

Get enough change and you’ve got yourself some dollars

Life has been a little different for me lately.

I’ve written a bunch about my shift work and how that’s changed my day to day. Working fewer hours, having blocks of four days off at a time. I think it’s what work/life balance is meant to resemble. For me, it’s eased an incalculable amount of stress. It’s a very big deal, and it’s straight up made my life better. The other part of the equation is money. I’m earning more money, and it’s incrementally showing me just how many ways in which low income earners stack inconveniences and hardships atop each other. Nothing revolutionary, I’ve just been blind to it.

A very obvious outcome is that I’ve bought a lot of things lately. I’m not even talking toys, but upgrades to things in my life that’ve fallen into disrepair or at least diminished efficacy. I’ve been keeping this note on my phone listing things I need, and things I want. I hadn’t checked in a while, but looking yesterday, I crossed three or four things off. My bike has been repaired and maintained. It has all the necessary safety gear. I bought a new mp3 player to replace my dead iPod. I replaced my five year old speakers that often only played from one channel. All of this took money. If I hazarded a guess, I’d say I’ve probably spent over a grand since changing jobs, just on little life upgrades. Consequently, things have been more convenient, enjoyable, I’m stressing less about constant negotiations and workarounds, and it’s easing tensions in my life. All of these things cost money and time for research, they’re paying off.

Here’s an example. I was in the kitchen this morning. I had my mp3 player in hand, Bluetooth earbuds in. I turned on a track, and my girlfriend asked me to fill a bottle of water for her. I obliged, put down the mp3 player, grabbed her bottle, filled it, and handed it back. I then picked up my mp3 player and carried on my merry way. If this sounds unremarkable, it both is and isn’t. It’s not even an ad for Bluetooth technology. It’s a minuscule convenience in one small moment. I could easily and quickly drop what I was doing. I didn’t have some bulky player connected to a think tangle of wires, that I’d then have to cram into a pocket so it could move with me, or otherwise put down the entire thing. As long as my player was within a certain radius I didn’t even need to drop what I was doing to do something else. I accomplished a tiny tiny task with virtually no effort. I had more capacity to do things, because the task was simplified by a slight degree. It’s very unlikely to be the last time I have a similar convenience, and this is just one device. I’ve improved a host of tools in my life lately, and each of them make a multitude of things better. It’s an exponential growth in my quality of life, and money made it possible.

I very much don’t think my message here is “let’s all hoard wealth and live easier”. What I’ve noticed, is that money eases burdens, and the difference between easing these burdens is not as costly as you’d think. What did I say I’d spent? $1000 or so? In the grand scheme of things, $1000 is not much, but it’s helping me navigate life more fluidly. How many people couldn’t afford to spare that $1000 for unnecessary, but nice things? If $1000 can help, what could $2000 do? How much easier would that make some people’s lives? $5000? $10,000? It shames me to say it, but $10,000 does not seem like a significant amount of money when we’re talking about totally changing someone’s life. For some people, that’s just a portion of what they’d spend on a desired extravagance. How much does a new high end car cost? A lot more than $10,000.

I’m not especially wealthy, and if I lost 10,000 I’d be frustrated, angry maybe. However, it wouldn’t significantly change my life. I’d still be able to afford my everyday costs. I’d have a roof over my head, food in the fridge, clothing to take care of me over the winter months. It wouldn’t heavily impact future needs. I certainly wouldn’t be destitute. For others, $10,000 could totally change their lives. It would turn things upside down, ease stresses, and help prevent compound stresses. They have a habit of stacking up, where one thing impacts another, which has a knock on effect to other areas. Problems create more problems, and the fewer problems you have, the fewer problems you will have. Sure, mo money mo problems, but there’s a large threshold before money really starts becoming a problem. $10,000 isn’t it.

So if $10,000 wouldn’t really impact my life, what about people who do earn a lot of money? What about billionaires? If Bill Gates gave away $100,000,000,000, he’d still have $7,000,000,000. That’s 10,000,000 allotments of $10,000. That’s ten million families whose lives could be eased, and he’d still have more money than most could spend in a lifetime. The only reason I’m picking Gates in this example is because his net worth recently came up in public conversation. I’m not saying Gates should be giving money directly to people (there’s probably a way to make that money have an even higher overall yield for public good), but it’s a simple example. One person could make ten million people’s lives easier. That’s massive.

Money is a lot of things. There were probably ten thousand paths this entry could have gone down. This was only one. All I know is that my path forward has been made a lot easier lately, and it didn’t take much.

Did you know you’re supposed to wear bum bags backwards?

Work Halloween party in an hour and a half, and I still haven’t figured out my costume.

To be clear, I know what I’m going to wear, I just haven’t figured out what I’m gonna call it. I want to wear my lion onesie, because it’s comfortable and doesn’t require any planning. That’s fine, and the only issue really is that that it has no pockets. I need pockets, because I’ll want my scan card to get in and out of the party. I have a bum bag/fanny pack, which works great for the pockets dilemma, but it doesn’t do wonders for the costume. So if I’m gonna have the bum bag and also retain a modicum of decorum at a costumed event, I’ll need to justify it somehow. Unless…

I’ve definitely told the story here before, but I used to have a friend back home with one particular costume for parties. A taco. She didn’t even own the costume, she just loved it. Her friend worked at a costume rental place. My friend borrowed the taco costume so often that eventually she started getting it practically for free. She’d go to parties as a taco, any parties. Halloween? Taco. Themed parties? Taco. I had a Comicon themed leaving party from NZ, and you can bet your arse she dressed as a taco. It was a fun bit, but it got better. Every time she’d show up at a party, she’d meet new people who didn’t get it. They had no idea that she was some form of wonderful sociopath dressing to her own theme no matter what was on offer. So they’d start making offers. “Oh, are you the character Taco from The League?” Whatever they’d suggest, she’d be like “oh, you totally got it. Good job”. Then if someone else came up with another suggestion, same thing. Everyone thought they were so astute for guessing, and she didn’t have to justify a thing. It was great.

I wonder if I could take the same tack at this work party. Just wear what I want to wear, and put the onus on others to let me know what I am. I know I’ve got a twisty turny brain that’ll contort itself to come up with concepts. If I saw someone wearing a fanny pack and lion costume I’d be like “ooooh, are you Muff-asa?” Maybe not safe for work, but my brain sure isn’t. I can leave the job of figuring out my costume to others, and just have a good time. I can make people feel great for ‘guessing correctly’, and if someone comes up with a really good one, I can take it for myself. No stress whatsoever, and I’ll be comfy as a bean in a burrito.

Or just like, make a cardboard crown and go as The Lion King.