I’ll Figure Out a Title Later

It was either Confucius or John Mulaney who said, “It’s so much easier not to do things than to do them, that you would do anything is totally remarkable.” I heard this as I sat in bed this morning desperately staving off getting ready for work. I actually worked really hard; I thought up so many things to do instead of getting out of bed. And so many reasons why these things were more important than getting out of bed. The only reason I did end up getting out of bed was because my wife spilled a cup of coffee onto the floor and I wanted to help her clean it up. But there was a split second where I thought, “she’s a liberated independent woman, she doesn’t need me to help her. I should probably just stay in bed.”

There have been hundreds, probably thousands, of things written on the causes of procrastination. Even the title I was considering for this post “Procrastination: A Love Story” already has an entire page of Google search results devoted to it. So, for an in-depth analysis of why people procrastinate, you can go read something by, y’know, an actual medical professional. Suffice it to say that the reason I procrastinate is that I figure that the thing that I’m avoiding doing, I probably won’t do very well. I leave it to a Future Kevin to accomplish this task, because Future Kevin will be much wiser, much more capable than this current Kevin. I have a lot of faith in Future Kevin, so procrastination is my way of hail-Mary-passing my important tasks to him. You got this, future big guy.

In fact, the reason that this post isn’t a continuation of me writing about my trip to Ireland is that I figured Future Kevin would have more time to think of something more clever and insightful to write about on that subject.

So instead, let me provide to you some of my favorite methods of procrastination. That way, if you recognize any of them and think “but wait, that’s an incredibly valuable way I use my time,” you may discover that you’ve been procrastinating and without even realizing it.

  1. Reading news articles on my phone. This one is THE BEST. Because I can convince myself that I’m actually just keeping myself informed; I’m ensuring that I remain an intelligent person who’s equipped to discuss and act upon the issues of the day. The procrastination part of this is the timing of thinking that I need to read about the impeachment of the South Korean prime minister at the exact moment and only at the exact moment that I should probably be emptying the litter box instead.
  2. Staying in bed and being awake. This one’s awesome because it works at night or in the morning. At night, I can justify lying in bed and reading or checking my phone because I’m winding down, can’t I have just a few moments (read: 50 minutes) of peace and diversion before I go to bed?” Instead of just going to bed and actually getting some rest. Or in the morning–I can’t just jump out of bed! I didn’t sleep well last night, so I just need five minutes (read: 45 minutes) of becoming one with the day before I get pummeled with an ocean of responsibilities and obligations!
  3. [Insert menial task here]-ing. This one’s beautiful because I can use it to dodge a more important task by doing a less important one. No, Jen, I can’t talk to you about when we plan on having kids because I need to pay our credit card bills! Do you want us to go into credit card debt? I didn’t think so. This one is also nice because you can chain it with reading news articles on your phone so that you can start off paying the credit card bills, but end up reading about the Keystone Pipeline. You want me to pay the credit card bill, Jen? You don’t care about the environment and don’t want us to be informed about the ways our government is avoiding meaningfully exploring alternative energy sources? Wow. I thought I knew you, but, just, wow.

Hopefully none of these sounded familiar, but if they did, you probably stopped reading already and switched over to reading an article about how a popular TV show perpetuates cultural stereotypes. Godspeed.

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The Old Country: Expectations

I finally did it. I finally got to visit my ancestral homeland. I got to return to the Old Country. Since I was a youth, I have yearned to walk the streets of my forebears and hear the old tongue spoken–to hear “Mangia! Mangia!” as the gondolas float laconically down the river. Then I learned that these things happen in Italy, not Ireland–which is where my very pale and potato-loving kin come from.

Thanks to the kindness and generosity of the folks at Groupon, Jen and I were able to take a trip to Ireland at an outrageously discounted rate! The savings were so great, you had to see it to believe it! We had to act fast, because a deal this good wasn’t going to last! So after some hemming and hawing and tax refund calculating, we did indeed act fast.

We wanted the trip to be low key. Jen has the propensity to aggressively sightsee, to use sightseeing as a way to wrestle a vacation into submission, as it were, so on this trip, we wanted to make a conscious effort to just relax and have fun. Consequently, I tried not to go into the trip with too many expectations, to let Ireland be Ireland and wash over me like a refreshing waterfall of Irish Spring liquid gel body wash. After arriving, however, it quickly became clear that I had still unconsciously developed several hopes for the trip.

