Always Look Like You're Working!
Updated: Jan 25
I don’t want to do anything today….I did something yesterday, and the day before that. What’s the big deal about doing stuff, anyway?
Our cat doesn’t do squat, and he gets along just fine. Well, I guess he does squat, or I expect he does. He is an indoor-outdoor cat, and so I can’t be certain. But he eats, I know that for a fact, and he doesn’t seem to be getting bigger. Even as cats go, he is not a busy guy.
I could do most every bit of work our cat will do over his whole lifetime in a single afternoon and I wouldn’t get credit for having done much of anything. I saw him help Tori fold a sock one day, or was it unfold it? I know he ate a cricket off the bathroom floor that I was expecting to have to catch and throw out the door, or I was at least going to have to wait for Tori to do it. He dug a potato in the garden, or more accurately dug part way down to the potato, and urinated there, so we could find it easier. But he will go to his grave, if he gets lucky enough to have one, without having done much of anything.
I’ll go to my grave by Monday of next week if I don’t do something fast, or at least start looking like I’m doing something.
Half of looking like you are busy is in the clothes you wear. If you are a business man, wear business clothes. It makes you look like you are busy doing business. If you are a tractor mechanic, wear greasy jeans. Clothes makes the man. At least I’ve heard that. I don’t know what it takes to make a woman. A rib, I’ve been told. But I have a cow rib in my shop, and a walrus rib as well, and all sorts of tools, but I’ve been unable to make a woman, or even a cow (or a walrus). And I’ve tried. I think it is probably more complicated than we are prepared to deal with here, so for the sake of simplicity, let’s just stick with making a man.
And men, by the way, sweat pants aren’t clothes. They don’t make you look like you sweat. They make you look like you have a couch, and a television, and you know how to use them. (If you are going to wear sweat pants, and you are a man, at least put a potato in your underwear. No, no, in the front. It makes you look a little more manly.) And, in case you have, and wear, pajamas, they are actually classified as underwear. Not clothes. Underclothes. They have no place in the pantheon of respectable attire.
Shorts aren’t clothes either. They are classified along with swimwear. They make you look like you have folding lawn chairs, a refrigerator of beer in your garage, and a barbecue grill. Nobody does any respectable work in shorts.
Because I work with metal, I like to wear jeans and striped shirts. (A business suit wouldn’t do at all! It would make me look like a terrible slacker.) I like to smear a bit of soot on my sleeves, and down the front of my pants legs. Also I smear a bit on my face, usually across my chin, and some above my left eye to make it look like I’ve been pondering a difficult calculus of gear ratios and such. A pencil tucked behind my cauliflower ear finishes the ensemble. Dressed like this I can do pretty much as I please, and look like I’m working.
Of course, to be clear, the sad truth is that it takes a little bit of work to make it look like you are working. Nothing is completely free. And you’ve got to keep at least one eye open. (Those flesh colored butterfly bandages work good to hold an eyelid up.) It is very hard to pitch a nap as work.
My best props, when I’m trying to look busy, are things that are light in weight and easily turned about in my hands. None of them are bigger than a quart beer bottle. (And by the way, none of them are a quart beer bottle. I've tried that, and it doesn't work.) A good prop should have a certain complexity as to what it looks like it is made to do. But most any gizmo is fine, provided my bride doesn’t know what it is. If you think that narrows my choices too much, you would be wrong. I have hundreds, if not thousands of things my bride can’t identify. A lower ball joint or a water pump from a vehicle works great. I can even use the same gizmo for days in a row and she only rarely notices. Once in a while she’ll say, “Didn’t you have a problem with that yesterday?” If she starts to recognize an item, I just pick up something else, and say, “Oh, yes, I fixed that. I was just checking to see if the upper drift key is staying put on the rotor spline.”
I keep my gizmos in a drawer, and I work my way through the items, front to back, and then start over at the front when I’ve run through the whole selection. If any object begins to look familiar to Tori, I trade it out, or spay a bit of red paint on it. Then yellow. Then green. It usually takes about five months to go through the drawer at the pace I like to slack off.
Every year, I end up doing some actual work, and in the process I acquire a new gizmo or two to freshen the stock. We’ve been married for 40 years, and I’ve still got some stuff in the drawer that was there in 1979. Okay, not the same color, but the same gizmo.
So today was one of those days. I didn’t do anything. I turned a gizmo around in my hands from around 8:30AM until lunchtime, and then continued on until 5:00PM. Tori made the usual venture into my shop, and asked how things were going. I said, “You know, same old, same old. I should be up and running tomorrow.”
She looked at me out of the tops of those big bright eyes, didn’t miss a beat. “Yup. I bet it works better green.”