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Sunday, January 28, 2001

A little bit of sunshine after a rainy week is a seductive thing. I was drawn out of my cozy bungalow yesterday afternoon, with the idea that I would sit in the sun and contemplate the wonders of the natural world. Yeah, right.

No sitting for this boy. I've been waiting for a chance to pull up some weeds. Waiting, I should add, since about September, but that's not really fair. I mean, there's no real dormant season here, so some of the weeds that got me out of my chair today are obviously winter growth.

Many are not, however. Many of the weeds have been here since I moved in. Even last fall, when I was out in the yard working (shudder) every weekend, I never came close to clearing out all the unwanted growth. So I really knew, somewhere in the compost heap of my mind, that I was going outside to work, not sit.

The problem is that it takes so little time to fill up the yard waste container, and it makes such a small dent in the overall weedage. Every time I spend an hour or two working (hic) outside, I wonder if anyone but me could tell the difference. Then I go out the next morning and try to remember what I did, and what it looked like before.

But it's a work (cough) in progress, I guess. There's no end to what could be done with my yard. I don't even have a real plan for what I might do come spring. The only thing I know for sure is that I can spend as much time as I want pulling weeds, and never run out of work (shiver).

Since I spent the afternoon working outside, I was forced to spend the evening working inside. I thought I could get through the tax forms that I hadn't already finished, but once I started opening the day's mail, I got that old Monday feeling, the one that says, "You might as well stop thinking you're in control."

Employees who haven't worked for us for months are still causing me to spend time on their problems. Apparently the mother of an ex-crew member's children has moved to a new county and filed for support payments yet again. This is the third different agency we've had to deal with because of this one deadbeat.

The guy is long gone, and I have no idea where he is. If he still worked for us, I'd be happy to garnish his wages so his ex can feed and clothe his kids. But I can't do anything but fill out the elaborate form and send it back. Why isn't there a box to check that says, "He's as gone from my life as he is from yours"?

When I finally got around to the tax forms, I began (for the fifteenth or twentieth time this month) cussing out the state of California. There's no reason for them to make everything so complicated, and to duplicate so much of the work. I send them packets of information monthly, and then consolidate it quarterly, and reconcile it annually. All the same numbers, in different combinations.

And I spent about half an hour thinking I'd made a huge error, because the instructions on one of their forms were unclear. Actually, the instructions were clear enough, but the example they used made it seem that I should have been withholding more than I did.

(Brief explanation: The state changed the disability insurance rate at the end of the first quarter, so for the first time I was working with two different rates for the same year. The percentage is deducted from wages, up to a maximum. The example made it seem that the maximum was for the last three quarters only, under the new rate, instead of the whole year.)

So I did all the calculations I thought I needed to do to correct the "error," and I was about to write the check, but it just felt wrong. So I reread the instructions, took another look at the example, and tossed out all the work I'd done for the last half hour. Because, you see, I'd done it right in the first place. Then I took a slug of Maalox and went on to something else.

Of course I can do other things during the Super Bowl. It's only football, after all. There's plenty of down time between plays, while either the players are trying to decide what to do next, or the referees are trying to figure out what just happened.

It's not like baseball, where every moment has a nuance and every movement has a meaning.

Or soccer, where the action is nonstop, but the only time a goal is scored is when I make a dash for the kitchen or bathroom.

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