Being Busy

Every time I believe I have reached the absolute peak of busyness, that if I have one more thing to do I will simply collapse, I get busier.  I remember when I thought I was incredibly busy 20 years ago.  I had a job that required me to work a lot of extra hours maybe one week every other month.  What was a long day then is just a normal day now.

I played softball in the summer, volleyball in the winter, and even tried the corporate bowling league one season.  I had the highest handicap ever achieved by any participant–at our first match, my highest score (out of 300 possible) was 37.  My handicap was largely responsible for my partner and I taking the league championship that year–I decided to retire from bowling after that.

I went on ski trips, played cards once a week, socialized regularly with friends.  I guess I was busy, but I spent a larger percentage of each day doing things that were just for fun.

These days, the constant incoming stream of information, multiple mailboxes continually filling, Google beckoning whenever I don’t know the answer to a question, Facebook friends posting interesting articles and stories keeps all of us jumping from one subject to the next nearly continuously.  Newsletters, informative articles, and don’t even get me started on YouTube.  It’s not a tube; it’s a black hole–no one really knows if or where you come out if you dare to enter.

Almost every person I know describes themselves as having ADD.  I’m not clear on the medical diagnosis of ADD, but I’m reasonably certain that it’s statistically improbable that every person I know (mostly adults) actually has ADD.

Yet, that doesn’t stop me from wondering about myself.  I walked into the kitchen 3x the other day, forgetting what I needed as soon as my foot crossed the threshold. I never did figure out why I thought I need something from there.  Is being so distracted all the time combined with the overwhelming amount of information streaming through our lives that makes us so scatterbrained?

And what about those moments when you sit down to do something that you really ought to spend time concentrating on only to have your brain start pinging you, wanting to know when the next interruption is coming?  I have to believe that our brains are becoming more and more trained to look for any distraction to avoid concentration and deep thought.

And is that what ultimately leads us to jam pack our calendars for every minute of every day?  Our secret desire to constantly hop to something new?

I don’t know.  All I know is that if I don’t shutdown now, I will be writing in my sleep.

Snow Day

We had a snow storm in Chattanooga on Wednesday.  It started innocently enough–the occasional snow shower not resulting in any notable accumulation throughout the day.  The area had already closed schools the day before in preparation for the big storm.  Kids began showing up in Renaissance Park, attempting to sled on the thin dusting of snow on the grass hills by the time I walked Tisen in the afternoon.

From my office window, I watched traffic build up as cars climbed slowly up 27N over Stringer’s Ridge.  By late afternoon, the traffic thinned and the snow began to slowly accumulate.  We’ve seen plenty of snow having lived up North for many decades–it didn’t occur to us to prepare for the “storm.”

That evening, we realized we had no groceries.  This seemed like a small inconvenience since the grocery store is just a short walk away.  Alas, little did we know, the grocery store closed at 5PM and sent its employees home.  We drove to the next grocery store, several miles away.  There was less than an inch of snow on the ground and no traffic–we had no problems driving to the store.  But we were disheartened to notice that every place of business we passed sat darkly behind an empty parking lot.  When we arrived at Bi-Lo, one of the largest grocery chains in the area, it too was shutdown.

I flashed back to the late 70’s, when we had several feet of snow on the ground in Columbus, Ohio.  I believe it was after the Blizzard of ’78.  We were out of food in the house.  My mother got out one of our molded-plastic sleds to haul groceries in and we made our way through deep snow to the store a half mile away.

As a young child, it was exciting to be out “foraging” for food when it was, for the first and possibly only time in my life, entirely possible we might go hungry for more than a few hours.  I pretended we were pioneers crossing a tundra as I took slow steps, sinking into the snow up to my knees.

When we got to the store, it was open–but many of the shelves were bare.  The supply trucks hadn’t made it through in days.  I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach when I realized we might have to eat a kind of cereal we didn’t like.  Oh the horror!

Having grown up in a place where grocery stores remained open even when supply trucks weren’t arriving to restock, it didn’t occur to me that grocery stores in Chattanooga would close early because a few inches of snow had been predicted.  But, people live on hills and there is very little equipment to keep the roads clear, so I suppose it’s for the best.  Next time, we’ll be among the crowds who make a run on the store when bad weather is predicted.

