Monday, October 30, 2006

Meeting my characters

The time change coming right after my trip helped me get caught up on rest, but at the same time, it gave me a bit of jet lag because I had to essentially adjust to a difference of two time zones. That first Sunday afternoon of standard time really is the long, dark teatime of the soul because it feels like it lasts forever. You feel like it's late afternoon, early evening, even, but then you look at the clock and it's only three, and the afternoon continues to stretch out before you. Meanwhile, the first couple of mornings of standard time feel kind of decadent. You feel like you're oversleeping, even if you're actually getting up early.

All that extra sleep has meant I've more or less recovered and may even be coherent later in the week when I have to be in public mode again. It also means I've managed to remember other stuff I wanted to talk about from this trip.

I felt like I kept running into my characters this trip. It all started in DFW Airport. Because I've given up on professional football, I didn't realize that I was flying from Dallas to New York the morning after the New York Giants were playing the Dallas Cowboys in Texas Stadium. I may have been one of about three people on the whole flight who hadn't been to the game. In the airport waiting area, I managed to end up in the middle of a whole group of guys picking on the one guy wearing a Cowboys jersey. It was all good-natured ribbing and so entertaining that I didn't even get my book out. Soon, I was even part of the conversation. These guys were mostly firefighters and cops, those salt-of-the-earth types who can be all swaggering, macho and manly, but who are still basically good guys who are loyal to their friends (and their teams). Basically, they were all Sam, just in non-gargoyle form. I may have picked up a few new speech patterns and mannerisms to use with him. Fortunately for the lone guy in the Cowboys jersey, he ended up sitting next to me on the plane, so he didn't get picked on. We just shared our mutual disgust for Jerry Jones and Bill Parcells.

Later that day, I was walking down Irving Place and passed the coffee shop that will make an appearance at the beginning of Damsel Under Stress. Standing on the sidewalk in front of the coffee shop was a really good-looking dark-haired guy in a suit, talking on a cell phone. At first, I barely gave him a second glance because he just seemed to belong there, in a way I'd seen in my head dozens of times. And then just as I went past him, I did a big double-take, as I realized that this guy looked almost exactly like Owen does in my head, but he really was there on the sidewalk. Wouldn't you know, I didn't have my camera with me. I'm not sure I'd have had the nerve to take a picture of a stranger like that, though. I felt enough like a dork for coming to a dead stop on the sidewalk and turning around to stare. Fortunately, he was on the phone and didn't seem to notice. I guess if he'd said something, I could have said that he reminded me of someone I knew.

Then on Friday, I was wandering lower Manhattan, and there was a guy who looked exactly like Rod does in my head standing at the bus stop closest to the building I use as the model for MSI headquarters. I don't think I ran into Ethan or Philip, but I encountered a lot of guys who may have spent a few decades under an enchantment. Everywhere I went, men were being incredibly chivalrous to me. Total strangers were helping me carry my suitcase up and down stairs in the subway station, when I got on a bus, young guys stood up to offer me their seat, and even old men on canes were holding doors for me. I do occasionally run into manners like that in New York, but never quite to that extent, even on the trip when I was recovering from knee surgery and was visibly limping. I must have looked awfully frail and vulnerable, or something.

In other news, I guess I'm still in the PR agency mindset because I do time sheets for myself, mostly for accountability and to see how I'm spending my working time. I set a 30-hour workweek because I only count time actually working and not all the usual time wasters you get in an office, like pointless meetings, hanging out around the coffee machine, and so forth, and also because a lot of the creative process doesn't take place in a "work" setting. I come up with some of my best ideas in the shower or in the middle of the night, and it's difficult to quantify that. Plus, reading is an important part of my job, but I don't count that time as work unless it's obligation material, like judging a contest or reading to give a blurb for a book. When I go over 30 hours in a week, I give myself comp time. I also have vacation time set aside. Well, after updating my time sheets, with all the comp time I've accumulated just in the latter half of the year, plus the vacation time I haven't used, I'd need to work only two days between now and the Christmas holidays. But I have far more work than that to do. I guess I'll have to create a rollover policy. What it means is that for the rest of the year, I'll do the work that I'm obligated to do (deadlines and such) and the work that I really want to do. Otherwise, I will feel no guilt about goofing off if I have nothing due and don't want to work. Today is an obligation day, so I need to head to the post office.

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