I shouldn’t have even left the damn house today. Unfortunately, having a premonition that you’re going to have a shitty day, or simply being too tired due to lack of sleep are not valid excuses for missing a day of work. Don’t you dare get the inkling that I did not sit on the edge of my bed considering doing just that; because that’s exactly what I did.
I sat there begging and pleading my dumb brain to come up with some sort of elaborate ruse, some on-the-fly, little white lie to get me off the hook. I needed something to excuse me from going once more into the poisonous abyss called my workplace. I stared straight ahead in my not-enough-sleep fog long enough for my alarm clock to jump out of its nine minute snooze schedule and fracture the fiberglass cobwebs taking up residence just behind my eyeballs.
I can usually survive with little incident by getting about five hours of sleep. Sometimes, though, it seems that the entire world is conspiring against me in such an endeavor during the day. The main offenders are my neighbors. I have no qualms about stating that some of the people that live around my apartment are some of the most self-centered, socially oblivious and rude bunch of bastards I have ever encountered. Note that I say “some.” There are a select few that will actually offer a greeting, and/or interact with me when I do the same in passing. That sub sect also seems to understand and respect the fact that people around them may work schedules outside of their personal understanding. Most others will simply shoot back a look that subtly says, “who the fuck are you?” Loud car stereos blasting out the latest in pointless rap & bass, people having no ability to modulate the volume of their own voices right outside my bedroom window, and their inconsiderate visitors pounding on doors all attribute to my insomnia.
The distance from my bed to my bathroom is roughly sixteen feet. Lumbering about in my sleep deprived state proved to be a bit of an issue, making the short walk seem like an infinite treadmill loop. I wasn’t drunk; I wasn’t hung-over. I simply did not get enough sleep and was slightly unbalanced and bleary. Everything in this early evening Waltz of the Blue Danube was moving in slow motion. It was the only pace I could comprehend at the time. One would think that I could gain control of my motor skills at such a leisurely gait, but no. Not possible. Viewed from the outside, I was moving along at a normal clip; perhaps a bit too fast given my state at the time. Inside my molasses brain I was but a passenger, observing the shell of my body dance its staccato ballet, all the while inflicting quite-avoidable damage upon itself. I could only watch in terror as the smallest toe at the leading edge of my right foot deftly swung through the air, mere millimeters above the carpeted ground. I could hear the little guy screaming for all Earthly mercy just before the inevitable sickening thud. A mid-air collision had taken place, toe vs. dresser; whereupon a red shock wave of pain instantly shot up through the system and connected me, mind and body. That did the trick. No need for coffee today. I was now fully awake, hopping on one foot, howling out a string of expletives that would make the drunkest of shore-leave Sailors blush.
Fully angered by the day’s experiences thus far, I was forced to carry out my hygiene rituals in the most efficient manner possible. Rinse, shampoo, rinse, soap, rinse, towel-dry, comb hair, clean ears, shave, brush teeth, clean glasses, deodorant, clothes, done. No time or patience for any other miscellaneous extraneous thoughts or theories. I was focused on the immediate task. All manner of random genii normally contemplated during the shower ritual was forced out by the seething cauldron of anger, physical pain and the desire to just get this shit over with. I shuffled into the kitchen and made the fateful decision to pack a chicken pot pie for lunch. Why did I do this? Chicken pot pies are fucking delicious. The combination of vegetables, poultry and a creamy broth in a pie-like structure is a welcome mid-shift treat on cold winter nights like tonight. Had I known that the thing would eventually turn on me and bring me further down into the hell of an off-kilter day, I would have left the fucker to rot in the freezer.
Now dressed and with lunch assembled, it was time to suffer through the day’s next agony. The commute was about to begin. The events leading up to this point fail to match the frustration that builds within me in dealing with the unholy idiocy of others on the roads and highways around me. My daily commute should consist of a thirty minute pleasure cruise, allowing me to gather my thoughts for the day and likely listen to the cornucopia of music I have at my disposal. More often, though, it becomes mired in stoppages, slow-downs and adrenaline-pumping reactions to deficiencies in judgment on the parts of other drivers. Much to my pleasant surprise, the predicted angst was eased as the drive was smooth and uneventful. A to B in one fell swoop. Things could be looking up!