  1. That I would finally be “home.” That I’d get off the plane and some stout old Irishman would slap me on the back and say, “Fair play to ya, lad! Welcome! Now let’s get y’a pint of Guinness and a tweed flatcap so you can finally relax. And by the way, you’re lookin’ a little tan–you might want to slather on some sunscreen, you might.” I thought I would experience an ineffable connection to people and places as I took in my roots.
  2. That people would be friendly and interesting. That every stranger would enjoy the chance to strike up a conversation and expound upon the intricacies of their life in Ireland. And that they would have troves of interesting and entertaining anecdotes for me to enjoy. Certainly they might not just volunteer this information, but also certainly they would respond readily (and in detail) if I asked, “So how about the intricacies of life in Ireland? How’re those going?”
  3. That everybody at a given restaurant would be enjoying a pint. I wanted to go to lunch and see old men catching up over a lunch beer.
  4. That navigating an unfamiliar place without the aid of GPS, WiFi, or a general skill at navigation would be easy and enjoyable.

In my next post, I’ll let you know how those assumptions worked out.

Mr. Gaul Goes to Brooklyn, Part 2

I last left off writing about an outrageous misapplication of public transit law. But I didn’t get mad; I got even. Well. I did get mad. But I didn’t stay mad. And I did get even, the way any true revolutionary does–by using the legally established channels to politely seek a more favorable outcome.

This involved traveling to the Transit Adjudication Bureau by subway (a delicious irony) to plead my case before a “hearing officer,” a term for a public functionary which has just the right amount of Orwellian ring to it. As I took the elevator up to the Transit Adjudication Bureau offices, I saw a notice posted on the elevator wall that read “the use of profanity or physical violence against public employees will result in criminal prosecution.” Which is very comforting to know–that the place you’re about to enter necessitated a sign like this to be posted. And they weren’t kidding either. Before you can enter the waiting room, you have to go through a metal detector and then talk to people at two separate windows before you’re even allowed to wait for someone to listen to your case.

The reason for this immediately became clear–if you’re coming in hot with a lot of ire about how the system has done you wrong and you’re gonna let the system have it, you have to keep that ire kindled for about 50 minutes before you can actually unleash it on Uncle Sam’s surrogate. I say it became immediately clear because after I walked in, a guy came in behind me who tried to tell every employee he came in contact with that “the back door of the bus was open and everyone was getting in and the machine was broken, and nobody else got fined, and how are you going to charge $100 for not knowing that you can’t go in the back door of a bus?” He was a passionate man. So passionate that I thought even if he had a decent case, he wasn’t going to win it by delivering it like it was the Sacco and Vanzetti trial.

A true and honest 60 minutes into my visit, I was finally called by hearing officer. He was a short, stooped genial old man, wearing possibly the widest tie I’ve ever seen. He was not the physically imposing robed figure carrying a cudgel that I’d imagined a hearing officer to be. And if I had misjudged the officer, I had even more misjudged the office. Because it was legitimately an office–smaller than some offices of middle managers at companies I know aren’t doing well financially. The office was completely painted off-white with a perfunctory file cabinet, desk, and computer. Wide Tie dialed a number on the desk phone–oh there was also a phone–which it turned out was what they used to record court proceedings.

And with that, and a request to “please speak very loudly,” the State of New York asked me to defend myself.

Which I did and it took about five minutes and they made a copy of my Metrocard and sent me back into the waiting room.

Where I sat for another hour.

And during that hour, I got to enjoy the fellowship of my co-defendants. These included two older men, one of whom was helping the other remember what his social security number was. Not the actual number, but the concept of a social security number. It took a couple of minutes. It also included a baby who was apparently very displeased that he had been ticketed for jumping the turnstile; he made this apparent by crying at full volume for twenty minutes. I think he had a good case, though, because I don’t think he was capable of jumping. And finally, I got to hear more from Sacco and Vanzetti who it turned out had tried to argue his case with the hearing officer in the lobby before they even got to the office. He did not win. His last defense after losing his case was “if they charge you $100 for getting in the back of the bus, do they charge you $200 for getting in the front of it?!”

Finally after what seemed like an hour, and actually was an hour, my name was called for the rendering of my verdict. And to my surprise, Wide Tie didn’t even give it! I guess because they’re worried about the whole profanity and physical violence thing. It was one of the window people who actually told me that I’d been set free from the bonds of tyranny and handed me a piece of paper wherein Wide Tie basically said, “this guy seems alright and the turnstile seems like it was garbage and he came all the way down here, so I say he’s good to go. Why not, right?”

And with the harsh rebuke of the Law silenced, I went to celebrate my victory at Starbucks, just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Susan B. Anthony.