First nine paragraphs Nov. 27, 2004, finished Jan. 18, 2014
Maybe it’s just me! So much is, but I hate interruptions. It seems as if I’ve always hated interruptions. I don’t just get miffed or annoyed or angry at interruptions. It’s more than the normal “I don’t like interruptions”. I hate interruptions!
Perhaps it started when I was a little boy and my mother called me from my fantasy world of war or construction projects or trains to eat, take a bath, or go to bed. I’m not sure, but I’m sure those interruptions were the seeds being sowed. I had no options as a child to determine my agenda. My mother did that for me for eighteen years and might still be doing it subliminally.
I’m a person who generally focuses on what he is doing and, for most activities, I dont care to stop until I=m done. That is not to say that I can’t multitask. I can handle two or more related, even unrelated chores and see them all to completion before I’ll stop for any kind of break. Compulsive? Yes.
I remember such adages as “What’s worth doing is worth doing well.” There is a Puritan ethic that has somehow crept into my behavior. Could it be something genetic I’ve inherited from my New England forebears?
In school I hated homework. In mathematics I saw no purpose for the repetition of effort once I had demonstrated proficiency in a skill. Once I knew nine times six was fifty-four it wasn’t going to change, was it? Once I read a fact I never lost it. I have held on to the trivial and the significant with equal tenacity until my late sixties when a marine layer began to settle in my brain. I almost always completed my homework despite the unsavory aftertaste. Could it have been out of fear of my mother’s wrath if I did not finish it? Hmm!
My analysis continues into my adulthood, although many might question how adult I was post twenty-one. In marriage and fatherhood I hated to be interrupted. Short of a life-and-death emergency, and perhaps even then, a conversation being initiated while I was reading the paper, engrossed in a T.V. plot, or studying the family finances would set me off. I found that I was always busy, always engaged in something important, always insisting that I would attend to others’ needs and wants “when I am done”.
Now in my penultimate years, I realize that the “work” is never done. It will never get caught up. Life is a paradox. The more I do, the further I am from my goal. It is an exercise in conflicting ideologies, the Protestant work ethic versus the pleasure principle. If I allow interruption, even embrace it, I’ll never get done. And if I keep plodding at my self-delegated assignments, I’ll never get done.
Still, I hate the telephone. It never rings when I’m doing nothing. I’m never doing nothing. Fortunately, I’ve dug myself into a place where no one calls me to ask about my day. “My day was going well until you called me and took me away from Jeopardy!” I want to say. But I’m as civil as I get. Small talk was never my forté. It’s like homework. You do it because someone corners you into doing it. I’d rather listen to the general flow of conversation in a group than to be engaged one-on-one. Someone engaging me is…an interruption.
If I go to the ball game, I want to watch the plays. I don’t want to talk much about it unless some novice needs an explanation. Even that’s an interruption because then I have to try to catch up on the action. What did I miss? Couldn’t that question have waited until they changed sides or had a time out?
Now, in 2014, I’m in a totally different environment. I live in semi-rural El Salvador. I’ve remarried for the last time. We’ve got two kids. The culture has so many differences. They are used to commenting while watching television. It might be during the news but it’s just as likely to occur during a movie, drama, or game show. It drives me batty for two reasons. The first is because I consider it rude to talk when someone else, in this case the actors or contestants, is talking. No, they won’t be offended. They’re on film, tape, or in a studio far from here. The second has to do with my level of understanding of Spanish and my need to fully focus on the source of the spoken or sung words. I won’t improve if I don’t “get” what either the TV or my wife is saying. But I’ve learned to hold my peace. It’s different here.
At 78 and in retirement I’ve been able to critically examine some of the patterns in my life. There is a contrast between my need to work on one task until its completion and my wife’s contentment to start one thing, leave it, and go on to do the same with two or three unfinished tasks and their residue scattered about the house and their utensils likewise. But not living “a place for everything and everything in its place” is another topic. Yes, I am not unlike Sheldon on “The Big Bang Theory”.
I’ve also learned that when I’m writing and trying to synchronize my fingers with the speed of my thoughts, I do stop in the middle of a sentence when my daughter wants to show me something on her cell phone or her latest bit of hair styling on one of her dolls. Margarita has learned to sneak up quietly and pause just off my shoulder to wait for my acknowledgement. That scares me about me. I may be the Kountry King but I have no royal status. I just have to hope I’ll remember what I was going to write.
I am accorded some deference, however, by family members in certain instances. I don’t have to respond to vendors, solicitors, church ladies, lost souls, or little kids who come to the door calling or knocking. I can also expect first dibs on the separate-from-the-house bathroom in the morning without fear of interruption. And if I get there having forgotten the key, Margarita will run out back to unlock it for me.
The children have somehow learned not to interrupt mami and papi when they’re in bed. Although they’re used to having dialogue with their mother when she’s showering or using the john, they know when I’m eating, sleeping, or toileting it’s private time according to my culture and barring a real emergency I want to enjoy the peace and quiet I’ve delight in.
All in all, it’s getting better for me and those around me. Now if only I could silence the several super trucks that warm up their Diesel engines at 4:30 a.m., the bike-riding bread vendors who honk their infernal bulb horns from 5:30 on at too close intervals, and the guy who hawks quesadillas and tamales Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:00. If I could sleep in the early morning I wouldn’t have any quarrels with the churches that start blasting electronic band music from one direction while some shrill-voiced angel of mercilessness squawks atonally over a loud-speaker from the other from 8:00 p.m. ‘til 10:00 or midnight or 2:00 a.m. I love my sleep time. I hate interruptions.