My arrival at work was equally uneventful. No trumpets, no fanfare signaling the triumphant return of a tenacious adventurer. I placed my carefully chosen lunch fare in the break room freezer, looking forward to the lunchtime delight in the hours to come. After a quick nod and “‘sup,” in the direction of the other employee, I was back at my desk ready to take on the fantastic monotony of the day. I had just over ten hours, then I would revel in the beauty of a three day weekend.
I went about my regular routine, answering phones, answering emails, carefully crafting email queries to others in the company. Often my wit and witticism is lost on those that I email, but I continue on with the hope that one day someone will catch on and realize that this shit is not as serious as it appears. Bits and bytes, zeroes and ones, Excel cells and tabs, Word typefaces and margins were flying about in front of me on my digital canvas. The data I had been processing for hours had apparently been conspiring against me in their hypnotic prance across my glowing screens. After a few short hours of performing this corporate promenade, I was beginning to fade. Eyelids, cranium drooping, I was losing the already wistful grip I had on consciousness. Before I knew it, I was involuntarily jolting myself awake, with some nonsensical bullshit repeated over and over on the monitor in front of me. It was prime time for a break. Prime time for some god damned chicken pot pie, water, and a cup of coffee. The simple things really do keep you going.
I retrieved my luncheon pie from the chilly depths of the freezer in the break room. I already knew the drill on how to cook these things in a microwave oven. However, I did double-check the instructions on the box, just in case the natural order of things had changed since I last had one of these. I didn’t want to fuck this up. I had been looking forward to this throughout all the tiresome events in the last several hours. Nine and one half minutes would be the prescribed length of time in the eleven hundred watt microwave. Yes, I verified how powerful the device was. Directions on the box specified cooking the pot pie to an internal temperature of one hundred sixty-five degrees, as measured by a food thermometer. “Fuck it,” I thought, “real men don’t need a thermometer for a pot pie.” I was going to be nuking this thing for damn near ten minutes; that would be good enough for me. Although, “real men” probably don’t treat a chicken pot pie as the highlight of their day either.
Like Rafiki presenting Simba for the first time, I offered forth my frozen entree to the gods of electronic ingenuity at MagicChef. Calmly, I entered the required time and pressed start on the microwave. My short culinary journey had begun. Including the advised “cool down” time, I was to be forking my way through a scrumptious chicken pot pie in just about one quarter of an hour.
I again felt the nature of my sleep deprivation rearing it’s ugly head. I walked around the office in attempts to get the blood flowing and perhaps increase my state of awareness. On my second meandering loop around the cubicles, the phone rang. I had high hopes that it would be a quick resolution. Those hopes were soon dashed when I heard the voice on the phone. It was an individual with a vehicular problem. This meant that I would have to spend several minutes gathering his details, then relay them via another phone call to our fleet support company. I was on hold with said support entity when I heard the most disheartening sound in the distance. It was the familiar final “beep beep beep,” of the ending countdown on the microwave. I’d heard it many times before, but none of those instances carried as much weight and helplessness as right now. I was on a perpetual hold, suffering through someone’s cruel joke of assigning mediocre eighties music as the on-hold tunes. The music you hear while on hold is supposed to ease frustration and possibly make the wait time seem to go by faster. Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” was certainly detrimental in this capacity and only added to my anxiety. I could hear the intermittent beep from the microwave, reminding me that the cooking was done and I had yet to open the door.
“Hello… is it me you’re looking for?” the song on the phone taunted.
Indeed, I was looking for something. I was looking for this endless phone call to reach a terminus so I could go proceed with my planned luncheon bliss. All I could picture was my now fully-cooked pot pie, dying of heat loss, with its only guardian being an easily-opened microwave door. I could hear it crying out for attention, in unison with the oven’s reminder beeps.
I finally spoke with a human being on the phone and fulfilled my duties. I wondered if he could sense the urgent but distraught nature of my voice, but I decided I didn’t care, in light of the main mission I was already on. After it was all said and done, the process took up thirty five minutes of my precious time. It was a painful twenty minute extension to the fifteen minute venture I had pinned all my gastric hopes and dreams upon.
