Jeff O'Handley, Author

Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

Monday Musing

Part I: Teaching an Old Dog a New Tick

As you may know from reading this blog, in what has shockingly-become my distant past, I used to live here:

How many times can I possibly use this picture?

“Here” was in a 1600-acre state park on Long Island’s north shore, a wonderland of woods and fields and seashore. The primary job was to take groups of schoolchildren, mostly from New York City, out and teach them about the environment. As a result, I became quite familiar with several tick species, those rather annoying, blood-sucking arachnids that can make people quite miserable. I thought I was pretty knowledgeable about ticks, and I could teach the kids enough so that, if we found one on a kid, they didn’t freak out too badly.

Despite having to know this stuff, I found rather recently that I didn’t know everything. Last week, in forty-degree weather, I spent about fifteen minutes on a trail in a shrubby wetland investigating a report of giant hogweed, a noxious and potentially dangerous invasive plant. I didn’t find any (it was wild parsnip; remember that one?). What I found, instead, were ticks. Deer ticks, i.e., the kind that transmits Lyme disease. This prompted some more investigation on my part, and I learned that adult deer ticks, which have a pretty darn high chance of carrying the Lyme-causing bacteria, actually become active in September/October/November, but they’ll be active throughout the year if a) they haven’t fed; b) the ground is not frozen; c) the ground is not covered in snow. In other words, if you live in the northeast, where Lyme disease rates are high and the deer tick population is growing, keep your eyes peeled.

 I should have known this already, but now I do. Lesson learned.

Part II: Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow, the wife and I set sail for a marathon day of driving where we will pick up the Catbird at her school, then pick up the Magpie at hers. We’ll probably spend about ten hours total behind the wheel, which is not fun, but it will be the first time since late August that both girls will be home at the same time (it will actually be the first time since late August that the Catbird will be home at all; she’s a little far away for a weekend visit. The Magpie took the bus home for a much-needed mental health break in mid-October.). On Sunday, we’ll reverse the process. This is probably the most-anticipated Thanksgiving for us in quite some time.

Part III: What Do YOU Do?

On Friday night we went to our local Audubon chapter meeting, which is always a nice time (and despite our advancing ages, my wife and I are still among the youngest in attendance!). This week, we arranged to meet a guy and his wife for drinks after the meeting. My wife worked with this guy on a big website project this summer. They attended the meeting but I did not meet them until after; it was kind of a busy meeting. We met at a nice little bar and ended up sitting with them for about two hours, and had a very nice time.

What’s interesting to me is how often things like this end up becoming about work. “What do you do?” we ask each other. What we really mean is, what is your job? What is your career? How do you earn your living? I’m curious about why we do this. Is it just because it’s easy conversation, a way to find common ground? (Hell, if nothing else, we can always grouse about work, right?) Is it a way to try to establish some sort of pecking order? (MY job is better-paying than his, therefore I’M better) And, I’m curious if folks who live in other countries are as hung up on “what do you do?” as we are. Perhaps it’s something rooted in our culture, that what we do somehow equals who we are.

At any rate, perhaps it’s because my wife and this fellow worked together that those questions weren’t asked. They already know what each of them do. As a result, I knew what he did, and he probably knew what I did, and neither his wife nor I were all that much interested in asking each other that question.

Part IV: Coffee

In my sleep-addled state this morning I botched the coffee brewing process. I am drinking what has to be the absolute worst cup of coffee I’ve had at home since the last time I ran out of ‘the good stuff’ and was forced to drink ‘the bad stuff.’

Part V: Music

When I’m alone in the office at work, I often live-stream a radio station I used to listen to when I lived somewhere else, far away. It plays a more preferable mix of songs and artists than either the classic rock station or the today’s best hits station that is just about all the radio we can get here. On a regular basis, I grab a scrap piece of paper and scribble down the name of the artist and song playing so I can remember. And then I can’t find the paper. Today, I found the paper, so here’s one. Enjoy Andra Day, and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

6 Responses

  1. Ticks are one reason I'm glad I live out west. lol How fun that you're going to spend time as a family. Sadly, as they grow up and establish families of their own and often far away, that can be pretty rare. I don't think we always realize that when they're little.

    Happy Thanksgiving, Jeff!

  2. Yeah, "what do you do" is a pretty standard question in the UK too. I think partly because it's an easy conversation starter. Most people like the chance to either brag or moan about their job. Happy Thanksgiving, it'll be special with all of you together for the first time in a while.

  3. -Thanks, Stacy–have a great Thanksgiving yourself!
    -Donna–don't you have ticks out there, too? Or are you in more of a desert-type place? It's hard to realize how fast things will actually go when you're in the middle of it. Have a great Thanksgiving!
    -Nick–When you get right down to it, 'what do you do?' is a really broad question. "What do I do? When I get stressed, I sit under my dining room table and poke my thighs with a walnut pick–what do YOU do?" Hmm, maybe I'll write a character like that some day!

  4. Ticks – Eeeeeek!!!! Yes, people in other countries are also very interested in what others do for a living. It lets people quickly peg social class, and if the job is unusual (such as writer) it becomes a topic of conversation. Have a wonderful weekend with your family! 🙂

  5. -Thanks, Lexa. I suppose it makes sense that job/'what do you do?' comes first; I just wondered if it was somehow embedded in the 'American spirit'.

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