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The alarm goes off and as you swim up out of unconsciousness you realize with a dull sense of horror that you’ve arrived at Monday morning yet again. It’s like a more mundane telling of Groundhog Day, that 1993 comedy romp starring Bill Murray, except in this version you’re the reluctant star and there’s no way to extricate yourself from the cursed time loop. The previous weekend and its orgy of freedom is just a bittersweet memory now, while the one to come seems like a hazy mirage viewed across an impossible gulf. Five days away? Might as well be fifty years.

For those of you who actually spring out of bed and do cartwheels of joy because you love your job so much…you can stop reading now. This isn’t for you. The rest of us don’t necessarily begrudge your bizarre optimism, we just can’t reconcile it with our own version of reality this early in the work week. At least let us suckle a cup of coffee or three before you turn that thousand watt smile toward us as we trudge into the office.

For us, nothing can change that soul-sick feeling of finding yourself back at the start of another work week. Eliminating Mondays wouldn’t solve the problem, as it would simply result in Tuesday become the new Monday. Speaking of Tuesdays, they aren’t appreciably any better. If Mondays are about slowly easing back into the work cycle after the unbidden hedonism of the weekend, then Tuesdays are about getting productive whether you want to or not. Those endless email queries and mounting reams of paperwork aren’t going to take care of themselves, after all.

The fact that you’re getting paid to do it doesn’t make it any better either. In fact, it makes you feel a bit like a sex worker. Like them, many of us aren’t doing our jobs out of love. We’re doing them because we don’t want to live in a cardboard box behind a smelly dumpster in some dank alley. Money makes the world go round, and without it things can get desperate real fast.

Wednesday, the proverbial ‘hump day’, sees a glimmer of hope return. Now it’s only two more days until that sweet geyser of freedom known as the weekend gushes forth like Old Faithful once again. We can see the coming reprieve from the tyranny of paperwork and looming deadlines and we can almost taste it. This is when we start making plans for the forty-eight hours of contiguous personal time allotted to us every week, if we’re lucky (more on that near the end of this diatribe).

Thursdays are almost as bad as Mondays. The end of the week is in sight, but it’s not over yet. If you’re smart, Thursday is the day you’ll work extra hard so that you can hopefully coast through Friday. That often doesn’t work out, however, as Fridays are generally the day that demanding clients and unreasonable bosses suddenly need this or that thing-a-ma-jig done before the weekend. Still, there’s hope that this week might wrap up differently. The next day might be the golden Friday of your dreams—where things are slow for once and the boss tells you to go home early for a change. Right, sure. It could happen.

Then, at last, you arrive at Friday. You awaken to the same droning alarm, but even though you still long to stay in bed you find yourself getting up a little less begrudgingly. Maybe there’s even a slight spring in your step as you make your way into the office or wherever it is that you make a living. Eight more hours and you’re free to do whatever it is that you’ve fantasized about over the oncoming weekend. Suddenly life has the potential to be sweet again, if only for a limited time.

Then the phone rings. Somebody got their wires crossed and now there’s a mess that needs sorting out. The fact that you didn’t cause the issue is irrelevant, because somehow it always falls squarely on your shoulders to fix it when something like this happens. So you work like hell to vanquish the problem—to render it moot so that its imposition on your time doesn’t threaten to expand beyond the end of the work day.

By four o’clock you’ve somehow managed to resolve the matter, and as you prepare to shutdown your computer (or put your tools away) relief washes over you like a cool wave. You made it. You’re almost free. Your heart begins to sing like a bird freed from its cage. Then you see the boss striding toward you. He or she is smiling, but you know there’s no good news behind those calculating eyes. Can you come in on Saturday and work for a few hours?

Like the ignominious fate of Humpty Dumpty, your hopes are utterly dashed and no amount of theoretical super glue can put them back together again. Your Friday night out with friends is suspended with one terrible utterance from your superior’s lips. You could say no, of course, but to do that would only push your farther down the ladder of success that you halfheartedly think you’re trying to ascend. So, with all the enthusiasm of a political prisoner being led to the firing squad, you agree to sacrifice more of your time.

At least you’ve still got Saturday night and Sunday to yourself, the optimist would say. It’s not a total loss. That may be true, but you know that by Sunday afternoon the knowledge that hated Monday is looming on the horizon will corrupt your last hours of freedom before the crushing drudgery of another work week is even upon you. For those of you who are like-minded in their disdain of this cyclical struggle, I sympathize totally and completely with your plight, and maybe knowing that you’re not the only one who feels this way helps a bit. Misery loves company, after all.

