Friday, September 21, 2012

Five Things I Dislike About the Current Change of Seasons

I can narrow it down, but I have a hard time definitively claiming either Fall or Summer as my favorite season. Baseball properly belongs to summer, although the playoffs are rightfully situated in October, along with full-throated football season. October is also bookended by my birthday and Halloween, hugely celebratory days in my childhood from which I still derive a lot of enjoyment as an adult. But I have just as many bright happy memories of Fourth of July (usually at my grandparents’ beach house with the extended family). I was always the kind of nerd who did get a certain shameful thrill from going back to school in the fall, though that tended to fade from one semester to the next until I was overjoyed by the onset of summer vacation. I love cookouts, but I also love tailgating. Summer Ales and Oktoberfest. Blockbuster popcorn movies and season premieres of my favorite series. Pool parties and Thanksgiving. I could go on, but I assume I’ve made my subjective point that it’s a tough call.

Which may or may not have anything to do with the fact that the temporal/liminal space where summer transitions into fall is one of my least favorite times of year. (This, in turn, may or may not have quite a lot to do with the utter dearth of posts for the past couple of weeks. There are other factors at play as well. If things get back to normal next week I will catch you guys up.) So, with the equinox looming tomorrow, I feel the compulsion to share at least a handful of the reasons (aka white-people-first-world-whinypants problems I KNOW) why the changeover makes me unreasonably (or unseasonably?) cranky.

1. Three-season days. On the one hand, I have to admit this is getting better, in the sense that I am less subject to the whims of wildly fluctuating temperatures on a given day. Long-time readers may remember the days where riding the bus was a critical component of my daily commute, and queuing for the bus was a make-or-break sub-component of that, and I spent a lot of time exposed to the elements. Thus the annoying dilemma of either wearing a jacket in the morning that is unnecessary and cumbersome in the afternoon, or being comfortable late in the day after getting off to a miserable, shivering start. But as I say, being able to hop out of my car in the VRE parking garage when I hear the bells of the railroad gate and quickly get onto my choice of seats on the train means I’ve yet to get any of my jackets out for their first use. But the phenomenon still leads off this list because now it extends to the kids, who are both old enough to go to daycare in the chilly morning and have recess outside during the warmest part of the day. Getting the kids dressed for daycare in the summer was relatively non-taxing: shorts and t-shirt for little guy, dress and bloomers for little girl, boom. Three-season days complicate things. I should quickly point out that my wife gets the kids ready for daycare 99.9% of the time and so far this year I have had to deal with this exactly once (I dressed the little guy in jeans and a polo shirt in the morning but fretted later he’d get too hot in the afternoon). But there’s also the whole mental gear-shifting of looking for the kids’ jackets at school when I pick them up in the afternoon, especially tricky if my wife and I forgot to compare notes on the phone earlier about whether she had put them in jackets to begin with.

2. Low-slanted sunlight. Of course the weather is variable because of the changes in the relative angle of the sun. The days are getting shorter, but then again as soon as the summer solstice comes and goes they are constantly getting shorter. (People who incorrectly assert that fall is when the days start getting shorter do not appear on this list, but they might be a close #6.) It’s just more noticeable to me around this time of year in that the sun is not fully, brightly up in the sky when I leave the house, and yes that is bound to have a negative impact on my mood as it calls to mind the approach of winter and the endings of things in general and all that maudlin introspective stuff. But, more specifically bothersome, is the fact that if it’s dark when I leave the house, there’s no reason for me to put my sunglasses on while I drive to the train station. And then I forget my sunglasses in the car. And then in the afternoon when I walk back down to the station or ride in a seat facing the stupid, stupid sun, it’s right in my eyes. It’s also at a killer angle for getting in the little girl’s eyes when I drive her home from daycare, which makes her scream, so that’s fun.

3. Respiratory distress. Hey speaking of the kids and fun and the approach of winter and daycare concerns and all that, let us not forget that cold and flu season kicks off right around now, too. Daycare is always a great big germ incubator, plus there’s always a handful of kids who are either starting for the first time in the fall or coming back from extended family vacations, so the herd immunity gets severely strained by the influx. (You’re goldurn right I think of toddlers and pre-schoolers in livestock terms.) Both of the kids have been sick recently with a nasty bug; we (arguably) lucked out that the little guy fell ill on Sunday, was basically recovered on Monday (my wife’s day off) and able to go back to daycare thereafter, but the little girl got feverish Monday and couldn’t go to daycare Tuesday or Wednesday. I stayed home on Tuesday, but at this point I have virtually no accrued leave at work because I just blew every hour I had saved up on our week at the beach. Fortunately grandma was able to lend a hand to get us through Wednesday, and the little girl was back at daycare yesterday. But, oy.

And in addition to the sneezes, sniffles, snorkings and whatnot which tend to afflict the kids fast and furious (and then bring down my wife and/or myself as collateral damage more often than not) there’s the crazy pollen and mold and dust endemic to the break of autumn, which have my allergies going a bit mad. Blurgh.

4. Yardwork. I don’t really mind mowing the lawn, and sometimes I even enjoy it, but I highly dislike raking leaves, so that’s one match-up where summer beats fall virtually no-contest, and yet more fodder for being bummed about the former giving way to the latter. But there’s a bigger sense of let-down, too, as the vegetation on my little slice of property cycles into the next season. I had some hopes for keeping the grass green and relatively well-weeded this summer, and things started out promisingly in the spring, but … not so much. It seems like there’s just as many bare spots and yellow thatches out in front of my house today as there were last September, and the only thing I can do is say “Well, shoot, guess I’ll try again … in six or eight months.”

5. The perfect storm of workplace chaos. It’s just about the end of the government’s Fiscal Year and of course for a contractor like myself that is especially significant. A lot of this month has been consumed with the last-minute efforts to get the next option year on our contract activated – which finally happened, as we all expected it would, although it was still a great relief to get it officially confirmed. Then came the mad dash to get everyone’s badges renewed in the system, and now each of us has to trek over to the Pentagon to get new badges physically created in their security office. (I will probably head over there today.) Meanwhile my computer credentials, which expire every three years, needed to be renewed this month too, and although I did everything I thought was necessary to get this done well ahead of time (to the point where at one point I got a very snide e-mail reply back from a bureaucrat cog essentially implying that I had no business even asking about getting the computer credentials renewed before the next contract year option had been duly exercised, even though we both knew it would be and I was just asking for information for planning purposes anyway, grrr) I still got caught yesterday with something undone post-expiration and lost a couple hours of the workday getting it all sorted out. Still feeling lucky to have a job, and the job that I have at that! But it does grind my gears now and then.

Well, I feel better having gotten all that off my chest, which can only help with any and all efforts to get things back on a regularly posting schedule again next week. I may check in with something slight and random over the weekend, but will make a concerted effort to have something substantial for Monday.

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