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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

The Best Laid Non-Plans

The problem with making life hard for yourself is that even when other peoples’ lives are actually genuinely hard and yours is easy, you can usually find a way to make your life hard again.

In other words, there’s no way to win. Or, as I’ve been putting it around the office lately: ‘Hope is for babies.

(It hasn’t caught on as our group motto. Yet. A select few people are resisting it on the basis of the message being ‘too dark’ and ‘overly pessimistic’ and ‘what the hell is wrong with you, anyway?’

Oh, they’ll come around. I was like them once. I just hope they ‘see the dark’ in time to have it printed on T-shirts for the next group picnic.

At least, I would hope that — if I were still wearing Pampers and drinking from a sippy cup. Have I taught you people nothing?)

“A four-day vacation requires at least two days of recovery time, before doing anything resembling work. And those two days need another, and ideally a weekend, to properly gird you for the grind to come.”

Speaking of the office, it’s their fault I made my life hard again. Sort of. I had some extra vacation days lying around that I needed to use, so I decided to take the rest of this week off. The missus and I drove home from Maine last night, chatting about our immediate plans. She talked about sorting through bills and checking on email, unpacking, doing laundry, prepping for work today, and on and on. Exhausting stuff.

As though four days’ vacation is sufficient preparation to tackle that kind of mountain. It’s insanity. A four-day vacation requires at least two days of recovery time, before doing anything resembling work. And those two days need another, and ideally a weekend, to properly gird you for the grind to come.

Clearly, my wife needs a better union. Or a union at all. Maybe a consciencectomy. Something.

Meanwhile, my plan was nothing. No work, no play, and no immediate laundry emergencies to tackle. I planned to re-acquaint my ass with my living room couch for a few hours, maybe eat some food, lather, rinse, sleep for fourteen hours, and repeat until the week was over or bedsores started to form, whichever came first.

That’s when I got the text message. One of my softball teams had a game in the evening — and they needed me. In italics, even. Whoa.

Now, I know the real score, of course. They don’t need me, precisely. They need someone who can approximate my skills — grounding weakly to third, taking ground balls off the chest, and misremembering how many outs there are when coaching third base. Impressive stuff like that.

So it’s not as though I’m ‘irreplaceable’. Or even ‘irrepressible’. I’m just one of the few people they can reach via text message and have show up within a couple of hours. Having no life comes with a price. Sometimes a life is thrust upon you, two sweaty hours at a time.

(It sounds a lot dirtier when I put it that way.

Which is why I put it that way. Duh.)

So my non-plans were out the window. Speeding home from points north, I sorted out a schedule and told my teamies they could count on me. To ground weakly to third and flub grounders, as usual. But the text had caught me unprepared — I wasn’t ready to play, hadn’t considered playing, and certainly hadn’t planned to play — unless it was in a dream, while I was snoozing on the couch mid-evening. So when I arrived, I was in no way mentally prepared to play.

Now, you may be thinking: ‘Is it really necessary to ‘mentally prepare’ yourself to play a slow-pitch low-pressure C-league softball game?’

Evidently, it is. If you’re coming off a vacation, not especially bright and not very good at softball in the first place — yes. Yes, it is.

I stepped onto the field the same way I always do, took the same practice grounders, rearranged the dirt in front of me as usual for no good reason other than seeing real ballplayers do it on TV, and patted down my glove to make sure the ball had a nice soft place to land. Just like I always do.

But something was missing. My ‘eye of the tiger’ was gone. I had the toenail of a calico, maybe, or the gallbladder of a tabby. At best. My mind was elsewhere — in Maine with the moose, probably — and the ball seemed to know it. It’s like there was a big fat bullseye on the ground between my legs, just under where I dropped my glove.

The very first hit of the night — slow grounder, right to me. I dipped down and came up firing… except I forgot to catch the ball in between, so it kept rolling toward the outfield while I tossed an airball to first base.

Next inning, ball off the shoe. In the third, I fielded cleanly — and then nearly took a girl’s head off winging it wildly eight feet wide of the first baseman.

(It missed her, thankfully. By a couple of inches, as she ran to the base. But it could have been ugly.

Let’s just say that if she were a little slower then, she’d be a lot slower right now.)

The whole game went more or less like that — a near-comical parade of poor fielding, wild winging and narrowly-escaped vicious injuring. When the game was finally, miraculously over — somehow, we won despite my seven-inning Helen Keller impression — I scuttled home to think about what I’d done. And to hope that the team captain didn’t ‘lose’ my number, for good.

Because I’m not to blame here. Clearly, it’s Maine that’s at fault. If I hadn’t been soaked in it for the last four days, I’d have been my usual regrettable-but-passable self out there. Not the whirling dervish of suck the vacation turned me into.

So that’s how my vacation ended — with a reminder that when you go away, you might as well stay away. You’ll be ruined for anything useful or constructive for a long, long time after you get back. Which is the same thing I tried to tell my wife when she decided to toddle off to work today. The poor, unsuspecting little girl.

She said she’d ‘hope for the best‘. Hope she packed a pacifier to the office today. Coming down from vacation is brutal, yo.

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