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flaminga in salzburg

October 2012

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flaminga in salzburg

I am my own behavioral psychology experiment

So, it's April now, which is to say early summer in New Orleans.  It's 85 and humid here, with little prospect of significant cooling for the next five or six months, and I am once again pleased to have selected an apartment primarily on the basis of its insulation.  R and I only wish it kept out sound as well as it keeps out heat, what with our bedroom window being across the street from a rather unfortunate bar.  We've been in NOLA for ten months now, and while it doesn't feel like home, it does feel like a place I have lived for a kind of long time. 

A few months ago my boss talked me into moving to the City administration with her, so I now have the distinction of working at the most dysfunctional municipal government in America.  On the one hand, it took a week and a half for me to get a working phone line and over a month to persuade a variety of individuals to drop enough hints about how the travel expense system might work to actually get a report submitted (you might ask why I didn't just read the policy - I did, it's just both incomplete and incorrect).  On the other hand, I at least do get the feeling that we're doing some good, if only because we're doing things and it couldn't really get much worse. 

One thing I really like about living here, though, is the writing group I joined.  I discovered it through an ad in the local indie paper, and we meet every week and get useful feedback in a friendly way.  Of course, in order to be part of a writing group you actually have to write, and that bit was not going so well for a while as new job stress and exhaustion was making me pretty useless.  I decided that I would start using my lunch hour to write, as this would both give me a window of time without distractions such as R or the TV, and prevent me from sitting endlessly at my desk doing extra hours of work I don't actually get paid for.  At first I thought I would just carry around Word files on a USB drive and use my work computer.  But it turns out there are many distractions when sitting at one's desk, such as work, and the interweb.  So I obtained a netbook to carry around with me, which would be offline and thus unable to show me either the New York Times or my work email.  But even with the netbook in my bag I found I would go to the office kitchen, fix myself a sandwich, come back to my desk, and then mysteriously lunch would be over.  So I decided I would have to leave the office in order to write.  The problem is that the area around City Hall is pretty grim.  There are no coffee shops, for example, nor does City Hall itself have any pleasant public areas where one could sit undisturbed, and the few nearby restaurants are pretty lousy.  So there is nowhere I like to go for its own sake.  But I then discovered that if I don't bring any food to work, hunger will eventually drive me out of the office, and once I am at the Subway I will crack open the netbook and get some writing done, even if only to compensate myself for having to eat the disappointing sandwich.  Thus I manipulate myself into doing what I had wanted to do in the first place, like a rat building its own maze.  With substandard food pellets. 

Thus the weeks toddle by, differentiated by little but the rising temperatures and the varying number and dosage of the allergy medications necessary to sustain me.  Soon R's classes will be done for the semester, and we will have been here a year.  Then I will consume a gin and tonic the size of my own head, and the next year will start.  

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