Depending on how many consecutive days you get off around Christmas, you might be given the opportunity to make that dive into personal weirdness that a large amount of time that is otherwise spoken for is laid at your feet.
I look forward to this time of the year for the chance to see how far out into the existential wilderness I can wander. Christmas cards are depressing, so I usually shred them immediately as I wonder why if you’re going to go through all the trouble to send one, why you would have all your staff sit down and hastily write their name on dozens or maybe hundreds of cards when the end result looks like a Christmas themed petition signed by angry people who are protesting the signing of Christmas cards. I’m not trying to be cynical but I’ve never understood how anyone could enjoy sending or receiving Christmas cards. The ones I don’t shred I put to good use. I print out images I find online and glue them into the cards and leave them all over Heidi’s office, so she can enjoy them when she returns in the new year. Often, it’s terrified zebras with their legs stuck in the jaws of crocodiles. I’ve been doing this for years. In January of every year, without a word, Heidi shreds them all.
I saw on the news that a massive portion of Americans will be hitting the highways of America to migrate to other places to argue with their flat earther uncles and drink too much. I don’t have that kind of thing happening. There is no house to go to, no party to attend. Years ago, well intentioned people came forth with their invitations and after enough polite passes, they just stopped.
A few days before Christmas, the landline is unplugged and the cell phone is turned off. The email isn’t checked, and a 21st century untethering is achieved.
I allow myself as much repetitive behavior as I want. I observe myself as if I’m the lab rat and the one conducting the study. Eat the same thing in the morning, check. Listen to the same record every evening, done. Sleep goes from the usual five to six hours, to shorter bursts of unconsciousness throughout the day and night. Depression levels rise perhaps due to the broken sleep cycle but I can’t help it, I find this manner of spending time to be too interesting to take better care of myself. A few days in, things can get surreal. I liken it to being Dave towards the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
At night, I go to coffee shops, listen to music and write in my journal. I see the same people in these places all the time. They usually have headphones on and are watching what looks like a film or a television show on their device. I wonder what their motivation is for doing what they’re doing where they’re doing it. They might be wondering the exact same thing about me. After spending hours in my office and in the gym, I have to get out and break up the stillness. I’m amongst people but I have music on, so it looks like the scene of a film that’s happening all around me. It’s like a multi-hour scuba dive, or being a mannequin at a party.
The office is my constant and the often tedious work I sign myself up for at this time of the year takes up several hours of the day. This time around, it’s transcribing thousands of words out of notebooks in an effort to build a manuscript that can be brutalized for months and maybe turned into a book. If I don’t do it, it doesn’t get done. No matter how many hours I put in, it still requires more.
I watch fake news on the internet from all the failing news outlets, like I’m from another planet, as if I reside at some great altitude, my vantage point giving me unimpeachable perspective. Nothing can be kept from me. Alone in my house, I am the knower of things, the invisible American squinting into the future. The Republican’s furious and pathetic attempt to discredit Mueller and his investigation only indicates that the man is onto something. They can’t really think they’re fooling anyone, can they? Ha! Alone in my kitchen eating hummus, I am onto them. Orrin Hatch, who just claimed that comrade Trump is one of the best presidents he’s ever served under, in a single sentence, traded in any and all credibility he ever had. These politicians, who I guess see themselves having no choice but to throw in their lot with Trump will never get the stench off of them. It doesn’t matter how passionately the petulant Fox News entertainers whahhhh into camera lenses, it is what it is and as their demographic reaches their physiological limits, Fox and their ilk are the ever drying and shrinking scab that will at some point fall off. Time and the future are not on their side.
If there is an afterlife, is this how the day goes? Is this what retirement is like? If that’s the case, then I won’t be able to handle retirement. I don’t mind a few days of drift and introspective wallow but thankfully it will soon be time to get a shave and stand upright.
Meanwhile, all around me, Christmas, a force of such epic power, all the liberal attacks waged against it could not put the slightest dent in its gleaming chassis. I drove by the Grove two days ago and the line of cars to get in stopped traffic. This is America at one of its most terrifying times, when millions in acquisition mode, see it as their genetic imperative to get the best deals. I think it’s part of what happens when you take millions of people who spend most of their time working themselves to the bone as we Americans are wont to do, and give them some down time. Like sailors on shore leave, for some, it’s a little too much. We are well conditioned and doomed to serve the few. Soon enough, boredom and situational angst will set in. The coffee places and movie theaters will fill as people hit their saturation point on free time and wait to get back to work, where from the confines of their cars stuck in perpetual traffic jams and the cubicles they eventually hurl themselves into, can look forward to the next holiday season.