I’ve been thinking about the idiom ‘back-burnering,’ because I’m having to do a lot of that at work. I’m coming up on a week now, working solo, in a lab which usually takes a team of five. I am not actually doing the job of five — there are things I’m not trained to do, and everyone knows that I cannot do right now — but it does mean that I’m busier than I have been since I took this job about a year ago. For the first couple of days, it wasn’t too bad, as we have been slow, and although January is always busy for my team, the rush had not yet started when the team was hit by a whammy no one saw coming. Which is not to say they should not have seen it coming, and I’ve been advocating for cross training for quite some time because while I didn’t see this exact scenario coming? I knew something like this is always a possibility. Although not even I, with my planning for failures, foresaw the entire team being out other than me. Last woman standing.
Setting something on the back burner: implies that you are not taking it completely off the heat, you are just moving it around on the stove so the pot is warm and ready to go, but you are not paying active attention to it right this minute. On some stoves this is called the simmer burner. On the wood cookstove that we had when I was a girl, it was the cooler place further from the firebox and once you got to learn your stovetop, you knew where you could put a pot and not have it boil over unexpectedly, and the good place to put a pot that you wanted to come to a boil as quickly as possible – a hotspot. I feel like I’m on the hotspot right now. And I have had to put some things on the back burner, things that just weren’t as much of a priority, because I only have two hands. And there’s only so much time in the day, especially when you’re trying not to incur overtime. So back burner it is.
There a lot of times in life when you have to move something around on the stove metaphorically, turning down the heat and parking it for a while. Sometimes you need to move things to the freezer. Like the leftovers of that turkey: you can either eat it for a week straight, which will lead to everyone in the house developing a deep distaste for Turkey in any form. No matter how you just try to disguise it – as a pot pie or hash or soup or turkey salad sandwiches. No, the best thing to do with the turkey leftovers, after a day or two, is bag and label it and toss it in the freezer and you can bring out again in a few weeks when everyone’s forgotten what turkey tasted like, and you are back in business. The fine art of using leftovers: it’s one I’ve had a lot of practice at, we never could afford to waste food. Not that we haven’t done a lot of that over the years, especially the last couple of years when the monies have been decent, and the time has been short, so things get shoved to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten. I’m trying not to do that at work – not that my boss would let me, anything that is urgent she reminds me about every five minutes whether I need to hear it or not. It’s both useful and annoying.
The blog has been on the back burner the last couple of months. The recent attacks on free speech (I’m not necessarily speaking of the de-platforming of a single individual here) have caused me to bring the blog back up to a full boil. I’m afraid we’re going to see a lot of this, restrictions on the speech of those who don’t really belong to… shall we say the right side of politics? I’m certainly not going call it the correct side. And it isn’t necessarily that I’m political, I try hard not to be in public. It isn’t nice. No, it’s more that if you are perceived to support that which they desire to cancel, there is no judge and jury in the court of public opinion: you are adjudicated guilty instantly and there is no appeal from this court.
I’ve been seeing a lot of headlines that have disturbed me deeply. Rule of law, the American justice system, and idealist that I am, I still believe in the whole ‘innocent until proven guilty.’ When we have inflammatory headlines stating that ‘so-and-so is a terrorist’, well, that’s making a statement. One that indicates the belief of the author of the piece, and this is as clearly defamatory as anything I’ve seen in print. There’s no recourse against the Internet. Not right now. If you try to protest, they’ll do their best to silence you with prejudice. Any disagreement at all, no matter how mild. How far this is going to get taken? How long do we get to be on the hotspot? The longer you leave a pot on boil, the more likely it is to boil over. This is how messes happen. And house fires.
My dad was… well he was a lot of things. One of the things he was passionately involved in was emergency medicine. At times and places where he wasn’t professionally working in the field, and because he has a big heart (I don’t mean that figuratively, he literally had an enlarged heart that forced his medical retirement from emergency medicine after thirty years of it) dad served on many volunteer fire departments, so that he could keep up with his EMT certifications. Some fire departments don’t allow you to only be an EMT, so dad became a firefighter as well.
I remember one story he told after coming home from responding to a fire. This happened 40 years ago… near enough, and I have never forgotten it, he responded to a fire that had started in the kitchen. Someone had been cooking with grease: grease had boiled over onto the gas stove, caught fire, and ignited a dried flower arrangement and curtain that had been hanging over the stove. Looking back now as an adult, I have to wonder about the dried flower and curtain! I know that in the 1980s dried flower arrangements and kitchens were fairly common, wreaths hanging on the walls, that sort of thing. As a child it made a big impression on me. Dad taught us how to smother any kind of kitchen fire, and I’ve always been careful with my kitchen and cooking, and have never kept dried flower arrangements in the kitchen. Nothing hanging above the stove, other than cast-iron.
It’s a roundabout metaphor, but I think you follow me: they think that they’re putting us on the back burner. Or in the deep freeze to cool off, presumably until we come around to bowing to their superior whatever-it-is they think, and then they can let us (who believe in freedom of speech) out again. Only what they’ve actually done is moved everything – this whole pressure cooker that is the Internet – onto the hotspot of the stove. If you don’t give a pressure cooker a way to release pressure, which is what many of these social media outlets were, then the pressure builds up until the whole thing fails spectacularly… you know that that means, too. I don’t want to see it happen. I’ve got kids, and even though they are mostly out of the house now, I don’t want them to live in interesting times.
I don’t want myself or my children to have to pay the price for people who decided that they were morally superior to their fellow human beings, and therefore entitled to do whatever they thought best, without any kind of justice. There’s nothing fair in this life. As a parent I tried to make it as fair as possible for all four of my kids, counting presents at Christmas time and making sure that everyone had the same number to open as I put them under the tree. Government is not like that, and never should be. The government is not a parent. We are all adults, we’re responsible for our own lives, for regulating our own emotions and actions. The justice system is to hold us responsible for those actions, and actions do have consequences. However, when we see that one ‘right’ kind of riot is praised as worthy, then leads to no consequences at all… And another kind of riot is condemned in the strongest of terms with the overreactions attendant? Well that’s a problem. And one I can’t put on the back burner.
2 thoughts on “Back Burner”
One must not aim at a king, and miss.
If it is successful, none dare call it treason.
In Massachusetts, it is illegal to have a window (for which you might have a curtain) directly behind your stove, lest the curtain catch on fire. On the other hand, thee are people who mount a microwave above the stove, meaning if you spill hot liquid it will go down your neck.
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