I didn’t get home Friday until after 10:00 pm. Sometimes the job requires that you stay until the job is done. However, this seems particularly true for patent work, where deadlines can be absolute and nonextendable. I’ve been doing this for more than ten years, and this was certainly not the first time that I’ve had to work late on a bar date. My wife certainly knows it can happen at pretty much any time, and I’m very fortunate that she puts up with it. I’m also very glad that it doesn’t happen more often than it does.

In this case, I was not working alone, which always sucks. Rather I was working with another practitioner, one with a great deal of experience. This always makes the work more pleasant. You both know what needs to be done and the kinds of details that have to be checked off. And there are many, many volumes full of patent cases that have hinged on the little details of patent practice. It’s good to have another pair of eyes.

After this very long day, I then had to get up on Saturday morning to take part in a retreat. I’m on the Board of Directors of a local nonprofit, and we were having a retreat to finish developing a strategic plan for the organization. The meeting lasted from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.

Although the retreat was very productive, and a lot was accomplished, I was left feeling strange about it. When I was invited to join the Board, I did so because I really felt strongly that what this group was doing was important, and I wanted to have some small part in helping them succeed. I figured, I was capable of calling people and asking for money, I could volunteer at an official function or two. But now I’m being called upon to help chart the actual future of the organization. What the hell am I doing? I’m a chemist, and a patent weenie. Although I’ve been in the workforce for quite a few years, I have no real management experience, don’t have an M.B.A., and have never studied such things. What business do I have advocating any course of action for this organization? As Admiral James Stockdale famously asked, “Who am I? What am I doing here?”

To put the icing on this particular comedic cake, I have been asked to be vice-president of the Board next year. Now, I grant you, the responsibilities of the vice-president appear to be pretty much limited to making a commitment to being president the following year. But still, what am I doing here?

I guess I can only continue to do my best. I still feel strongly that this organization deserves to succeed, and that such success in turn would continue to strengthen the community I live in. It is of such things that civilization is made.

Predictably, after two such long days, I had little patience or enthusiasm for my other full-time job, that of being a husband and father. Nevertheless, I managed to scrub parts of our bathroom, shop for and prepare Sunday dinner, and repair a broken toilet in the utility room. Oh, and we had yet another ‘incident’ with my daughter.

We took the kids to a local party supply store to get Halloween costumes. After the requisite oohing, ahing, begging and whining, they picked out costumes, and we went to the front of the store to check out. My daughter had her arms pulled into her shirt, stretching it out. Her mother told her to quit stretching her shirt, and bring her arms out. She pulled her right arm out, but kept her left arm in. I told her to get her other arm out of her shirt.

When she did so, it became obvious that she was hiding something under her shirt. I asked her what it was, and she brought out a package of ‘dirt candy’, probably crushed oreos. “I was going to show it to you when you were in line and gross you out”. I was furious. I made her put it back and ordered her outside.

Was she trying to shoplift it? I honestly don’t know. She denies it, but she has a history of both stealing AND lying when it suits her. As a result, her denial means nothing. I want to believe her, I really do, but it seems all too plausible that she wanted to smuggle the candy home so she could eat it after she went to bed. We simply don’t know, and can’t know.

Which results in a dilemma: Do we believe her, and punish her only for the bad judgment of tucking candy she hadn’t paid for under her shirt? Or do we assume the worst, and punish her for a clumsy attempt at shoplifting? Is she trying to be honest with us now, and paying the price of her earlier dishonesty? Or is this just another example of the kind of games she has always played with us?

All I know for sure is, I’m tired.