Working (and Still a Little) Stiff

Having returned to the 9-to-5, I’ve discovered weekends aren’t what they used to be.

After an 11-year hiatus—a term my wife misconstrues as “parasitic sloth”—I have returned to the full-time working world. The first thing I noticed in comparing the biweekly world of paychecks to the more random-shot pay cycles of the freelancer is that when I call the bank to check on my available balance, I actually have one.

I’ve also discovered that the more structured work week—rising at a precise time (not rolling out of bed in a self-defined range of time), showering immediately (which was previously accomplished sometime before lunch), dressing (as opposed to donning an uncinched robe), eating breakfast on the run (compared to a more leisurely repast consumed during a “Frasier” rerun on Lifetime), making a grinding commute (compared to a stumble down my hallway), and finally arriving at a work station that isn’t cluttered with back issues of Sports Illustrated, cracker crumbs, coffee rings, jelly smears and Post-it reminders of deadlines long forgotten—was quaintly medieval.

Yet the biggest epiphany came when the work week was done. I was faced with the beginning of a weekend that I could now clearly distinguish from the days of the week. But instead of scanning the sports section to see how early the kicking, swinging, running, passing and three-point shooting got under way on TV that day, I confronted the realization I had a ton of chores to do and errands to run.

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Those tasks used to be accomplished at a saunter between Mondays and Fridays. I woke up that first Saturday with an anxious sense of already being behind schedule. I soon discovered that what was an ordered, Serengeti-like migration of working wildebeests during the week evidently turns into a stampede on Saturdays, as if a pride of lions is nipping at the wildebeests’ hooves. Soccer vans fly by, leaving a stream of fast food wrappers. Pickups roar toward big-box home improvement centers as if in fear of an approaching hurricane. SUVs tow boats toward the beaches. And there are, apparently, thousands of drivers on the roads for no reason whatsoever.

By 9:30 a.m. I’m drained—and haven’t even reached the bank.

Is it me, or are there still people who haven’t heard of direct deposit? Saturday is the day those who usually don’t go to the bank determine that the appropriate time to endorse their checks and fill out their deposit tickets is when they arrive at the pneumatic tube. It’s my first stop, and I’m already adding 20 minutes to all my other destinations.

But the 900-pound gorilla remains a trip to the grocery store. I need lunch meat for the week, and I’m coldly aware that every other carnivore in my species does, too. I’ve approached the deli counter during the dead of a weekday morning and found two patrons. That was sufficient congestion to make me try again later. I can imagine how deep the chaos in front of the cold cuts must be on a Saturday morning.

I gird myself for the mother of all errands. I get into the car, back out of the driveway, pause for a moment—then pull the car back in.

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I can eat peanut butter for lunch next week.

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