I hustled into the break room, fully expecting my lunch to be grey, cold, sweaty and with a forlorn look of abandonment as if to say, “I was your only begotten chicken pot pie, why did you forsake me?” Much to my healthy amazement, that was not the case. It was still steaming! It was still hot! O great praise and adulation for the glorious radiation waves! They had bombarded my peas, carrots, chicken and frozen pie dough into a state of warmth and delight for my enjoyment and nutritional fulfillment! This was my chicken pot pie. There are many like it, but this one was mine.
I put it on a plate, gingerly stabbed the top crust with a plastic fork, and gathered my other accoutrements in preparation for a nice relaxing meal at my desk. Each footstep became a quick cadence to carry me to the ultimate goal I had fought so hard for.
The “Oh shit” moment came as I set everything down on my desk. The fork I had previously inserted in the delicacy had melted slightly, and was now hanging off the plate at a ninety degree angle. I was astounded. Even with the extra wait time, the pot pie was still a crucible of hellish heat! I had apparently under-estimated the incinerating prowess of the microwave. It was able to heat the pot pie and included cooking bowl to the extent that it would remarkably hold its heat during an extended cool-down period. My next course of action would be to deal with the heat that had been so angrily infused by the microwave. Working through my impatience at this point, I surgically opened the top of the pot pie and stirred it around a bit, in preparation to allow another ten minutes of cooling off. It was a grueling ten minutes. The steam rising from the bowl of flavor filled the area of my cubicle with a very pleasant aroma, rivaled only by the savory home cooking I experienced daily in my youth.
After waiting through the extended delay, a new fork was ceremoniously inserted. I gathered as many ingredients that would fit on a single fork-full and brought it slowly to my mouth, depositing its contents. This cheap plastic fork was fulfilling its destiny in serving as a conveyance of the most important chicken pot pie at that moment in history. The immediate satisfaction was instantly overpowered by immediate pain. Even after waiting for what seemed like an irresponsible amount of time, the pot pie that I had so lovingly prepared and doted upon, WAS STILL HOTTER THAN THE FUCKING FLAMES OF HADES ITSELF. I quickly spat it out and doused the offending oral immolation with my bottle of water. I sat there with mouth agape, pot pie filling and chicken dribbling down my chin and beard. The former contents strewn in a haphazard puddle on my desk. What a pitiful state.
Shock gave way to anger. I wanted to scream out with all the baneful ire I could muster, but I didn’t. I held back, not wanting to seem like a lunatic to the coworker across the room. I could see the comments in the near future, “Yeah, he sat there screaming at a chicken pot pie for ruining his life and everything they had together, then he took it outside and ran over it a few times in the parking lot.” It probably wouldn’t bode well for any prospective interactions I would have with him or other office mates.
Calmly, I collected my thoughts, cleaned myself and my desk. I proceeded to stir the ever-loving shit out of the pot pie. I was not going to let this obnoxious bastard get the best of me. Stirring and fanning, pensively sampling here and there. I eventually got the nefarious entree to an acceptable temperature and ate the rest of it without complications. A full hour after starting this grand adventure, I was left with a full stomach and a burned mouth. Also remaining was the empty microwaveable bowl with some baked-on bits of pie crust. I had ruminating thoughts of embarking on a country-wide tour, educating the public on the terrors of consuming microwaved chicken pot pies. I wanted also to take the empty bowl and mount it on a lance, as a warning to all future pot pies and their mouth-incinerating contents. Then sanity set in and I just threw it in the trash with an extra little “fuck you” for flair and purpose.
Also without complications was the rest of my work shift. I finished the day and returned home to quietly reflect on the day’s events. I began my three day weekend by getting a haircut and doing some laundry.
In closing, I would just like to offer this advice: If you wake up in a haze, be mindful of where you walk. If you stub your toe, for christ sake, don’t go to work and make a chicken pot pie. You might still have a shitty day, but at least you didn’t embody a lunatic that had a day ruined by a bruised toe and a burned mouth.