Fighting the fuzz

(The entry below is what I was working on when my laptop kicked me out two days ago.)

My blog folder should be around here somewhere.

It’s five am and I am filled with clutter.

My desk, my desktop, my brain – all filled with clutter. Apparently so too is my laptop, as the words on this screen are appearing a good four seconds after I type them.

Five am sounds pretty dedicated right? Well, I was actually up at 4:30. This is how long it took me to scurry to the bathroom, clear some crap off my desk, boot up my computer, take a screen shot of my cluttered desktop and open up Word.

Uh oh – “High Disk Usage” warning. And all I’m doing is typing.

My life is full of clutter. I gave up my apartment in 2009 so you’d think I’d be the epitome of clutter-free. I’ve been living in small places on and off for seven years overseas, and if there’s one thing I’ve discovered (besides that I’m comfortable in small places) it’s that I sure can cram a lot of stuff in 8’x10’ or less.

My brain was chock-full of clutter yesterday. And not just clutter, but fuzzy clutter. The kind of jumbled mess you get when you wake up at one in the morning and don’t get back to sleep before work. Actually it can go either way with me – sometimes when I get no sleep for a few days in a row, all that I’m able to manage is a single thought at a time, and that kind of clarity once led to one of the most productive and decisive days I’ve ever had at work… but that was 2006 or 2007. These days lack of sleep leads to fuzzy brain and too much time staring into space, meandering through my head when I’m supposed to be stamping and stacking and punching paper.

Yesterday my brain was so muddled and sleepy I asked the guys if there’s anything they needed done outside that I could do. Sure thing – insulating pipe!

So yesterday afternoon I tramped about in snow and mud and taped silver puffy  insulation sheets around sewer lines. Or grey water lines. I’m not sure, but they were pipes and hoses and it took me two hours tape up maybe 30 feet of snakey two-and-four inch pipes and hoses all by myself. I got dirt under my nails, mud on my knees and all over the cuffs of my jeans, my fingers got numb and my nose wouldn’t stop running.

I felt good.

I must admit I am pretty lucky. A year ago I would have stayed at my desk, checked work e-mails, checked my personal e-mails, maybe sneak a peak at facebook on my phone, made coffee, answered some e-mails and generally not get anything done except the most immediate and superficial tasks because I was too tired to think.

Now the guys will take me along to insulate pipe, or nail rolls of non-skid flooring on walkways or change out furnace filters and wipe down hot water tanks. They’ve also offered to let me snake a clogged toilet, but I haven’t gotten to that yet.

In fairness the guys have offered to show me how things run and are done on the camp, but I’ve always been too busy trying to catch up on the mounds of paperwork piling up around me. I always felt guilty to be doing anything other than what I was hired for.

The difference this year is that I put in my notice and told my boss I no longer want to spend ten hours a day in front of a computer. I gave three months notice so that they could bring a new person I could train and then catch up on all the work that that is simply too much for one person to do. I gave January 2nd as my last day, but offered to stay on another six months if I could train and work as a maintenance technician.

A maint tech knows a little bit about everything, and a lot about a few things. They can fix a washer that won’t spin, a door that won’t lock, and a bathroom fan that won’t shut off. Depending on their background and experience they might also be able to troubleshoot a broken A/C unit or walk-in cooler. They sometimes complete jobs normally done by a ticketed plumber, electrician, carpenter or HVAC tech – they just don’t have the formal education or red seal to say they’re qualified to do it. They’re a jack of all trades, learn as they go, and know more about how these camps run than any single tradesperson.

I don’t know how long the company will keep me on after January. I have a good boss though and if he can keep me on as a maint tech-in-training, I know that he will. We certainly have enough work, but it’s really a matter of numbers and if the company has the budget for it.

I still have too much paperwork to process, but the difference now is that I know I only have a limited amount of time learn new skills that I may never have a chance to learn again. There is so much I could learn from these guys, and if I don’t make the time to learn, no one else will.

And sometimes finishing a job in the snow and mud is exactly what you need before tackling another mountain of paper.

Or a cluttered desktop.

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