Sleepless No Seattle

My day goes something like this: I get up when the kids start screaming. Noise machines are usually at full force by 8:00. Sometimes it’s as early as 6:30. Sometimes we can turn on Daniel Tiger and steal another hour. Not often.

Then the kids come up with new and inventive ways to cause destruction. Today’s excitement was some shredding of our precious, precious toilet paper and then a lil playing in the potty. This came after the game of hide-and-seek in the dirty but heretofore sorted laundry piles. Usually, there’s some unfolding of the clothes we folded the previous night and an earnest suggestion that this time, daddy, can we please have pancakes and Goldfish for breakfast?

They had Goldfish for breakfast once.

Then my wife and I have a silent but urgent conversation about the necessity of coffee through a highly choreographed performance of stumbles, grunts, silent unanswered pleas for calm, and dead stares. Coffee served.

I find a great work T-shirt to pull over my sleep pants. I mean, coronavirus work pants. Time to go to work. The commute is not bad.

I then have a team meeting where the shock of my organization’s decisions over the platform I built competes heavily with the shock that people are risking their health to go into the office to test undeployable software. Coffee gets refilled. My lack of Irish defeats my desire to make it Irish. Damn you, pandemic. Foiled again.

Then I try to hide away in my new office, which used to be a guest room back in the good ole’ days when people had guests. In a silly ritual that I’ve actually grown a bit fond of, I close the door. Kids immediately open the door. If I’m on a video conference, everyone says hi to the boys. Someone on the call comments on the volume of toddler-screaming, and I apologize for forgetting to mute. Mute engaged.

Then for the rest of the workday, my team and I discuss software bugs and our rapidly-changing business priorities. Time, in this block, is mostly a theoretical concept. Food time is at hunger time. Meeting time is when Outlook says it is. Break time is when the kids do something loud and attention-getting.

I’m doing my job to the best of my ability, but at times it is awfully slow. I’m not doing any of the extras, like driving to and from the office, walking from my desk to the Team Room, getting Coke Zero, seeing if there will be any free tacos, stopping for lunch, bullshitting with co-workers, playing with equipment in the lab, verifying that the empty box of donuts is still empty, and ignoring the free salad. I miss those things.

I close my work computer at 5:00:00. On a good day, if I have planned well, the kids eat at 5:30. After twelve to fourteen uninterrupted hours of kids, bedtime starts at 8:00. Then Sarah and I clean. And clean. And clean and clean and clean. I do the dishes two or three times a day. We meal plan, do laundry, pick up toys, start some bread, talk about stalled projects and the cornucopia of anxiety-inducing issues we have to wade through, the ice-cream stash is audited and fretted over, and then we watch The Great British Baking Show. This is usually my first available time to shower. Sometimes I shower.

Then, sometime between midnight and 2:00 AM, out of tradition, we get into the bed. This is often a futile exercise because the pandemic has turned my sleep to absolute shit.

One or both of us is unable to turn off our minds and relax, and one or both of us won’t sleep. The world is so quiet that it’s distracting. There are no cars, no trains, no MARTA, no trucks, no GE plant humming, no air traffic, no nothing. A single car drives through my neighborhood and I listen to it drive across Atlanta. A single bird chirps somewhere in my yard or three houses over and I listen to their song as well. My anxiety over the world gets replaced by my anxiety over the clock. Often, it’s too late to take Benadryl or Nyquil or any little pill advertised as a “PM”. Sometimes I take them anyway, or I go to lie down in my new office. Sometimes I read about astrophysics. Sometimes I read about bread. Ok, often it’s bread.

And then I get up when the kids start screaming. Noise machines are usually at full force by 8:00. Sometimes it’s as early as 6:30. Sometimes we can turn on Daniel Tiger and steal another hour. Not often.