24. Professional focus

I entered the town hall with firm steps. Despite my packed backpack, the pace was proper. Climbing some stairs finished the warm-up. Right. This pack donkey is ready for the new work-week. I wished my colleagues a good morning a little too lively. Although they were used to the appearance, some of them couldn’t resist making funnily intended remarks. Again and again, week after week. Am I going to make another trip? Yes, life is a grand journey. Did I finish my homework? Of course, learning never ends. What’s my next destination? Everywhere and nowhere. The by many despised Monday morning began just fine. I went straight to the coffeemaker to really get into the mood. Making lame jokes about civil servants was my first task. After some half-hearted laughter, I left without coffee and walked to my desk. Oh yeah, the stack of paper. Believe it or not, but I was actually busy. Working civil servants exist. And they perform their magic under some key rules: bureaucracy is productivity, job creation is meaningful, democracy is efficient.

A free-spirited hobo in the land of municipalities. A world teeming with political correctness, bureaucracy and predictability. He’s the odd one out in many ways. Yet this seemingly weird combo works fine. Until a certain expiration date, that is, but still. Achieving a workable balance between contradicting disciplines, conflicting interests, opposing opinions political spheres is a never-ending story. The prerequisites? A long-term vision, holistic way of thinking, organizational qualities, communicative skills and a monk’s patience. Just try making a decision that’s affordable, future-proof and effective, which also has political and public support. Good luck. It’s impossible to always please everyone completely. Period. And yet, that’s often the unspoken – and unrealistic – expectation. Tiresome but inescapable. Public feedback is an important addition to governing public space. Most notifications, requests or inquiries are sensible. Reasonable. Well argued. That doesn’t apply for total non-issues – which occurs too often for my liking. Think of loose paving stones, overgrown bushes, sloped playground equipment, flashing lights, that sort of stuff. This Monday was another combo-day of simplistic shouters and the tunnel-visioned ones. Bitter complaints of the chronically dissatisfied me-me-me club, gotta love it. Nuance is alien to them, only their own interest exists. Statistics are corrupt and factual underpinnings are smooth talk. There’s a conspiracy behind everything, the people are fooled and deluded. Foul language and countless misspellings are fine. Insults and threats can do.

“No one ever listens to us!”

“It’s all your fault!”

“I’m gonna sue you (if I don’t get my way)!”

Staying bright is tricky when the vibe is constantly negative. Professional focus helps. Knowing that you simply fulfill a job-role accordingly. No more, no less. That went well. Same goes for representing a complex organization decently, although it took some more effort. The required formalities feel distant and unnatural to me. Bad jokes, ‘incorrect’ opinions and the like are left out. Even though you can never turn off thoughts or character traits completely (you shouldn’t even want to do it). Everyone has them, as opposed to logic, patience, understanding or common sense. Oh dear, a detour of two minutes due to temporary sewage maintenance. Neighbor disputes fought in our rings, dear heavens. Gosh, not always being able to park in front of your doorstep. Bloated ‘problems’ of the daily frenzy. Oh well, whatever. Everybody’s perceptions, it’s the way it is. Who the hell am I anyway? Just a lazy slacker that’s unable to work. A substitute knowledge worker that’s no company man. It all makes sense. After all, everything’s temporary and relative. Compulsive control is a waste of energy. It’s never perfect, there are always some compromises and sacrifices. A stream of e-mails, conversations and meetings made the day fly by. Suddenly the duty of presence was over. Under a strict separation of work time and private time, I left immediately. The nine to five… what a blast!

Still packed with energy, I cycled to my homeless shelter. Due to a hobby that got out of hand, I was the regular guest of this hostel. World cyclists, drug tourists and quirky travelers often pulled me out of my daily grind. However, this was the low season. I had the whole place to myself. The locked kitchen didn’t prevent me from doing some proper cooking. I put my grill on the windowsill and opened the window. While cooking, I waved the smoke outside. This operation drew some attention from the street. Someone is baking a burger behind a window, wow. Don’t miss out. Come and capture it, do it for the Gram.

After finishing an eatable supper, I drove through the pancake-flat countryside of the Netherlands. I came across a bench next to a lake. Perfect. I slammed my bike and laid down. I stared at swimming ducks, geese and coots. Welcome to the living room of everyone and no one. Don’t pretend you’re home since you are. Turn on the natural tube and soak it in. Still in need of shootings, explosions or orgies? Grab your smartphone. Occupational therapy in the format of Netflix, YouTube, Facebook or PornHub is literally at your fingertips. Anytime, anywhere. A bulging e-reader provides plenty of reading content. And you can do something pretty old-fashioned if you’re really bored: nothing. Just take a rest. Let the moment be the moment. Uhh… no way. Impossible. That’s the recipe for a sad existence of emptiness. Possessing very little is shabby. Being alone equals loneliness and letting go leads to derailment. No worries. Just look at Mr. Vain on that bench. With some creativity, he’s (still) a fully functioning member of society. It’s possible. That’s the beauty of it. Nothing is everything, that’s how it’s all done. I yawned and drove back to my rented mattress. Another workday without noteworthy events awaits me tomorrow. Fantastic. It can’t be better.

The way you look at life makes a world of difference, just make the best of every situation.

> Click here for an overview if you’re eager for more stories <

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