Fiction: Just Another Evening

Marty left work and stopped at his local corner grocery store and picked up a litre of milk and a couple of potatoes. Being a little older, he still had the habit saying a quart of milk however metric had been in force for over three decades and old habits die hard. He chuckled while thinking of how he continued to spout off various phrases like the temperature as sixty degrees Fahrenheit instead of 15 degrees Celsius or driving at 60 miles per hour instead of one hundred kilometres per hour. Heck the rest of the world was metric and even Star Trek was metric, so why couldn’t he get used to it?

Trying to be systematic, Marty came into his apartment, hung up his coat and immediately went about gathering together some clothes for a load of wash. He already knew he was overtired and hitting the sack early wouldn’t hurt him at all but getting to bed early meant trying to get a few things out of the way. While the load of wash swirled around in the machine, Marty got a potato into the microwave to bake it. Once that cycle started, he got out his laptop computer he brought home from the office and set it up in his docking station. While that booted up, Marty returned to the refrigerator and fished out a hotdog. When the microwave beeped, he opened the door, put the hotdog on the plate with the potato then reset the timer for another minute and a half. Marty then went back to the computer and logged in. He waited about thirty seconds or so until he got the main menu then started his own automated routine, a batch file, to launch his Firefox browser, Word with his main blogging document, the Windows Explorer auto-started to his home folder and the Windows sound control. Bingo, one click and he had four apps opened at once.

The microwave beeped so he went back to get out his dinner plate. Quick, easy, and admittedly about as far from gourmet as one could get but a single hotdog and a baked potato made for light dinner. Marty tried to follow a plan of eating lightly and if necessary more frequently. Unfortunately while he did stuff himself occasionally, he paid the price by getting sleepy afterwards and this was not a good thing to do if the intention was to stay alert and pack in some time at the computer.

Then again, being at the computer sometimes was a bit of a time suck. Marty smiled to himself as he had run across this term a while back and went to Urban Dictionary to verify the meaning. They defined it as something which was both engrossing and addictive and that pretty much described the process of mindlessly surfing. It was sort of like intermittent reinforcement where you clicked on a link and maybe it was interesting and maybe it was not but you kept clicking over and over again in some screwball vain hope of running across something of merit. Many times you didn’t and eventually you looked at the time wondering just where the heck did it go. Time suck, yeah that’s the perfect term. An activity which just sucks up your time. Ha! How many times had anybody arrived at some moment after midnight or even later realising they hadn’t accomplished anything of value other than having managed to waste a great deal of valuable time. Gee, and that’s time one would never get back. Let’s all hold a hand up to our forehead in the shape of the letter L and say, “Loser!”

Marty ate his quickie dinner while watching the news on a television web site. Once finished, he got up and placed his plate and utensils in the sink with a little soap. He then went to retrieve his load of laundry. The coin machine showed another four minutes in the cycle so Marty waited beside the machine. Taking advantage of this moment, he did some stretching exercises like touching his toes and bending to each side. To anybody passing by, it would probably look a little bizarre but Marty even did this type of stretching exercise at the office. Of course, he would temporarily shut his door when he did them so nobody would inadvertently pass by and think he had lost his mind. Rightly or wrongly, he found that doing some exercises from time to time made him feel better. Maybe if everybody did something, there would be fewer complaints about back problems.

Booking.com

The cycle finished and Marty took out his load of wash. Back in his apartment, he hung everything up on hangers then hooked the hangers to the bedroom door. Okay, he had debated the merits of hanging things up to dry versus using a dryer but living by himself meant that he could do as he pleased without worrying about whether or not somebody would find his habits strange. He had found that using the dryer wasn’t necessary and in some cases not using the dryer meant completely avoiding frying one’s clothes when the cycle just went on for too long. Heck, when he was a kid his mother used to hang up clothes outside to dry in the wind so what exactly was the difference between that and hanging things up in the apartment? Ah, some would immediately say the wind but Marty had taken care of that by turning on a fan in the bedroom. That meant clothes would spend the entire day in the bedroom with air circulating and if it wasn’t raining, Marty would leave the window open a crack so in effect, it sort of mimicked what his mom did when he was a kid.

Arguably though, the real reason why Marty did this was pure laziness. When you lived in an apartment and had to make use of the building’s laundry room, this usually meant having to pack up your clothes and taking them somewhere. Rather than wait through the wash cycle then waiting through a dry cycle, only washing them meant having to only wait through one cycle. Then Marty could go back to the apartment and hang them up. Hey, if you didn’t want to wait through a dryer cycle, hang stuff up. Less time spent and yes, less money spent. Being lazy might just have turned out to be the catalyst to developing a wash method which was easier on clothes. That is, not using the dryer meant Marty never accidentally fried his clothes in some industrial strength machine which got hot enough to bake enamel on clay pottery. Hmmm, wouldn’t that meant his clothes would last longer?