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I’m sure you’ve met a few in your life. Jerks are everywhere. They’re the ones who leave the empty toner cartridge in the copier for someone else to replace at your workplace. They’re the ones hogging the isle at the grocery store with their overloaded cart. They’re in your neighbourhood, letting their idiot dog bark outside when everyone else is trying to sleep. They’re drinking draft beer down at your local pub by the pitcher and playing all the music you hate on the jukebox. You might even have a few in your own family. No matter where you go there’s probably a jerk or two just lurking around—waiting to make life a bit shittier for everyone. This is unavoidable, as a certain number of subjects within any given cohort will turn out to be jerks. It’s the same with farts. Most will be uneventful and mild, even humorous, but there’s always a chance that the next one will ruin you day by turning out to be more than just innocent gas. Did I just compare people to flatulence? Yes, yes I did.

This is true even in the animal kingdom. For example, the robins that come into my yard to use the birdbath I’ve provided also figure they’re entitled to help themselves to my Saskatoon berry bushes as well. I work hard to maintain those bushes: pruning them, fertilizing them, watering them—all so that I might enjoy the literal fruits of my labour when those juicy, sweet berries ripen. But day after day those feathery little bastards take advantage of my generous nature by stealing my fruit. They don’t even have the decency to wait until they’re ripe. The little creeps seem to revel in taking the most under-developed ones first. Before flying away they often give me a look that says: “Thanks dummy. See you again tomorrow!”

So, how does the non-jerk avoid a true, dyed-in-the-wool jerk, so as not to be affected by their casual assholishness? Well, first it might help to identify exactly what a jerk is. Merriam-Webster defines a jerk as such: “an unlikable person; especially one who is cruel, rude, or small-minded.” That is certainly a succinct description, but it doesn’t encompass all of jerkdom. That’s because some jerks have learned how to cloak their shitty behaviour when it suits them. Outwardly, these non-obvious jerks can seem like decent people at first glance, but behind your back the jerk within is waiting. These are the people who are friendly to your face, but as soon as your back is turned they talk down about you or do other petty things that undermine your ability to go through life jerk-free.

Then there’s the atypical jerks. These are the people who don’t intend any overt harm, but none-the-less can be classified as jerks for all the other ways they manage to annoy those around them. I’m thinking about that friend who goes to the movies with you and then spends the whole time telling you what’s going to happen next because they already saw it the week before. Even though they’re ruining every plot turn for you, they just can’t seem to help themselves. Or how about the person in your household that tightens the lid on the Cheese Wiz so tight that you need the jaws of life to open it again when you want a cheesy snack? Nobody’s impressed with your lame feat of strength, Mr. Jerk.
So, now that we’ve defined what a jerk is and illustrated a few examples, how does one avoid them? Well, if they’re family, you’re pretty much screwed unless you’re willing to move far away from their area of influence. Depending how much of a jerk they are, this may involve a very long distance indeed. I hear Antarctica is rather balmy this time of year, Uncle Jerk.

For non-family jerks—that being the jerks you meet on the street every day— there’s one strategy that works nearly all of the time: Ignore them. Yes I know it’s hard, because exposure to jerkish behaviour often arouses a desire for symmetrical retaliation. Ultimately, though, this will only cause you to become that which you hate. Therefore, it is always good to keep in mind the words that a guy named Fred Nietzsche once said: “He who fights with jerks should look to it that he himself does not become a jerk. And if you gaze long into a jerk-abyss, the jerk-abyss also gazes into you.”

Words to live by…

Yours truly has had a short story, Carrion Dreams, selected for publication by Transmundane Press in their forthcoming anthology titled Transcendent. I’ve been told it will be published sometime in the late fall/early winter in all formats. Below you can see the cover reveal and the official blurb. More info to come as the release date nears.

Transcendent - Amazon Kindle

“A parallel dimension exists below the surface of reality.

Its doors swing open every time we sleep, allowing us passage into the land of DREAMS, a plane rich with exotic fantasy and limitless bliss. Within this wonder world, however, lurk dark corridors and terrible creatures—some unfortunate travelers never escape the NIGHTMARES waiting in the shadows.

Many have tried bridging our worlds. Seekers and wise men have meditated for VISIONS and ingested intoxicants for HALLUCINATIONS in hopes that the veil between our realms will thin, allowing access to all the thrills, joys, and horrors beyond our senses.

TRANSCENDENT is an open gate, a gangway linking our realm to the shimmering sphere where nothing is certain and anything is possible.”