"I'm leaving on vacation tonight, and..."
My cell phone rang as I was in the middle of greeting my colleagues. Interrupting the ritual series of handshakes, I bolted for my desk.
"...and I'm not sure I'm coming back!" I added, yelling for the benefit of the office at large while swearing under my breath.
It was the answering machine. The second of two families we'd wasted last weekend meeting left a message saying they weren't interested in sharing our nanny. The agency fees were too expensive, and anyway, it was too inconvenient for them to start in October. I was a little relieved, since the woman had seemed flaky to me from the moment we met, but I was thoroughly annoyed that she'd wasted so much of our time. That would explain why the interview we'd set up for her with our nanny last night had lasted a total of five minutes; the decision was already made, but she hadn't bothered to call ahead of time to cancel.
I took my notebook computer out of my bag, plugged it in to the monitor on my desk, noticed the display on both screens wasn't coming up. Swearing out loud now, I toggled switches and pushed buttons until I managed to generate a strange, pixelated close-up of my wallpaper image, a photo of le Petit and me from last summer, and completely lose all the icons and the mouse cursor. It was beautiful. It looked like it belonged in the Centre Pompidou. I held the power button down in fury.
"It's broken! And... and..."
My colleague across from me looked up from his keyboard.
Soon enough I was enumerating all the things that were broken, from the computer to the search for a family to share the nanny to the database problem I'd been up until midnight trying to solve. What was really wrong -- not much, in fact -- was that I'd slept poorly, that I'd left too much work for the last minute, and that I sorely lacked perspective. Nothing new.
"And all this money spent on the nanny just so that I can come to work and fight with the database all day!" I concluded.
Not that I couldn't fight with the database from my living room, as I had the evening before. I'd become so engrossed in a bug, the debugging of which involved staring for hours at records with corresponding columns of dates, that I'd dreamt about it. When le Petit woke up crying at four o'clock, a mercifully rare occurrence these days, I blinked at the baby monitor and thought confusedly, "The poor thing. He can't get those dates in that table to line up, either."
My not-much-more-coherent husband then went in to check on le Petit, walked straight into the closed door, mistook the door for the washing machine, and wondered why I'd left it for him to trip over in the middle of the hallway.
As I was yelling in my office at nobody in particular another colleague walked past. "Tea?" I asked calmly, pointing to my thermos.
"Why yes. What kind?"
"Earl Grey Blue. We're very civilized here."
Perhaps thanks to the tea, the day got better quickly. I got almost everything done, and I even went for a run at lunch. I finished up my last tests and sent an e-mail to my boss from home this evening.
Then at half-past midnight, I spent an hour cleaning my bathroom and my kitchen thoroughly. It's my strange, obsessive pre-vacation ritual. I like coming home to a clean home. I know, however, that the clean home will be instantly transformed into a unnavigable mess the minute we walk back in the door with all of our junk, so it's really just so that if I perish in a freak beach accident my dying thought won't be "What will they think when they see the state of the apartment?"
Then, naturally, I sat down to write a blog entry.
I think that two weeks off the grid, away from e-mail, the web and even reliable cell phone coverage is just what I need. We'll be spending one week in southern Brittany, not far from Nantes, and a second week in the Aveyron, near where they make the famous Roquefort blue cheese. I'll take the computer along, and hopefully will have some quiet time to write at some civilized hour in the afternoon during le Petit's nap time. I'll post what I write when I get back.
Bonnes vacances, everyone.