Almost every night for the past month I've watched my wife come home, eat dinner, put on her pajamas, then set up a workstation on the living room couch. On most weeknights, she sits there, unmoving, staring into her laptop, typing way past her normal bedtime at 10.
On the positive side, this should solidify the home office deduction we claim each year on our taxes. Ironically, as a slightly active freelance writer I am eligible to write off a home office. As an overworked Project Manager, Sandra Bullock is not, even though she of late spends approximately, 20-25% of her 14-hour work day on the couch.
This new world order puts me in a challenging position: how do I best support my wife in this time of quiet crisis, even as I silently wonder, with increased panic, when and if this round-the-clock schedule will end.
"I have a teleconference at seven tomorrow," she announced tonight at dinner. "And another one at seven-thirty. I probably won't be able to make the one at seven-thirty."
In order to get to the seven o' clock teleconference, she will have to wake up at 5:30 and leave the house by six. This way, she will be at her desk by 6:30, giving her a half hour to settle in and prepare for the teleconference. Who would schedule a teleconference at such an hour? Someone in Basel, Switzerland, for whom our seven a.m. is actually four in the afternoon. They're trying to fit it in before heading home for the evening.
It's probably the only time that would work. Basel is nine hours ahead. We should feel fortunate that they didn't want to make it a lunch teleconference, forcing everyone on this end to get to work at three in the morning.
I am often in awe of Sandra Bullock's capacity for work. Watching her in action right now is a study in the power of intense focus. Her leisure time is carefully plotted as she tries, often in vain, to keep work separate from home.
Here is my job: were I a stellar husband, she would arrive home to an immaculate house, dinner on the table and a subdued, mindful Jawa sitting quietly at his desk doing his homework. I would do all of this with style, never breaking a sweat, wearing the 21st-century male equivalent of a taffeta dress and pearls. Perhaps I would even have a mixed cocktail at the ready when she walked through the door.
Unfortunately, I am not so good. Instead of dutifully following the parameters established by 1950s housewives in Douglas Sirk movies, my days generally involve too many internal and external battles to be that good upon returning home. There's got to be some value in providing a bottomless well of clever asides and interesting wordplay, doesn't there?
On top of this, we have the looming Bar Mitzvah, now about four-and-a-half months away. Anyone who is not yet in awe of Sandra Bullock's mighty organizational skills needs only to observe her long-term Bar Mitzvah strategy to understand that had she not chosen to bless biotechnology with her presence, she would have been equally successful in a multitude of other industries.
Here on Surrey Street, we are hoping that this "tough period" at work will subside in time for Sandra Bullock to truly enjoy the event she's been planning on the side for close to a year. I hate to think of the alternative.
What if her Bar Mitzvah day begins with a seven a.m. teleconference? Will I have to keep an eagle eye on her during the party, making sure that "talking to the caterer" isn't code for "sneaking into the kitchen and answering work emails?" Will I be alone in entertaining our guests after the party, juggling several conversations while she bunkers down in our room at the Hyatt Regency, typing meeting minutes?
We all hope not. Because what I've learned in nearly 20 years of living with Sandra Bullock is that the reward for showing a great capacity for work is not accolades and financial incentive; it's more work.
As for me, a Power Point presentation of my usual work day would peter our after about three slides. My days never include seven a.m. teleconferences. They often involve typing on a laptop while watching prime-time TV, but that's only because I work better at night than I do during the day and have arranged my day to peak during "American Idol," long after I should have clocked out. That's a matter of choice, though. I could crank out real estate articles at seven in the morning, but they'd be awful.
We know that Sandra Bullock will never have a day that includes falling asleep in the dentist's waiting room while the Jawa gets two cavities filled. Dr. Dorothy Pang, who emerged from the back room still wearing her strange little magnifying glass spectacles, got a big kick out of that.
So what is my role, how do I earn my keep while Sandra Bullock does her best impression of the Enjoli woman, circa 1972? Specific chores I should be doing are never going to magically occur to me, so I at least try to do all of the ones I'm assigned. I try to schedule errands, i.e. taking the Jawa to the dentist, to take advantage of my flexible schedule and I try to encourage my wife to participate in March Madness basketball tournaments, even if it means feeling very emasculated while standing on the sidelines in my twee little Ted Baker jacket, watching my wife play basketball.
(For the second game, I made sure to work out before going to see her. That way, at least, I could show up in workout clothes, not looking like the foppish ghost of Roddy McDowell.)
Come Bar Mitzvah day, everyone's going to know that the success or failure of the event depends on Sandra Bullock's gift for planning and organization. Anyone needing a quick shot of sentimental reflection, well, they can come looking for me. That's sort of my thing.