Friday, August 9, 2002

Chasing the Cat

When Nathan gets bored with foraging under his high chair for remnants of his last (four) meal(s) or riffling through the bathroom drawers for a tampopsicle or tugging at my sleeve pulling me away from the computer as he’s doing now, when all these options are exhausted, he chases the cat. He often chases the cat, it’s his fallback pursuit. He pesters the cat relentlessly. We actually have two cats, but Buca is the quintessential scaredy-cat and she just runs and hides whenever Nathan is on the rampage. Oso is the regal, gray Persian who runs our lives. Nathan abuses him, hugs him, sits on him, tackles him and darn near flattens him under what is now not an inconsiderable weight (at least to the fluffy feline whisper we call Oso).
Oso fails repeatedly to avail himself of escape opportunities, and when he does get caught and the gawdawful cat yawling doesn’t bring freedom then the cat will resort to violence. Nathan’s scratched face will attest to that. Yet, no mere flesh wounds will deter Nate. He motors on, despite the fact that he has no idea what to do with Oso when he gets him. Oso has been remarkably patient, but all patience eventually wears thin. The cat has attempted several prison breaks. While not exactly Steve-McQueen-flying-over-barbed-wire-Nazis-gunning-at-his-head-death-defying, they do run some risk.
Nathan has learned to open the doors to the outside, so, on occasion, Oso will manage to slip out if we neglect to notice Nate has left the door open (of course, with our superior parenting skills this rarely happens, ahem). This presents a painful temptation for Oso. He can linger around Nathan when Nate is near a door, but he risks the aforementioned abuse. Hence the dilemma: risk getting trampled for the chance at freedom. Not that Oso knows what to do when he gets outside, every last feral morsel has been ruthlessly domesticated out of him. Oso looks about as comfortable on the grassy savannah of our lawn as a Palestinian would at his own Bris.
This all may sound very sweet and amusing. Well, let me tell you when someone calls, a recruiter, for example, and you see your 18-month old son wandering outside chasing a furry gray cat across the deck, and you begin to calculate how much time you’ve got before one or the other comes to harm and you try to figure the damage you’ll do to your reputation in the eyes of the person on the end of the phone if you curtail the call or admit you must go pry a cat out of your son’s grip – you do that a few times and it’s not cute anymore. I’ve had time to think about such things, to worry about what other people think, of me, and our situation. What do people really think of Mr. Moms, the stay at home Dad, house-husband, unemployed leech. When you’re on the phone and the kid is screaming, do people think, “Not only can he not get a job, he can’t even do this one, and that doesn’t pay.” He can’t even take care of his own kid.
And, it’s at such moments, that I think, I just want a job, any job, just get me out of here and back in an office. Staying at home and parenting a kid is hard, really hard. It takes more than a village idiot. Watching a child is comprised of moments of terror surrounded by hours of brain numbing monotony. Those monotonous times allow for mind-wandering, which, for me, can be a dangerous thing. I’ve come to imagine myself as Nathan and Oso as a job. The way I’ve pursued my “career” is analogous to the way Nathan pursues the cat. There’s a tendency towards indifference if there’s something more interesting to do, but once my mind is set I won’t rest until the job is done. Of course, like Nate, I have a habit of holding on too tightly once the object of pursuit is in my grasp. And jobs, like cats, can react unpredictably when faced with such enthusiasm. Cats are naturally suspicious. They look out for themselves. They watch their backs. But, they can be moody. One moment they’re responding positively to your attention, then, without warning, they’ll turn and bite you. A cat will turn its claws on friend and foe alike. A scratched face can damage self-esteem. A child doesn’t think about pride being a sin, yet an adult might spend sleepless hours weighing that truism against the cost of sustaining repeated damage to his face by holding on mindlessly. Cats can also sense desperation.
I had a job interview on Tuesday of LAST week. I did my research. I looked at the web site. I examined the financials. I talked to former employees, for chrissakes. I thought I nailed the interviews. I was charming, well-spoken, highlighted my strengths while retaining modesty. I sent the requisite clever “Thank you” emails. And, I’ve heard nothing. NOTHING.
Maybe jobs are like dogs.

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