Successful Procrastination

By Gale

Before You Read: This is a true story, and I'll be getting a grade for this piece the morning following the date that this is posted. All items written in parenthesis and asterisks (* *) are author's notes.

* * * *

"I hate you. You know that, right?"

Now, I might not be an expert in psychology or what have you, but I think it is safe to say that if when all else has failed and a subject has begun insulting inanimate objects, then it is a sure thing that said person is at the end of their rope. Said person, in this particular case, was me. The object I'd taken to insulting was my computer screen.

I lived by the principles of successful procrastination, meaning that my work turned out better if I waited until the last minute to do it. The end result was that my homework never got done until the night before it was due, even big assignments like essays, and I continued to pull honor roll. I might have been a 4.0 student if I tried a little harder, but you know what? Grade-wise, I was and still am comfortable -- no, make that content. I was proud to say that I would go on to be the only child among the three in my family to graduate from High School and continue to college. And I was doing it all while still being one of the laziest people you could hope to meet. I'm a Sagittarian; it was and still is in my blood to be lazy.

Now and again, however, when I sit down to get my job done, I find myself stuck; not just stuck, but really stuck. This was one of those times. The ironic thing was that whenever it happened, I never knew right away that I was stuck. It took until I sat down, started up a word-processor, and actually brought my fingers to the keyboard in front of me to begin writing. This time, like all the other times, nothing came out. My brain had a proverbial "Out of Body; Back in Five Minutes" sign nailed to it. It lied, too, because five minutes later I still didn't know what I was doing. What was even funnier was that I had an idea before I sat down to write it.

And so I sat there, staring at the mocking white screen and the black, blinking text bar, which continued to remind me that it was still there and unused. Because the computer screen seemed so un-relenting to me, I'd come to the educated conclusion that it was to blame.

Now I'm back to where I started.

"I still hate you."


"Stop doing that!" I snapped, not feeling foolish at all for speaking to an inanimate object in such a manner.

The text bar continued to happily blip at me.

I scowled, feeling miffed, "Well, so's your Mother!"

Blinkity-Blip! it retorted.

"I'm going to pretend I didn't hear that." This wasn't terribly difficult because the thing wasn't making any noise to begin with.

(*If no one has guessed this by now: I have a very turbulent relationship with my computer. It's a wonder that I'm so miserable without it.*)

I nearly jumped out of my seat when it did make a noise, the sound of a door opening to be exact, which indicated that my Instant Messenger was working, and someone whom I could pester for suggestions would be available for harassing. You're a genius, Jacqui, I thought with a self-satisfied smirk. I gave the empty page of the word-processor one final glare, said to it, "We'll discuss this later," and with a simple click, I minimized it. "Ha! Now try and blink at me, you dumb -- "

A square of white filled with brightly colored writing shot into my line of vision, bearing the upper-cased words of "HI JACQUI!!!" in bold, near painful neon letters. An interesting thing about online chats was how a person could convey their mood and tone of voice just by making the writing look different. This was the case with the ivory box invading the computer screen at the moment, belonging to a friend from Ohio (presumably). Not a second after, perfectly normal looking sable text came up beneath the exclamation saying "How are you today?" which gave me the impression of an actual person appearing in front of me, juiced on twenty gallons of hot coffee, screeching a hello! before sobering and continuing with a totally mellow demeanor.

A textbar, blinking directly under this message, beckoned my response. I was half tempted to treat it like its twin waiting in the word processor and tell it, "I hate you, too," but decided against it. I wanted help, and here it was, sort of. This friend of mine, who will henceforth be known as OhioChick, was probably one of the scariest people that I have ever come to speak to, online or in person. Judging by how she spoke, I envisioned her as kind of cross between a rabid chihuahua and a horrifying, stereotypical parody of a cheerleader: lots of energy, a lot of squeak, and no brains to show for it. I knew that this probably meant she would not provide a lot of useful information, but if anything, she would go off into some weird tangent, and it would take my mind off the stress for a while.

Good plan! I coached myself.

"Uhhh, hi," I typed. When speaking to a person online, I often wrote things the way that I spoke, hence the drawl.

"Whatcha doin?"

(*Yes, this is how she spells things.*)

"Trying to write a paper," I replied, "I'm not having any luck, though."

"Awww, what's wrong? Can't find your sources?"

"(OhioChick), I am the source. I know where I am; I just don't know what to write about."

"Ohhhh, I see." I dared think she worded that to sound like she was contemplating this. I wondered if it hurt. "You could always take a break, listen to some music or watch a movie. See if anything comes to you."

Believe it or not, I expected a lot less from her, so one can imagine that for the longest time, all I could do was stare at her little white box with my mouth hanging open. When I finally snapped out of it, I keyed in the word, "Thanks," then attempted to take her advice.