Once that chore was out of the way, Marty could sit down at his computer and go to town. Well, going to town usually started off with checking email then his Facebook and Twitter accounts. If he had run across something interesting in the news or during his surfing, he would post some links to the information on both Facebook and Twitter. And if he noticed people hunting down one of his blog postings, he might repost a link to that blog entry on Facebook and Twitter in an effort to bring attention to material he may have written months ago. Go, go, go. Always try to promote one’s self. How utterly shameless.

Boy, Facebook, Twitter, blog stats, looking at the news, checking mail. Yeah, what a time suck indeed. It was surprising to get around to doing anything productive at all. Marty chuckled to himself. Well, he sometimes chuckled to himself and he sometimes got pissed with himself for being a lazy, undisciplined oaf who blindly or stupidly – or maybe both – clicked around various links like a mindless fool with no real objective. Hey, why not try to focus, eh? If you’d stop goofing around and actually put your nose to the grindstone, maybe you’d accomplish something instead of arriving at the end of the evening with nothing to show for it. Wait! Just one more click. Wait, this looks like a really promising link so maybe with this click I’m going to find something interesting and educative which will change my life forever. Really, now. And just what does a newspaper article claiming to show Kim Kardashian’s latest fashion statement have anything to do with your work? Well, nothing but who can resist taking a peak at some possibly sexy pictures? Time suck! Loser! You unfocused, undisciplined neophyte. You couldn’t type 16 words never mind 1,667. Oops, is that letting the cat out of the bag?

Marty closed his browser. He then clicked on the Taskbar to go to Word where his work document was opened. He hit Ctrl + Enter and moved to a new page and started typing. He typed and kept typing. He didn’t stop. He tried not to pause. And he tried not to pay attention to any spelling errors or any possible grammatical errors he knew the Word spell checker slash grammar checker would later point out to him. Type and don’t interrupt the flow. Always move forward. Like a shark. Yes, sharks always have to keep moving forward because they apparently don’t have an air bladder and can’t float. They must always move or they will sink. Hmmm, is this a good analogy? Keep typing or one will sink into a morass of procrastination.

Oh gawd, this was difficult. From previous experience, Marty knew that he had his moments where he would stop and reflect. Sometime his reflecting involved pacing up and down in his apartment. Was pacing conducive to thinking? Did the physical act of walking back and forth somehow aid the process of cogitating? Then again, some of the experts mentioned occasionally moving around to be a good thing. Sitting for a long time can give you a cramp or something and Marty, if on a long streak, would occasionally take a break to do some sit-ups or push-ups. Some activity break to avoid getting stiff from sitting too long.

Coupled with the pacing, Marty also talked out loud once in a while. Did speaking something instead of just thinking it somehow make the idea clearer? He wondered sometimes if his neighbours heard him talking out loud to himself and questioned if he had completely lost his mind. Geesh if Marty was doing this now, what was Marty going to be like in another 10 years? Would he be one of those weird-ohs out in the street babbling away to nobody in particular? The person everybody walked around trying to avoid any possible contact with somebody who looked one brick shy of a load?

Marty laughed to himself as he remembered an incident from twenty years ago. He was driving on a highway someplace all by himself and for whatever reason went off on a rant. He was talking out loud to himself enunciating some explanation of gawd only knows what about something which had taken place between him and a client. He apparently was trying to clarify his position after a debate, no an argument with somebody and somehow giving his reasons for the 10th time out loud in the car felt good. At one moment, a car with three teenage boys passed him on the highway and they were all staring at Marty. When Marty noticed this, he suddenly realised he had not only been talking out loud, he had been gesticulating in an effort to punctuate all the wonderful points his was making to support his side of the argument. Oh boy, the group of them must have thought Marty was totally nuts. Talking out loud and gesticulating when you’re the only person in the car? Ah, is that a picture of insanity or what?

Okay, let’s try and avoid that one. Marty turned back to his typing and focused on the keyboard. Type, type, type. He looked at the clock. An hour had passed. He did a word count and discovered he had done 1,432 words. He thought for a moment. It was getting late. He decided he could finish this off in the morning. He set up his Symantec to scan his hard drive for viruses then went to take a shower. A good night’s sleep then he could do it all again tomorrow. Hmph, how many people across the planet were typing away like him in an attempt to compose something of literary merit? And how questionable was that literary merit? Marty smiled. In the grand schemes of things just what did any of this mean? As he had said previously, he was merely a single grain of sand on the beach of life. The word insignificant somehow didn’t seem sufficient to explain Marty’s small place in a world of seven billion people. Oh well, what could anybody do? At the end of the day, anybody doesn’t do it for fame and fortune; they do it because they enjoy it. As Robert Louis Stevenson was quoted as saying, “To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” The pleasure is in the doing. If Marty could find that pleasure, any of this would probably be quite easy. Okay, so he wasn’t the next Shakespeare or the next Stephen King. At least he could have fun and what more could anybody ask for?

Maybe it was just another evening. But in typing, Marty could very well end up in an exotic locale, involved in a story full of intrigue with murder, mayhem, spies and gawd knows what else. Gee, throw in a car chase and you’ve got not just another evening but a very interesting evening. Cue the credits; time for bed.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

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