I have the attention span of a gnat.
It hasn’t always been like this; once upon a time it was longer. In my younger days, for example, I was able to do some moderately complicated research and even write it up. Heck, I even defended it, although technically it was about nothing. I managed to focus long enough to do that.
That’s no longer the case. When I started ‘Sparing ‘ it had a different working title and I was planning on retelling an old anecdote that came to me when I was playing hockey that day. It was something that happened many years ago, during an actual game, like between teams, with referees and scores and everything. That’s not much to go on, but I screwed it up. Lack of focus. Instead of boring nostalgia there was self-indulgent noodling where I talked about everything except what they had for lunch at the curling club (Fish and chips. Sweet potato fries.) and the original topic I had planned. Clearly, I had a “Look! A monkey!” moment. Or maybe several. (An accountant gave me one for Christmas. Clearly I’m losing focus again.)
Where was I? Oh, yah — an old hockey game, yadda yadda yadda.
As my time as a grad student grew toward an end, I spent more and more time pulling together six years of work (dotting I’s, crossing T’s, that sort of thing) and less and less time doing actual, you know, new stuff. Anyone who has done this will tell you that it’s tiring work and not a whole lot of fun. It’s common to see grad students seeking, um, ‘displacement activity.’ There are several traditional forms of this — grad club is/was always full, grad student offices were typically empty until later in the day and apartments were often inhumanly tidy.
Me? I played hockey. (Well, maybe some of the other ones too — just not the ‘tidying’ one.) For the last winter of my degree, I was playing five to eight times a week. (You’d think with that amount of playing time that I’d have gotten better. Apparently, practice doesn’t always make perfect.)
Most of these ‘games’ were pick-up/recreational, but some weren’t. In those days (and probably still, but I haven’t looked) there was an intramural hockey league with teams representing classes and years. There was, however, no grad student team — probably because grad students, as a group, were less cohesive than many/most undergraduates. But I knew a guy that knew a guy who said to himself “Why is there no grad student intramural hockey team? I should form
one.” He called his circle of friends and they called theirs and we had a team. Or, at least, a dozen and a half guys who played hockey (and one who refereed). And, most importantly, a goalie.
We were okay. I mean, we were in no danger of winning the league or anything, but we won our share of games. A lot of that was due to the goalie: he was really good and singlehandedly kept us in pretty much every game. We really got lucky with him.
(Them, actually — his wife came to most games. She was… animated. Colourful. Not shy. I remember one time we were trapped in our own end and a shout came from the stands: “Get that <expletive deleted> puck away from my husband!” Did I mention? She also had a gift for motivational speaking.)
Anyway, the point of all of this is that the season drew to an end, as seasons do. After dressing for the last game (fourteen guys in a change room slightly larger than my bathroom) we were warming up when one of the starting forwards came up to me.
“Watch out for your defense partner.”
Maybe he was writing up too.