The Mundane Details of Life

Another Off-Topic Tuesday post.

From my journal, which I have kept for nearly 18 years now, here’s part of the entry dated Friday, September 7, 2001:

The week has gotten away from me. Tuesday night I went to Monty Python and the Holy Grail; Wednesday night we went to Jazz at Five for the Mighty Blue Kings; last night we started working on the dining room wall for painting this weekend; tonight we went to Pedro’s after work to bid a belated farewell to Stephanie and a more timely one to Vanessa. It’s almost 10:00 now, and I thought I’d best write a bit before the weekend gets away too—tomorrow we paint and go to Lyman’s for dinner; Sunday is more painting and the Packers’ season opener against the hated Lions. (Our next six weekends are already booked.)

That’s mostly what the journal is—a chronicle of the mundane details of life, things we said and did and thought. William Least Heat-Moon says he writes to deepen memory. While I aspire to the same thing, I don’t always succeed. I can’t remember a thing about the going-away party for Stephanie and Vanessa . . . or their last names.

Here’s part of the entry dated Sunday, September 9, 2001:

. . . We painted the dining room and kitchen yesterday. It will be my last home-improvement project—I intend to stick to my proclamation that hereafter I will call the contractor or write the check, but I have no interest in doing anything. I have no aptitude for painting (although I have plenty of opinions) and I take utterly no pleasure in it. (Ann finished the painting today. To assuage my guilt, I volunteered to run errands for her and did lots of laundry.) . . . And tomorrow I get back on the treadmill again . . . annoying meetings scheduled at inconvenient times (tomorrow I have to take my lunch at noon for a 1:00 meeting that could just as easily have been scheduled at some other time). It seems clear that breakfast at Einstein’s will be the highlight of the day.

Sunday-night journal entries from this period contain a common theme: my pronounced dislike for the job I had. I was a product developer for Renaissance Learning, an educational software and training company, and while I liked the people I saw every day, I found the work to be tedious. In 2001, it was merely that. By the middle of 2002, it had become soul-sucking and terrible. In the fall of 2003, I would finally quit.

On September 10, 2001, I went to that 1:00 meeting. The marketing department asked the product developers for advertising copy ideas they could incorporate into a new mailing campaign. I had recently developed a video training kit for one of our products, so I hammered out a few notes and e-mailed them back. Then, late that afternoon, I wrote something for my own amusement.

Will you please buy our video kit
For we have many copies of it
Kill an inservice day
The Renaissance way
Or we’ll keep mailing flyers and shit

I e-mailed the limerick to a couple of my fellow product developers, we had a laugh about it, and we went home, another mundane Monday in the books.

Tuesday, September 11, 2001, I was the first one in my office, as usual. About 7:45, our video producer came in and turned on the TV in her cubicle. “A plane crashed into the World Trade Center,” she said.

Throughout the day, we watched events unfold. The older members of the department repeatedly gathered in small groups and discussed the latest news quietly; the younger ones seemed to have an easier time focusing on their work. We even went ahead with a previously scheduled conference call late in the afternoon, one of those regular weekly update meetings with 50 people on the call, the corporate imperative winning out over the human need to go home, hug our loved ones, and start processing the day.

(Many Americans have yet to process the day. They cling to annual expressions of tacky, ostentatious 9/11 grief, which rips the bandage from the wound and makes a joke of the “healing” it’s supposed to facilitate. Some of it last Sunday was positively revolting.)

This post doesn’t have a good ending, because what started on 9/11 has no ending, either. We knew that day that the world had been changed and would continue to be changed, although not all that we predicted came to pass, and some of what happened we never saw coming. That’s how the world works, of course. Failed predictions and unforeseen developments happen in bad times . . . and in good ones. It’s one of the mundane details of life.

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