Jack in NZ: Work

“Work work work work work work” – Robyn Fenty

“You don’t gotta go to work, but you gotta put in work” – Brian Lee

“Work sucks” – Tom DeLonge

I wish the bathroom were further away from my desk. I could use a nice long stroll to put some substantial physical distance between me and the rest of my work. Unfortunately it’s close by. Perhaps I could wander upstairs a few floors, do a lap around the library, hope I bump into a friend and get sucked into conversation. Better judgment prevails and I’m in and out and back at my desk, bladder emptied, legs minimally stretched, mind still resisting the remaining four steps of Dunedin tap water lead concentration data processing. I fidget for several minutes, taking a long drink from my water bottle. I’m not thirsty, but it’s something to do, and ensures I’ll get to repeat my brief walk past a dozen-odd bookcases to the bathroom within the hour. Maybe I’ll pick up a book and page through it for a while. I’m stuck in the history section, and though I’ve never been a big fan of the subject, these are desperate times. The girl at the desk to my left gets up. I take off my watch and put it on the desk next to my computer, adjusting it several times so the band and the flank of my laptop are exactly perpendicular. I look out the window and watch pedestrians walk by. No one greets another as they walk past. Virtually all of them stare down at their phones or turn the other way with deliberately nonchalant motions. I listen to people shuffle and fidget. A page turns. The girl at the desk to my right gets up. Another page turns. Someone about 20 bookcases over coughs, giving another the tacit permission to do the same. The cycle repeats. The cough and throat-clearing wave passes down the row of desks. I participate. Pens click and are set down with varying degrees of noise. There’s a soft clicking and clacking of laptop keyboards amid the sound of cars driving by. A fluorescent light is on the fritz behind me and makes a plinking sound as it stochastically flashes. I believe it’s as close as I’ll get to Chinese water torture, god willing. The girl who left the desk to my right returns. No sign of the other. Perhaps she’s taking a lap. There’s a palpable air of brow furrowing and nail biting and absentminded finger drumming. Two pretty girls walk by with a Bernese mountain dog and half the people near the window turn their heads. I take another sip of water. I remove my glasses and man handle my face to make sure it’s still there. As far as I can tell, it is. I put my glasses back on. I take them off again and clean them. They’re not dirty. A man with a large green umbrella walks by outside. He stops, checks his phone, and goes back the way he came. I clean the small amounts of gunk from under my nails. I swivel side to side in my chair and open my phone, checking each social media app, finding nothing new. I check each of them again.

This is how the past few weeks have gone. I pick at work for several days, like a child pushing peas around his plate so he can please be excused. I resolve to get things done early, then spend hours on YouTube chasing a tireless rabbit down its infinite Internet hole, rationalizing videos like ‘Jon Stewart destroys Bill O’Reilly on his own show’ and ‘Seven times Neil deGrasse Tyson blew our minds’ have some vague educational benefit. Mid-week rolls around with minimal work production, and weekend plans begin to crop up. A glorious light at the end of the tunnel. Mountains, trails, friends, a departure from cyclical procrastination and concerns of studying, the only thing motivating enough to get me to sit down at a library desk for hours on end and claw my way through lab reports and lecture notes. Forty-eight hours of freedom. All that remains between me and a weekend of fun is the Eurydician task that is my lab report. I must not look back.

I can only hope that with 20 days left in my semester abroad I can change my work habits. There are so many things I want to do before I go, and piles of work to complete before I can do them (it’s possible I’ve neglected to take notes on a lecture or 30). With a little effort, I’m sure I’ll be able to. Though perhaps this post is proof negative, I’ve spent an hour on it instead of doing my assignment.

A car horn honks.

The girl to my left returns.

A seagull floats past.

I get up to walk to the bathroom, but I don’t really have to go.

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