You shrug your shoulders. “Nah-nah-nuh,” you mumble, unable to look at whoever is upset with you.
“You didn’t know?” they reply, their voice raised, bafflement overcoming them. “How could you not have known? How many times have we been over this?”
This section of Excuses could just as easily be called “Laziness,” but that seems like a much broader topic. Being lazy is about more than the indifference we sometimes bring to tasks. Let me give you an example from today (about a half an hour before I began writing this piece):
It snowed all night long. Not a lot, but a constant stream of flurries, gently piling up on the cold ground, where it could not melt. It is still snowing right now, hours and hours of this, leaving a few inches. My children have a two hour delay from school this morning (let me revise this: they have now closed their school!) My wife, a teacher in a different district, does not. She drives about a half an hour every morning, through generally heavy traffic. Now that it is snowing she left into a nervous crawl.
Now all last night we knew it was supposed to snow (it started around 10 PM, when I was still several hours away from sleep). The children asked repeatedly “Do you think we’ll have school tomorrow?” I even watched the local news for the weather report, and the early crawl beneath showing school delays and closures. At the time only Pre-Schools were closed.
After everyone else went to bed I settled in to work, compiling notes, outlining and structuring my large project, reading, and writing more in a different project for about three hours. I was lost in this blinking fantasy world that consumes so much of my time. Writers are very selfish people. They may not overtly treat people poorly, nor believe that they are doing anything wrong. “I’m working!” they sometimes shout, demanding absolute silence. “I can’t even think!” I know I have yelled at my children when interrupted in the middle of a sentence. And while the statement may be fundamentally true, all it really proves is that perhaps a professional writer is better off with no family at all, locked in isolation, creating worlds instead of living in one. Writers are the cruel gods, or perhaps prisoners, of their imagination.
Anyway, this is just a pretentious excuse for saying that I forgot all about the snow. I tried falling asleep downstairs sometime after 2AM, my alarm set for 5:30 in order to wake to get my children ready for school, and went then lay there flicking around on TV. (I watched for quite a while American Horrors, the 24-hour, uncut horror film and original programming channel on Roku (http://www.americanhorrors.com/watch-channel/). By then it was too late to go upstairs any probably wake my wife coming into the room. She has to wake so early, and sleeping in separate places, for some reason, felt like a considerate addition to our marriage. Before 5AM my phone rang. The recorded voice on the other end informed me about the two-hour delay (It was just after 8AM that they cancelled). I looked outside, shook my head, and finally went to sleep.
At a quarter after six my wife called me on the phone from upstairs (a sad commentary on today’s social world. I am sure that many of you can relate to this modern tragedy.) She asked if the kids’, and her school were delayed or cancelled. I told her them, but not her (to explain how cutthroat and blood-thirsty her city school is, or perhaps how much of a bunch of pussies the district where we live are, the city’s snowfall is far worse than our own.) She sighed. I went back to sleep.
When my wife came downstairs ten minutes later she wondered why I had not performed my daily morning ritual of getting her a cup of tea (she has been off coffee since the summer, when our family vacation to Seattle, Alaska and Canada provided her with terrible coffee. Yes, Seattle, I’m talking to you!) I slumped up with a huff, and prepared my responsibility. Then I started my way upstairs, intending to get a good hour of sleep before I had to begin my late day.
“Did you wipe off my car?” my wife asked, cheerfully, because she knew that I am usually caring and generous enough to provide these simple services to make the morning a little easier on her (or perhaps this was cheerful malice, wishing me the discomfort of performing the task.) But it was cold outside. It was snowing. I hadn’t gotten much sleep. I was bleary-eyed. Yes, that is what I was thinking: I-I-I-I-I.
“Just what I thought,” she said, truly irritated with me now. “Don’t worry,” she continued lashing me with a guilt-inducing growl. “Never mind. I’ll do it, like I do everything else.”
“I didn’t know,” I said, glancing out the window again, where the snow was piled high enough to wet the cuffs of my pants.
“You didn’t know what?”
“That it was still snowing.” Somehow my slow-motion mind thought that this was a valid thing to say. Even if it had stopped, there would still be mounds of snow on her car. I knew this even as I made my excuse. She just stared at me. I walked outside and shivered. I did my job–overdid it, actually, trying to redeem myself. Having no idea where the ice scraper is, I put on gloves and brushed it all off, from the roof and everywhere, even going so far as to scrape my fingers against the icy patches, wetting my gloves. I stood there in sweatpants and with my eye aching (I slammed it into a door on Saturday.) I saw a deer come out of the woods behind my house. It paused, stared at me, then dashed off. I was convinced that the thing was laughing at me. It took me close to fifteen minutes to clear her car off (one of those tall SUVs, which I loathe, and have never driven, with the middle of the roof a too high for me to reach. I had to climb up, soaking my knees). She came outside to leave for work as I was finishing up.
“Thank you,” she said, giving me a peck on the cheek, before getting into the car and leaving. So I stood there in the snow, waving. I looked for my friend the laughing deer, but could only find the small, curious circles of its trail. I went inside.
I went to tell my children about their school delay. My daughter was still in bed, but my son was (is) awake. I told him about it and he glared at me. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he growled, dreaming of his bed.
“I . . . I didn’t know until–”
“Whatever,” the rude little shit responded, turning back to the YouTube video he was watching on his phone.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t find out until I was brushing Mom’s car off. That’s when they called.” Even such a little white lie caused me a deep sense of shame. There was no reconciliation, because my son had already forgotten about it and forgiven me. I am unsure if he even heard me, staring, blind-eyed, at his phone, saying nothing.
“I really didn’t know,” I muttered one last time, shrugging my shoulders. And then I walked away, here into my office, sat down and wrote this piece. You might ask me why I did any of this, why I made everything just a little bit worse by playing dumb, making excuses that all of us knew were false?
You know the answer. Only this time–this one time–we can all admit that it might actually be true.