In this day and age, music and movies are the two most handy and available things in America. It's kind of like Forrest Gump's fascination with peas and carrots. For some unknown reason, they go together, and they're everywhere. I, myself, had a very extensive collection of both, (music and movies, not peas and carrots), but as I came to learn, having variety is not always helpful. I spent the next thirty minutes sitting on the floor in the basement, staring at an open cabinet filled with videos and DVDs. I'm sure there are people in the world that could sympathize with me in the respect that in moments like that one, I tended lose the ability to speak and read English. During all this time, while staring at shiny, colorful cases with illegible words on them, I sat muttering thoughtful gibberish, and I was faintly aware that my cat was sitting next to me and staring at me like I was stupid.

At least she wasn't blinking at me.

My breath caught in my throat, that single thought reminding me that the computer was still waiting for me to do my homework on it. I also realized that I was wasting valuable time. With a none-too-sophisticated "Argh!" I got to my feet and returned to the desk, set in the knowledge that an inspirational movie could not be found. Making a much longer story shorter, I'll say that a similar occurrence came about when I rifled through my cds. When all was said and done over an hour after I began, the first page of the word processor was still empty, the text bar still blinked, and OhioChick continued to bombard me with moronic questions about hair and boys and doodads, which I quite casually ignored. I was no closer to finishing my assignment than I was days before, when I assured myself I could write it out over the weekend.

It was Sunday night, the paper was due the next day, and here I was with a blank screen, both on the computer and in my head. What was I to do? The answer was simple, although it never appears that way or occurs to an over-worked student until all other options are nill. I went crying to Mommy.

Something one has to understand about my household is that my mother and I are the only human beings taking part in it right now. We're our own family and live-together best buds all rolled into one. I give her advice about boyfriend trouble and she stops me from going insane about my education. That's what we're there for; it's a cushy existence. Given these facts, it was amazing to think that I did not go to her sooner. Weirder still was that I did not have to feel embarrassed about asking her for help. I was not, and am not still, like a lot of other kids in the world who have to nervously dance around the subject until their loving parents get the idea and tell them what to do. I found my way out of the basement, steered myself into the living room where Mom sat reading, and very calmly stated, "Okasamma, your loving daughter is in a bind."

Okay, so it wasn't a straight-out "I need help," but things just never worked like that in my house. Mom was called "okasamma" quite often because after three years of the class, I randomly used Japanese words when I spoke, and that particular word is, in laymen's terms, the equivalent of "mommy dearest." Telling her without any sugar-coating that I was in need of a push in the right direction was just not the way that I worked. At least I didn't go into the "You see, I've got this friend who has a friend, and that friend is having a problem...." excuse. I might have been sadly egotistical sometimes, but one thing I have never been was trite.

Mom marked her place in the book she was reading and looked up at me over the gilted rims of her glasses. "What's the problem?" she asked me.

"Personal piece."


I sighed deeply and collapsed onto the couch nearby. "My life is not nearly interesting enough, at any point in time, to write a Pulitzer Winner based upon an actual event." I paused and rethought that. "An actual event that I was around for, anyway."

If Mom were any other kind of person, the look that she'd given me at that moment might have driven me up the wall. It was that kind of "You know how old I am and therefore should not treat me like I was born yesterday," type of glint in her eyes. A funny thing about that expression, though, is that it's never intimidating unless one is lying to the user's face.

Why, then, if I was not lying to her, did I suddenly have the urge to squirm?

"Jacqui," she said, in her listen to reason voice, "I'm proud of you. You're intelligent, but you're also the most sarcastic person I know. If anyone can take a mediocre experience and turn it into something readable, you can."

I stared flatly back at her, "You just turned my non-existent important event into a million not-important events. Can we narrow it down a bit?"

Because good moms are required by unspoken law to listen to their kids prattle on, I knew she wouldn't really shoo me away, but I could see that she wanted to get back to what she was doing. Her way of getting what she desired was by waving one of her thin hands dismissively and saying the first thing that popped into her mind, "Write about what you did today."

My initial reaction was But I didn't do anything today that I can write about! but I immediately knew I was wrong. As is always the case when an idea makes itself known to me, a spark appeared in the back of my mind, a light nudge that would make my eyes sparkle, and I'd out of nowhere sport a decidedly grinch-ly grin. I returned to the basement, determined not to lose this idea, even after I sat down again to start typing. I maximized the word processor, which once again filled the computer screen with empty white, triumphantly brought my fingers down to the keyboard and....


The text bar blinked at me some more.

Feeling my heart sink, and fighting the urge to tear the infernal thing from its place on the desk and hurl it across the room in order to appease the sudden rush of adrenaline I felt coming on, I took a deep breath and uttered the only words that I could think of.

"I hate you."