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August 23, 2006.

A Day in the Life of Gwen

Swamped at work, buried at home, but at least I have a job and a home. Having spent the summer at my old home, I currently have a keen understanding of how important a place to call home really is and I feel for my buddies out there "with no direction home." (Dylan 1965)

I feel exhausted in so many ways, but mostly I feel that the summer was a failure. Without going into great detail about why it was failure, I'll just say that Gwen was victorious. In the end, which is now, she has the house all to herself with no one to supervise her. She has her TV, fast food, stacks, and surprisingly her money.

To say that Gwen has won requires explanation. Gwen has won a life that would force most of us to swallow a .45 caliber which I will describe for you now. You may need to read it in sessions as it is quite long, but I didn't want to make it two columns.

A day in the life of Gwen starts out around 9:00am when you squeeze around your stacks to go to the bathroom where you leave the door open to do your business. This presents a problem for you if say Anna and I arrive because occasionally one of us will walk downstairs during the hour long morning ritual. Upon hearing us on the stairs you would dash to the bathroom door and slam it with all your might. BAM!

A note about squeezing out of the room. You have paranoia about people going into your room so you go to great lengths to ensure your privacy. First you have the outer wall, where you took the piano stool and a 1970's box fan and put them in the hallway as a blockade against fast moving intruders. When I say intruders, I don't mean would be robbers or worse, I mean Anna and myself. Then you have the inner wall; to prevent anyone from peering into the room, you have stacked magazines two high and three abreast on the floor in the doorway so that even if someone were to lie down on the floor, they still could not gain visual access to your room. Then you have the secrecy countermeasures; each time you vacate your room, you carefully close the door with a tissue furtively wedged on the inside of the door at the top, where the doorframe and the door hold it in place until the door is opened again. Therefore if anyone grants themselves physical access to your room through the doorway, you will know about it. I assume there are other measures taken on your two windows.

So you must squeeze out of the room stepping over the magazines perfectly laid, balancing the tissue for its compression above the door just out of sight, and inhaling to scoot by the fan on the bench. Keep in mind; you are a 55 year old woman. Then, down the hall to the bathroom. Who knows what you do for an hour, but when you have all day, you take your time.

Around 10:00am you are done with everything you needed to do for the day so you start the daily sit. You sit there from 10:00am to 3:00pm. Usually you don't move at all, you just sit there, no TV, no radio, no book, just sitting. The chair is aimed at the TV purposefully for later in the day, but right now you just tolerate its facing and sit there calmly, breathing in and out, about 5 feet from a television set that is turned off in a room that is about 95 degrees. Typically you won't need to get up to do anything and you can complete the sit without interruption, however sometimes you are required to do other things.

On Tuesdays you need to complete the homeless people's laundry. This typically takes the form of 3 small loads washed and dried. On Wednesdays you need to deliver the laundry which is a huge ordeal so you just end the sit early at around 1:00 and leave the house. (Oh how I love Wednesdays! Two extra hours without Gwen in the house! Even though she is just sitting there, not saying anything, not moving a muscle, it's still really disturbing to me to have to walk around her.) Some days you get hungry or realize that you have leftovers so you go the refrigerator and eat with the plasticware from the night before disposing of the styrofoam container into your trash bag which you have clearly labeled with a piece of paper strung with a twist-tie onto the bag that says "Gwen." And some days you must make an effort to appear to be doing something, such as packing a box, calling on jobs, or calling on an apartment. These are really dreadful interruptions to a good sit, but not nearly as bad as the monthly call from family.

When packing a box, it's not too bad; you can find all kinds of quality things to pack a box with. There are empty coffee cans, old Lipton Ice Tea containers, trash bags that you fluff up to take up space and perhaps an item from here or there around the house like a framed photo of yourself that you gave your mother for Christmas one year, or a glass mug that you took from the cupboards or a rolling pin that you purchased and never opened. (These are all real examples.) At least no one bothers you when you are packing a box and there are plenty of empty boxes lying around the house.

Calling for jobs consists of you calling a list of schools in the area from 1980 that has been updated through the years. You call and ask if they are seeking any Math teachers, if yes you mail resume, if no you move on to the next school. This isn't so bad because it really only takes about two hours to exhaust the entire list and you only have to do it every June.

Calling for an apartment is a nasty duty, but you must do it to appease the siblings. You have to look at a paper in the rooms for rent section, settle on an area and call them all; typically leaving messages which is quite problematic. Unlike the job calls, you will get return calls from prospective land lords that proceed to ask you a bunch of questions. Eventually though you can thank them for calling back and return to the sit.

The sit is a large portion of your day and if done right you can succeed in accomplishing 5 hours or more of sitting.

The sit is ended by the daily meal. Dallas is full of meal options, which is great since you have been given a car and money and can dine at any of them. You can choose from McDonalds, Boston Market, Grandy's, and Jack in the Box, all conveniently located in the neighborhood. They all supply drinking cups, styrofoam boxes, and plasticware which can be either thrown away, or if the meal was particularly satisfying, you can go ahead and pack these items in the weekly box as a keepsake. The meal usually begins at 4:00pm when you return home and go back to your chair that you used earlier for the sit.

Now you turn on the television to ABC and watch it while you eat. When you finish your meal you continue to sit in the chair watching ABC. ABC has great daily broadcasts and on weekends that are suitable for watching from 4:00pm until 11:00pm each evening. When you do this you drink Lipton Iced Tea, which you buy in the three packs storing them in the refrigerator all neatly labeled as "Gwen" for daily consumption with dinner, leftovers, and the nightly TV, but typically not during the sit. Presumably you have seen all the shows already because it's summer, but they are all good enough to watch again and the news is always interesting both at 5:00 and at 10:00.

At the end of your day, you will have spent about 13 hours in the same chair in the same spot in the same room. An outsider might expect this to be a cozy lazy boy where you could drift off to sleep during the sit, or snuggle a bit during the reruns, but that wouldn't be right. The most suitable chair is a black wooden straight-backed chair with no arms and no upholstery. Although there are many other chairs in the house, this is the one that is best. There is another one like it in the garage, but it should remain in the garage.

Around 11:00 it's time for bed and you must repeat your morning bathroom ritual, only in reverse. You will still leave the door open, but be ready to slam it closed the moment you hear footsteps. Then you carefully inspect your fortifications for any breaches that may have occurred during the day. Satisfied that no one has entered, you squeeze into your bed, where you have stacked boxes, but carefully left just enough room to lay down in between. No need to set an alarm, just go to sleep, tomorrow is another day just like the approximately 12,000 days in which you have already done the same thing.

Total victory.

Crow