Journal of the Plague Year 2020: A Small But Genuine Sense of Disappointment

Today — like most days — was one of those days at work where you’re incredulous that you get paid so much to do frustrating, tedious things that cannot be easily explained. I spent all day haggling with material handlers, transport specialists and production WIPs trying to get one missile out of my lab, and another missile into it.

(NB: I don’t know what WIP stands for, but it’s pretty awesome that the guys who keep critical subassemblies, air vehicles and all-up-rounds circulating are called “whips.” Why is this not my title? Can this title be earned through combat, or purchased like a command in Wellington’s army?)

So, like I was saying, I spent my day calling and emailing and texting in a desperate attempt to tread water in a rising tide of shit. At 0830, I was chortling and skipping about, working with a forklift crew to ease a missile into a gigantic metal box. At 1500, I was stalking the halls cursing the gods above and the stones below because the material handlers had stubbornly refused to fish the second missile from its container, and, to my desperate annoyance, had brought the first missile back and abandoned it on the loading dock next to its mate.

“Ohhhh, that fucking pisses me off,” I snarled behind my mask, startling a flock of software engineers into flight. “Mother fuck.”

For me, it is a perverse point of pride that my exotic elvish heroes often waste their time in a similar manner. Inglorion sits in cabinet meetings in the Underdark, cultivating an expression of polite interest while secretly thinking about sex. When he’s not on his knees before the gods begging forgiveness for his many failings, he lounges around thinking, So, wait — this is it? I’m a double-agent and a Drow nobleman, and I have to sit through weekly status meetings?

Valentine signs legal documents to the point of writer’s cramp, and feigns interest in mining revenues and grape blight. He scowls and stifles his finer feelings: His longing to love and be loved, and to express the tenderness buried within his breast.

I am dearly fond of the violence and high-minded pathos of the Iliad. I’m only now learning to enjoy the subtle tones of daily life: An exalted electrical engineer swanning into our lab for a test planning meeting, spotting my concert T-shirt and exclaiming, “Adam Ant!”

“Yup! You’re welcome,” I said.

Soon thereafter we stood in a circle while the expert spouted an equation that describes some aspect of how electrical noise travels through a system. We all adopted earnest expressions and nodded; I wondered, as I always do, if I’m the only person in the room who flunked out of trigonometry and wandered off to read the German Idealists instead. I hope so, for the good of our National Critical Infrastructure.

Once he’d set us straight on the subject of induction, the expert drifted to one side and chatted with me and a kid in Operations about wearing masks and stocking up on guns and hand-washing. The kid said bitterly that his generation consists of slavish conformists who wear masks for no good reason. The expert and I are contemporaries; I wondered if he felt, as I did, that the millennial had missed the point. The expert left, presumably to use the same equation in a neighboring lab.

I thought how odd it is that we secretly regret that things aren’t worse. We wake up, check the papers, and feel a small but genuine sense of disappointment that the world hasn’t ended.

The meetings persist in the face of wars, pandemics, floods and famine.

But, then, so does our longing to love and be loved.

Confirmed Covid-19 cases in Arizona: 14,897

Current hospitalizations: 810

Deaths: 747

 

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