The Great Atlanta Shutdown

Since I don’t have any photos ready to post and it’s currently 1:27AM, I am resorting to sharing a few iPhone images I took from inside my rental car on my way to the Atlanta airport a week and a half ago.

I made a colossal error in judgment.  I knew that Atlanta had gotten into gridlock a week ago last Tuesday.  What didn’t occur to me was that they might still be in gridlock the next day.  When my flight from Chattanooga to Atlanta (on the way to Orlando) cancelled, I thought it was perfectly reasonable to rent a car to drive the 100 miles to the Atlanta airport and catch my flight to Orlando.  I wasn’t going into downtown Atlanta, just around the outer belt.  How bad could it be?

All went smoothly for the first 55 miles–it took about an hour to get just over half way to the airport.  Then, everything came to a full stop.  I spent the next 5 ½ hours trying to get to the next exit, which was about 3 miles away from where I first stopped.

At first, I thought patience was best.  I turned off the car to save fuel.  I sat in the midst of what had become a semi parking lot.  We all sat.  Then we sat some more.  A man on a bicycle appeared–he rode between the rows of parked cars for no apparent reason other than, perhaps, to be able to tell the tale of how he rode on the freeway.

Then the ATVers started buzzing by on the side of the road.  They were having the time of their lives.  The rest of us were sitting.

As calm and patient as I was feeling, the growing realization that I was going to need to heed the call of nature sometime within the next hour created a new sense of urgency–the clock was ticking.

I drove on the shoulder.  I hate this.  But, driving on the shoulder in order to exit the highway is really a favor to all.  One less car stuck on the road.  I got within a half mile of the exit when suddenly we all came to a stop yet again.

Eventually, after a man walked down to the ramp and determined a route through the parked semis to access the ramp, a line of us followed an SUV through gaps between trucks, weaving our way through until at last we were free.  It took another 3 hours to get to the airport over the back roads.

The experience of driving past hundreds of abandoned cars, some of which were sitting in the middle of traffic lanes, made me feel like I had been transported to the middle of a sci-fi thriller movie set.  Unfortunately, I also felt like part of the cast.


Finding Elk

As you may recall from last week’s post, Pat, Tisen, and I went to Asheville for the weekend and went up to Great Smoky Mountain National Park very early last Saturday morning in search of elk.

In photography, there is a phenomena I think of as the “lens law.”  This law dictates that when you have a long lens on your camera, you will see the best sweeping view ever (requiring a wide lens) and when you have a wide lens on your camera, you will see wildlife or distant subjects (which require a long lens).  This is why I often carry two cameras.

However, since we had given up on seeing any elk and were only going to do a short walk along a river behind the Oconaluftee visitor’s center, I slapped my 24-70mm lens on my full frame camera and left the second camera and long lens behind.  This is the surest way to guarantee you will see wildlife–just as leaving an umbrella in the car guarantees it will rain cats and dogs.

We made our way slowly down the 1 ½ mile trail with me stopping frequently to shoot.  The trail paralleled the main road to the visitor’s center with a line of trees between the trail and an open field leading to the road.  As we neared the turn-around point in the trail, I climbed down to the water’s edge to shoot ice on the river.  When I turned and climbed back up the bank to the trail, I was shocked to discover an entire herd of elk making their way into the grass field.

Cars on the park road started accumulating along the shoulder as passers-by gawked at the elk.  The elk, slightly nervous, moved deeper into the field.  We walked slowly along the trail, trying not to spook them with our movement, sending them back to the road.  I crept into the trees between us and the field, trying to only glance at them enough to confirm that they weren’t concerned about me moving closer.  When I got to a tree at the edge of the field, they all stopped and looked at me.  I froze and looked away.  They decided I was harmless and went back to grazing.  I fired off a few shots with my wide-angle lens, silently cursing myself for leaving my telephoto in the car.

Then, I moved slowly back to the trail and we high-tailed it back to the car.  After a quick lens change, we drove down the park road on the far side from the elk.  We sat on the shoulder, joining the rest of the gawkers, and I shot at will out an open car window.  While the light conditions weren’t what I’d planned for and grazing elk are not quite as dramatic as, say, elk playing or running or just about anything else, I was pretty darn pleased I got any shots of elk at all.