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Tuesday, May 16, 2000

Covering up for other people's mistakes is almost as hard as covering my own. I'm able to think more quickly when I'm readjusting reality for my own sake. It's hormonal, I'm sure, because I become someone entirely different at those critical moments. I suddenly develop the babble reflex, which allows me to fill the silence with diversionary verbiage until I come up with a believable excuse for, say, forgetting to pay a bill, or borrowing over the credit line limit.

These are Very Bad Things that cost extra money, and the Boss doesn't like it when they happen. And yet, due to my intermittent glossolalia, I can make him think I've saved the world, when all I've done is haul it back from the brink after nearly shoving it over the edge. By speaking in tongues, I keep the devil at bay.

It's not as if I lie. In the secure recesses of my own mind, nothing is my fault anyway. And frankly, I can usually find a way to trace the blame back to the Boss himself. It might require a roundabout route, with a stop at "I thought" and a transfer at "You said," but trust me, I can get there with a clear conscience.

The problem is that money comes in and goes out almost faster than I can keep track of it. We have to pay workers and suppliers before we can get paid by the people we're doing the work for, which means we often have to borrow. The Boss always likes to pay back as much as we can as soon as we can. This has the effect of keeping the checking account at a perpetually low ebb. When a new bill comes in that must be paid immediately, I have to make the decision where to get the money (or who has to wait so that someone else can be placated).

Sometimes my decisions are necessarily arbitrary. And sometimes they turn out to be dead wrong.

So when the Boss tells me what a great job I'm doing, as he did this morning, I take it with the suspicious eye of someone whose bed has been short-sheeted more than once. You get a little dubious about climbing too high on the ladder if you know the guy holding it has a history of jerking it out from under you.

Besides, I know I'm not doing a great job. I'm doing the best I can, or at least the best I can get away with. It's an easy job when we're flush, which is almost never. The less money I have to work with, the chancier things get, and the more apt I am to make a decision I'll regret.

Just after he complimented me today, I opened the mail and found that he'd been charging some expenses on a credit card I'd borrowed on. We were over the limit on this same card last month, for the same reason, and I paid down as much as I could then. At that time I also told him to use another card. He carries at least a half-dozen of them, so it shouldn't have been a problem.

The statement I got today showed that we were perilously close to the limit on the closing date, which was two weeks ago. The bank loves this, because they can charge an over-limit fee along with their usual usurious interest. I hate this because it ends up with me getting a note from the Boss asking why we're paying extra fees. He never wants to hear about what I told him last month, because he forgot that as soon as he went on to the next item on his agenda. If I told him to use a different card and then gave him an unrelated message, I should have known that my instruction wouldn't have registered with him.

I guess that does make the whole thing my fault.

So, to sum up, even when I'm covering his ass, it turns out that he thinks I'm covering my own. It's hard to win when I'm starting out with that kind of baggage.

Would you say this yard could use some work? For once, we're told that no rain is in the forecast for the weekend. That just means it'll probably be too hot to work in the yard.

Hello, Austin and Atlanta. You finished ahead of us in Forbes' annual ranking of regional economies. Somehow, Santa Rosa comes in third on that list. We have Hewlett-Packard's Agilent spin-off and OCLI, and dozens of small start-ups, plus wineries in all directions. That's the same kind of diversity that attracted the attention of Modern Maturity, which last month named the area the quirkiest in the country.

I've always thought of Santa Rosa as a town no one could have heard of. It's too close to San Francisco not to be dwarfed by its greatness, and too close to Napa not to be overshadowed by its reputation. It's at the northern fringe of the Bay Area and the southern tip of the redwoods, not fully entrenched in either camp. Our best known citizens were Luther Burbank, the plant wizard not famous enough to be remembered, and Charles Schulz, the cartoonist whose quiet lifestyle actually deflected attention. The motto is the uninspired "The City Designed for Living." Scream was filmed here, but the city and the school board gave Wes Craven so much grief that he took his sequels elsewhere.

To be in the same league with Austin and Atlanta (not to mention Boise!) is kind of a heady thrill in one way, and a bit of a giggle in another. I'm not against change and growth, but — wait a minute, yes I am, I'm against change and growth. What's next, Sports Illustrated shooting the swimsuit issue here? The Gores buy a house here and Tipper runs for Senator?

Please leave my town to its well-earned obscurity, and go bother the nice folks in Boise.

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