20 July 2017

Muscle Memory

"I think I already know your answer, but I had to ask," said Molly, the new production manager at Tram Bar World, when she called me yesterday morning.

Apparently the factory was in crisis mode and needed bars made stat. I really, really didn't want to do it, but once someone puts an idea in my head, I have trouble saying no without a good reason. I had a bar-sized window of time between sending the paper to print and going to kid's practice. I was planning to veg out, clean up my piles, go mountain biking with girlfriends. Instead I donned a sleeveless tee and skate shoes and went to the factory.

I walked in with my trademark churlish swagger, accepting happy greetings but trying to broadcast a half-amused, half-resentful attitude. Then Molly told me what the crisis pay scale was, and I saw that my ingredients had already been measured out. Well, that's better.

Since I left, the factory has seen almost twenty people cycle through, attempt to make bars, and quit with little ado, so my princess treatment was warranted. It's not often one gets acknowledged as the Greatest of All Time, but my bar-making record backs that up.

That said, I was pretty nervous that I wouldn't remember how to do it. My brain had already deleted the file, confident that it was obsolete information. I couldn't mentally walk through the steps beforehand. But once I was in front of a tub of ingredients, dressed in my whites, muscle memory took over and it was like the last nine months had never happened.
Back in my native habitat
I flowed through the steps, performing my weird little granola dance, barely thinking, luxuriating in nostalgia. This was the thing I was better at than anything else I've ever done. But to be excellent isn't enough when there is no personal growth, when my brain melted into custard even as my arms gained definition, when I did the exact same thing day after day.

I left the factory many dollars richer and reeking of peanut butter and honey. I was dehydrated but not as achey as I expected. Deeply-ingrained skills don't go away that quickly.

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