Phthursday Musings: Dropping Markers
or, Thad Bosley Rules
Few years ago now, I wound up at some corporate retreat thing for three days or whatever, where we learned how the corporation thinks and we had lots of free alcohol and we sat through lots of speakers and some of you have experienced this sort of thing and some of you are horrified by the entirety of this sentence and can’t imagine such a thing, and would it be any better if I told you this was the second time I’d been through one of these?
Anyway this more recent time people talked and some were interesting and one guy was Chinese-Canadian if that’s actually a hyphenated term that gets used and kept talking about Tim Horton’s as though everybody in the room knew what a double double was but he’s not the reason I’m rambling here and no, I still don’t really know what a double double is.
So this one other guy talked. I’m not really sure who he was, where he was from, what else he was talking about, but the main thing he was talking about was markers.
Now, I think the reason markers are selected is because people are somewhat used to the idea of having multiple markers of different colors all at once. So I went looking for a photo online I could use similar to what I remember seeing, but the ones that came closest actually come right out and say they’re stock photos, and so I figured, I’ll just go find five markers on my own, except all the markers like that are in my son’s room and he’s gone to bed, so I went to my office and looked in the box of writing utensils, and couldn’t find five different color markers but did find my set of 15 NFLPA licensed pencils from circa 1983, and it turned out I had five which were a different color, so I will call these “markers” even though they’re obviously pencils:
Yes, that’s right, I have pencils in my house on which you can find pictures of the likes of one-time single season sack record holder Mark Gastineau, linebacker and long time ESPN studio guy Tom Jackson, the famed and towering Ed “Too Tall” Jones, and the very exciting and fuzzy quarterback turned broadcaster Dan Fouts. Also, in this set of 36, probably in an attempt to include at least one person from each team, is a man named Russell Erxleben, who was the punter for the New Orleans Saints, which indicates just how terrible the team was for so long, although to be fair, Russell Erxleben, I mean with a name like that he obviously wasn’t a strong safety now was he, he still holds the record for longest field goal in college football history - 67 yards! - albeit apparently aided with the use of a tee? Oh also apparently he got busted later in life for securities fraud, tsk tsk Mr. Erxleben.
Anyway, these pencils - ahem, markers - there are five of them of different colors.
So what you should imagine is that you are carrying these markers around. And these markers represent the number of things your brain can be processing at once.
You might therefore imagine that Tom Jackson is wondering what the weather is like today, “Too Tall” Jones is remembering that Valentine’s Day is coming up, Mark Gastineau is thinking about how to sack the laundry, Dan Fouts is wondering what to have for lunch, and Russell Erxleben is trying to think through how to avoid getting caught for engaging in securities fraud, all at the same time, all residing within your skull, except that your skull is actually your hand. Got it?
Now, imagine that the Russell Erxleben voice gets really loud. This securities shit is stressful, man. What happens? You drop Mark Gastineau. Oh shit, when the wife comes home, that laundry basket is going to be completely overflowing.
Less absurdly, and more in line with what the guy at the corporate seminar was saying, just imagine that being stressed means “dropping a marker”. Right at the point in time where you might need to concentrate the hardest, your ability to manage multiple thoughts goes down. Imagine that you’re suddenly inundated with a half dozen requests from your colleagues all at once. Your ability to assist goes down precipitously, because the stress of fielding all of the requests can actually lower your ability to multitask.
The presentation made sense to me, and on days like today, when it feels like I just don’t have enough time to work my way through everything that was going on, I feel like I’m dropping markers. By the time the family gets home, my ability to pivot and think about what they’ve got going on can be almost totally shot, not just because I’m working into the evening, but because I can’t successfully focus some on work and some on home, when I’m worn down to the point where I only have enough focus available for one realm.
Now, I’m not advocating that the day be outright reversed so as to facilitate such a thing, but: I do kind of feel like home is where I should be thinking about multiple things at once, and work is where I should be thinking about only one or two things. Home, there’s family and family has school and work of their own and there’s the house and the house always needs something and there’s cars and some car or another always needs something and that’s without getting into any actual leisure.
I’ve read enough over time about labor history and about the state of labor today and about home life and about societal trends and so forth and I will be perfectly honest, I think the “eight hour day” should be considered extreme, and that the average person should be working fewer hours but in turn should be able to be more focused during the hours they are actually working. I understand why it’s used and the last thing I’m recommending is some kind of return to piece work but I think the idea of an hour of work as a intrinsically meaningful unit of something should rightfully be understood to be just more capitalist bullshit.
Now I’m not going so far as to declare everything to be wage slavery or whatnot, in fact I’m not even sure how I managed to land on capitalism at all here, my point rather is that the idea of a “work hour” is treated as something fixed, when in reality the people working are all carrying around markers, or maybe dropping them all over the place, and we have become far too complacent as a society with the idea that we’re all supposed to be at peak performance while also cheating here and there to fill in and get done whatever remains to get done because work doesn’t arrive in a series of tidy buckets or even down a Henry Ford assembly line, work comes in dribs and drabs but also in rushes and blitzes and sometimes the most appropriate thing to do is grind out a couple of yards and sometimes you stretch the field and sometimes you’ve dropped all your damn markers and you just have to punt, until, I guess, they don’t want you to punt anymore, and then, well, I guess you just start running multiple Ponzi schemes. Seriously, read this story about Russell Erxleben, what the hell happened to this guy?
Lately I’ve been getting to a point in the week, maybe Thursday afternoon, where it’s obvious that I’m down a marker, where I’m just mentally fatigued from the week. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I was thinking about writing about how chess grandmasters can burn so many calories, and how some like Magnus Carlsen have actually adopted fairly rigorous physical training as an integral part of their chess preparations. This all readily makes sense to me. The better I feel physically, the better able I am to hold on to all of my markers. I think much in the same way that we talk about physical health in terms of making healthy choices, we should start talking about mental health in terms of making healthy choices, and that many of those choices are the same for both. Mental health is not simply the absence of mental illness any more than physical health is the absense of physical illness. Healthiness takes effort and focus. Indeed, I’d argue that it’s one of the markers you always want to be carrying around, and furthermore that when you drop that marker, you’re probably dropping more than just one.
As an aside, I did drop Mark Gastineau once, in a manner of speaking. On the bus one day I traded my 1985 Topps Mark Gastineau card for like 9 random Cubs cards. Everybody thought I got taken. Well, I can get that card on eBay right now for $1.00. Who cares that I can’t remember who exactly I got back! It was probably Thad Bosley! Good for me! Thad Bosley rules! His 1985 Topps card costs just as much as that Mark Gastineau card I dropped! TAKE THAT ROUTE 37! I mean look at the twinkle in his eye:
You can just hear him thinking:
I’m going to pinch hit for Keith Moreland in the 8th inning and hit a 2-run homer!
Okay, I’ve dropped all my markers and marbles and marmosets and marshmallows at this point, good night Thad Bosley, good night Russell Erxleben, good night Irene.
In my pencil cup I have:
• Lots of Sharpies: Why I have so many thick Sharpies in my pencil cup, I don't know. Yet I have only one thin Sharpie.
• Uni-ball micro pens: I like the way the ink writes
• Blackwing pencils: I use Blackwing to do my baseball scorecards
• Kuru Toga mechanical pencils: these are interesting, because the graphite rotates while you write, so you don't end up with that typical "chisel" that mechanical pencils get.
Oh, here's a photo of my pens/pencils lined up: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spudart/51884492974
To the metaphor of carrying these around in my brain. With the repeated Sharpies and Uni-ball micros... maybe that means there's a lot of repeated thoughts in my head.
Loved reading this. Ah, our pencils.