Writing with Distractions (or Sure, Blame Me and my Tiny Bladder)

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If there’s one thing I’ve learned about that lady, it’s that she tends to blame others for her inability to focus. The truth is she can’t concentrate for shit. I’m just being honest. Between the noise in her head and the noise out there in the world, distractions are a big problem for her. But instead of taking responsibility for it (or medication), she blames everything on me and my tiny bladder. Like it’s my fault she wastes more time than any other human being on the planet. “Oh, God,” she’ll say, looking at me, having written all of four words the entire day, “I have to take the dog out.” Oh, sure, I’m the problem.

We live on the 29th floor of a building in New York, and yes, I need to pee pretty often. But these outings should take no more than five minutes tops, ever. Believe me, I pee very quickly. But there have been times when the lady has spent an entire hour on one little trip outside, and for the most ridiculous reasons.

The clock starts long before we even get on the elevator. “The fuck are you doing?” I ask her while she tries to figure out which jeans to put on and then inexplicably sits on the bathroom floor and starts taking off her toe nail polish. “Really?” I ask. “Now’s the best time for that?”

And she can never find my leash. She wanders through the whole apartment in a daze looking for it; half the time I’ve already got it on. While she hunts around for it, I’ll realize that she’s also missing her keys and her iPhone. It’s like she’s got no system whatsoever for keeping her crap together. “Don’t you realize how much work you have to do?” I’ll ask, dragging my leash behind me. “Let’s go. Chop, chop!”

“How about we do such and such on the way down,” she’ll say, “since we’re heading out anyway. Two birds.”

“I’ve got an idea,” I say. “How about we don’t.”

But she’ll ignore me and gather up the recycling or scoop the cat box (don’t get me started on the cat box) or do whatever else she can think of, none of which has anything to do with me or my need to pee or the looming deadline for her book. So I’ll follow her around the apartment, while my poop bag holder at the end of my leash is knocking into things, and she’s flapping all over the place, wasting more and more time. And then — when she’s finally ready to go, coat on, keys in hand — she’ll stop to check her computer one more time. “Nooooooooo!” I’ll shout. I have never known anyone in the universe who can waste as much time on social media as she can. She has mastered the art of “refreshing.” It would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

“Someone liked my tweet!” she’ll say.

“Yeah, you’re basically Chrissy Teigen,” I tell her. She smiles at me; she obviously  doesn’t get sarcasm.

Anyway, we finally get on the elevator, and wouldn’t you just know it, but that damn golden retriever Boomer gets on two floors down. He is the smelliest, clumsiest, dumbest creature on God’s green earth, which was understandable when he was young, but there’s no excuse for it anymore. Now he’s just a sloppy, uncivilized two-year-old oaf. “Ignore him,” I whisper. But no. In spite of Boomer’s heinous behavior, that lady of mine starts talking to him and to his lady, and they socialize all the way down to the ground floor and into the lobby of the building. As we stand there and they prattle on, it occurs to me that we may never go outside. I might as well just take a leak right here on the floor. I may as well just drop dead of a bladder infection. “Blah blah blah,” my lady says. “How are the kids? How’s work? How’s life?” And then in a baby voice, “And how are you, Boomer?” Boomer, with a revolting, drool-slathered tennis ball in his mouth, gets all worked up and knocks me over with his tail. No one even notices.

When we finally get outside, I pee. It takes four seconds. So we could, in theory, go right back inside so the lady can finally get some work done. But no. She drags me to the bank, to the drug store, to PetSmart. Frankly, I think she’s insane. I’m looking at her while she browses doggy Halloween costumes on sale, like “Really? This is a priority?”

“Cute!!!!” she says, holding up a costume in a size small. I can only fucking imagine the time we’ll waste later on Instagram pictures.

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“In case you don’t know this,” I say, dressed up like a freaking cow, “your book isn’t going to write itself.”

She seriously never listens to me.

(For more blather on humans NOT getting any work done, see this piece the lady wrote on The Spark. Excuses, excuses.)

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Amy Poeppel grew up in Dallas, Texas and left the south to attend Wellesley College. Since then, she has worked as an actor, a high school English teacher, and most recently as the Assistant Director of Admissions at a school in New York City. Her three fabulous boys are all off in Boston attending school, and she and her husband now split their time between New York and Frankfurt, Germany. A theatrical version of SMALL ADMISSIONS was workshopped at the Actors Studio Playwrights/Directors Unit. She later expanded it into her first novel.

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