How to completely mess up your day: first of all, against all your better judgment, stay up until 2:30 in the morning playing Pod Racer (yes, I’m hooked on Pod Racer again ). Sleep for 4 hours, then drag yourself out of bed to do a rush translation between 7:00 and 8:00 a.m. (which, of course, turns out to be a rush translation between 7:20 and 8:00 because the text shows up late, as always). Do the translation while shivering in your robe, downing gallons of coffee to keep you awake and typing like a madwoman.
When you’re done, do a bit more work before deciding that you really are too tired to be up at that hour. At this point, set the alarm for an hour and a half later (when you will have to do another translation with a short deadline) and go back to bed. Fall deeply asleep and have utterly bizarre and disturbing dreams. Make sure that you are right in the middle of the strangest part of the dream when your alarm goes off again, dragging you violently into semi-wakefulness and harsh reality.
Get up again. Put on your robe again. Make coffee again. Try not to think about the movie “Groundhog Day” while you sit down at your computer to wait for the text that will inevitably show up late again. When it does show up, translate it in a dreamlike state. Finish it, send it off, look at the clock miserably and realize that it is only 11:30 in the morning, you feel completely weird and your day has probably been utterly wrecked.
Several things became clear to me this morning as I tried to focus on my monitor through a haze of sleep.
1) I have no willpower. At midnight last night, I was in my pajamas and ready to climb into bed and go to sleep, knowing that I had to get up at an ungodly hour to work. I was not going to play Pod Racer, I was not, because I knew I would sit there for ages getting all hyped up. And then I did it anyway. I am a sad, spineless creature.
2) Autumn is really here. It was cold and dark when I got up this morning. All summer long, the sky would start getting light around 4 in the morning, and by 7:00 the sun would be glaring into my bedroom. Today we were still firmly in the middle of “dawn" when I crawled out of bed for the first time. “Morning" didn’t hit until I crawled out of the bed for the second time. And both times, it was much warmer and cozier in bed than out. The days are shriveling and growing cold. Winter is on its way.
3) I generally have it pretty cushy. When the alarm went off for the first time this morning, the only thing that made it the slightest bit bearable for me to get out of bed was the knowledge that I just had to take three steps across my room and I would be at my place of work. I lay there for a moment, forcing myself to imagine what it would feel like to have to get up at that hour every morning, get dressed, put on shoes and actually leave the house and go someplace else to sit sleepily in front of a computer. It was a nightmare scenario.
I have it so easy it’s ridiculous. It’s not that I don’t work; I work long and hard, in fact. I work well into the night, and I work on weekends, and sometimes when I think my work is done for the day or the week, I get an unexpected rush job, and then I work some more. The work of a freelancer is never really done. But I can accept all of this if it means that I rarely have to get up before 10:00 a.m. and I never have to leave the house immediately after getting out of bed. I don’t do mornings. Ask anyone who’s ever been around me in the morning.
And finally: 4) Amazon.com can save a day that seemed wrecked at 11:30 a.m. About half an hour ago, as I sat here moaning about how tired and weird I felt, I heard a knock at the door. I flew downstairs and was greeted by the delivery man, who had a lovely big package from Amazon for me.
I felt a surge of energy as I ran back upstairs, tore open the box and removed its long-awaited contents: a 600-page, hardcover academic book in German entitled Pest - Geißler - Judenmorde (or Plague - Flagellants - Murdered Jews). It’s a medieval history book on the persecution of the Jews that took place during the Plague in the 14th century. Each page consists of an equal amount of text and footnotes, and of those footnotes, about half are in Latin and half are in Medieval German. It’s simply delicious.
If just about anyone else had received this book in the mail, they would probably have sent it back to Amazon with an angry letter and a demand for a refund. Or maybe they would have thought it was a twisted joke. But I’m so excited that I can barely contain myself.
I have coveted this book for years. Few topics interest me more than the Plague and the persecution of the Jews, and this book has both. Not only that, the city of Freiburg features quite prominently in it. And not only that, but as far as I know, there is no English translation of this book, and someday I intend to personally rectify that situation (if no one beats me to it). I wanted to buy the book back when I was studying in Freiburg, but its price tag of over 120 German marks (38 pounds, 61 euro, about 60 bucks - take your choice) was a bit steep for a “starving student.” So I bided my time (and kind of forgot about it) until one week ago, when “consumerism" converged with “money to burn” and I placed my order with Amazon.
And now the book is here: plain green cover, gold writing, crisp pages, bookish smell. The Middle Ages are at my fingertips. The day is looking up.