My girlfriend informs me that there’s a black widow nesting in a drainpipe near our garage. I have now been on the GTD program for several days and am a next-action machine. I say out loud to myself in a robot voice, “Processing … dot dot dot …” I head outside, already planning my next action: “Pour water down drain to send spider on river rampage to Jesus.” On the way, however, I discover a dead squirrel. Protocol interrupted. How do you dispose of a dead squirrel?
I return to the house with my bucket of water to ask the Internet. A state of California Web site informs me that I have to call the West Nile Virus Hotline. WTF?! I open a new tab and Google “West Nile deaths human California.” Only one this year. Next action: Let air out of lungs. Back to west nile.ca.gov. From the photos, I identify the decedent as a Fox squirrel. While scrolling through, I notice that its cousin the Douglas squirrel is adorable! I throw it—the words, not the squirrel—at Wikipedia. Pine squirrel located in the Pacific coastal states. Huh. I jot down “pine squirrel” for use in as-yet-unwritten funny sentence. Back to the ‘pedia. Naturalist John Muir described the Douglas squirrel as “by far the most interesting and influential of the California sciuridae.” … Sciuridae? How has that term managed to elude me for more than three decades? I click the link and learn that it’s a family of large rodents—squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, and, uh, spermophiles. I wonder how you pronounce it. sky-yer-EE-dye? SURE-i-day? Goto: Merriam-Webster Online. Damn—it’s a premium-account word. I’ll have to slum it on Dictionary.com. Aha! sigh-YUR-i-day. I say it aloud several times, nodding with a false sense of accomplishment. The black widow is still alive. The Fox squirrel is still dead. And so are 35 minutes of my life.
Chris Hardwick, ‘Diary of a Self-Help Dropout: Flirting With the 4-Hour Workweek’, Wired, vol. 17, no. 1 (January, 2009)