The Ever Shrinking Span
ALSO ON NOVEMBER 18, 1996: Lately, FireVaney’s had the afternoons off. He makes plans—detailed plans, practical plans, ambitious plans—but ends up sleeping the rest of the daylight away. Waking from a long afternoon nap feels like somebody’s splashed the back of his head with a bucketful of mostly melted ice. A depressive fog settles over and seeps into his matter—which was gray to begin with. Lying there, sofa-sprawled, he tells himself, aloud, to heed the words of Pascal:
“All of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone.”
There, on his back, he repeats the aforementioned quote louder and louder until he’s shouting it up at his cracked ceiling. FireVaney feels bad for letting Pascal down. Aside from not sitting quietly, simply sitting up seems something of a challenge.
FireVaney can’t finish anything he begins, unless it’s a pizza. He starts all these projects—things that will propel him out of the world of professional cup stamping and into the world of driving a Porsche and eating a squid. He starts new projects every day. Already, he’s bored with the projects started yesterday and the day before.
Nineteen years from now FireVaney steals Doc Brown’s DeLorean.
(Ask Biff Tannen.)
“Dude,” FireVaney tells his 1996 self, “You lead a half-baked life. You stifle yourself with an attention span that’s too short to fit between the space of a toddler’s stretched wide thumb and forefinger.”
“Shush!” 1996 FireVaney says. “I’m in the middle of ten books! I’m going from book to book in five minute increments.”
That, and 1996 FireVaney has figured out a way to watch five flicks at once. He flips on three TVs and hooks up three VCRs. Every ten minutes he ejects two flicks and swaps them with two others. This is how he watches Gandhi, Goonies, Godzilla, The Graduate, and Gone with the Wind almost simultaneously.
As you might’ve noticed, he’s in a letter “G” phase. How did this happen? He wasn’t previously in a letter “F” phase. Ah, but that’s not entirely true. In fact he was in an “F” phase throughout most of his academic career. (In sooth, little about those years qualify as “academic” or a “career.”)
[You tsk-tsk, but it’s my blog and I get to use the word “sooth.”]
FireVaney needs to come up with a system of controlling the volume on his three switched-on TVs. Continuously following three or more conversations at the same time isn’t easy. But in the event that three people in the flesh (albeit dressed) try to speak to him at once, FireVaney’s got a ready-made reply: “Ten-seventeen and seventeen seconds post meridiem, pie R squared, hold the anchovies.” He’ll repeat this canned response until two of the three walk away. It works pretty well. Well, it worked once.
Should you find yourself riding shotgun in FireVaney’s fuchsia Ford Fiesta, you’ll note that the radio is always set to “scan.” This way, you’ll get a “snid-bit” of everything that’s happening on the radio. Nothing gets boring. Think of “scan” as a broadcast buffet. It’s a kind-of speed dating through the airwaves. An inkling is all FireVaney ever really wants anyway. But he’ll be the second, or third, or fourteenth to admit that living a life via inklings alone clearly has its drawbacks. Increasingly, he struggles to hang on to any given topic for more than a handful of seconds.
(Personal experience teaches that a handful of seconds is harder to grasp than a handful of water, but easier to clutch than a cumulonimbus cloud. Needless to say, in the process of gaining said experience, many clocks were broken.)
What’s more: FireVaney’s personal patois has become something of a soundbite soup.
Exempli gratia: “The world is tangibly and intangibly filthy and the Bulls are undefeated but according to one study coffee prevents women from hanging themselves.”
AND YET: When it comes to the topic of sleep management, FireVaney can and will ramble on indefinitely, if not forever, if given the chance.
Exempli gratia (abridged): “Waking before sunrise blows. If I’ve gotta be at work at seven, I plan to be up outta bed at six. As a precaution, I set my alarm for three. And I’m grateful when it blares at three. Why? Because then I know I’ve got so many hours before I absolutely must get out of bed. At three, I reset my alarm for four. At four, I reset it for five, then six. At six, I hit the snooze bar every ten minutes until it’s ten to seven. At seven, I call in late. Result? I never start work until eight.”
Lesson: Don’t give him the chance.