Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Demarcation of Breakfast Foods.

Despite the fact that we go to the grocery store, on average, about every 17 minutes, my breakfast this morning was a stale Reese's peanut butter cup eaten at about 10:15 a.m.

I really had no choice but to eat that for breakfast, as all my other options were unpalatable. It's grocery shopping day -- one of them -- and that has left us at the end of the grocery chain with not much to eat for breakfast.

That combined with my morning routine, led me onto the Peanut Butter cup path. My morning routine rarely leaves me enough time to actually eat anything but the Pocket Breakfast. I can't get any writing done at night because at night, the Babies! are awake and I get too distracted playing the various games we like to play, like last night when we played, in the course of twenty minutes, Rrrowr Monster and SuperSpinning and then I had to watch the Slide Exhibition put on my Mr F, a Slide Exhibition that accidentally featured a very dangerous slide stunt that Mr F bravely did not let dissuade him from further sliding.

The Slide Exhibition is the newest version of Sliding. For a while there, Mr F and Mr Bunches would use their slide in their playroom while Sweetie and I watched. They they liked it while I hummed songs for them while they sang -- their favorite being that very dramatic theme to "Last of the Mohicans," so that for a few minutes each day I would sit and watch them slide while humming that theme song, interrupting my humming only to clap or cheer when they went down the slide.

They got tired of that, now -- amazingly -- and have progressed to the newest, the Slide Exhibition. The Slide Exhibition takes place when Mr F climbs to the top of the ladder on the Green Slide, and waits until I start the cheer. I then have to start going aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh louder and louder and just as I hit a fever pitch, he'll slide down and I have to then change that chant into a cheer, so it's:

[Climb the ladder] aaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh [stand at the top of the ladder ] AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH [Slide down] AAAH WOW! (and I clap.)

That's not all that interesting for me, so for a while, I'd rotate the chants by vowel:




and so on. But Mr F doesn't care what I chant; the important thing is that I do chant, and I do cheer, and he gets more excited and more daring with each one, culminating, last night, in his climbing the ladder quickly and practically jumping onto the Green Slide but doing that so hastily that his left leg was over the edge of the slide, and as he went down his leg clipped the doorway and he spun like a pinwheel and landed on his back headfirst.

To which I said: aaaaaaaaWOW! and clapped, and he started up the slide again but I had to take a break because Mr Bunches wanted to play Rrrowr Monster and he's allowed at least a few minutes of that each night, until he gets tired of it or throws up from excitement, whichever comes first.

So with all that going on, I don't get much of a chance to do anything like writing at night, and by the time nine p.m. rolls around and the Babies! are in bed, I'm too tired and hoarse to do much other than go to bed myself and maybe sometimes read a few pages before I doze off.

Instead, I decided that every morning, I was going to get up at 6 a.m. and do some writing before I get the Babies! up at 7 and then get ready for work, and I mostly do get up at 6 a.m. For a while there I was getting up at 6 a.m. and then getting out of bed at 6:30 a.m., because at first (I told myself) I was laying in bed just to hear the weather report, and then (I told myself) I was laying in bed to hear the weather report and also the "Tech News" because the "Tech News" might apply to me in the sense that I use technology and it is about technology, and then (I told myself) I was laying in bed to hear the weather and the "Tech News" and the headlines and finally I decided that there was no point in getting up at 6 a.m. if I wasn't going to go downstairs until 6:30 a.m. so I set my alarm for ten minutes to six instead, and now I lie there for ten minutes listening to the news and get up at six.

I'd like to be one of those people who just hops right out of bed and begins on their day, but there are very few pleasures available which can match three of the top feelings in my world. Those feelings are:

1. The feeling when I first lie down in bed at night and stretch out and imagine that I'm going to watch a TV show or read a book or magazine. That feeling generally lasts about three minutes until I fall asleep before even reaching for the book or magazine. (I spend those three minutes haranguing Sweetie about why we are watching Criminal Intent (aka "Law and Dharma") again.

2. The feeling of lying in bed, warm and toasty, for just a few minutes more in the morning. During that time, I pretend that my annual resolution has been fulfilled and I don't have to get up and go to the office, and also that just outside my bedroom window are palm trees and a view of the ocean surf.

But both of those pale in comparison to this one:

3. The feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and thinking that it's time to get up and go to work but then looking at the clock and realizing it's only midnight and I have six hours left before I have to wake up to lie in bed for a few minutes more.

I do, now, get up about 6 a.m. and head downstairs, where my morning ritual is to first feed Stormy, Sweetie's cat, who has to be fed first or she pouts and growls and goes to get Sweetie, who will then pout and growl, too. Stormy has to be fed specific kinds of food from specific kinds of cans of food on specific plates, and also has to be left alone while she eats or she'll deliberately get sick. So I have to feed Stormy and then quickly get my coffee and get out of the kitchen to avoid upsetting Stormy's delicate sensibilities.

Then I get the computer going and do a little writing. By "writing," I mean mostly "trying to get the computer to do something that it doesn't want to do," like, say, having the printer actually print paper. Yesterday was a good example of that. I had to print about 50 pages to send off in the mail. But our printer won't hold more than about 15 pages at a time; if I try to put more than fifteen pages into the printer, it will jam up and/or pull all the pages through at once, printing a tiny bit of the job on each page... thereby ruining all of the pages. And jamming up, to boot.

(I sound like I'm griping a lot about this, so let me note that on the Great Ranking Of Problems, "Printer not holding a lot of paper at once" is pretty far down the list. I'll put it at 721. So my life is not so bad.)

So I have to set it to print and then sit by the printer watching the paper print and reloading the paper periodically, and even that doesn't keep things from going wrong with the printer, like they did yesterday when something jammed anyway, and I had to try to read, in the dim 6 a.m. living room light, the tiny LED screen that told me to press "Menu," so I pressed "Menu," but then I couldn't read what the screen said and had to get up and turn on the other light, which didn't help because the other light was behind me. I moved to the back of the printer, and then tried to turn the printer to face the light, only to realize that the light was now glaring off the tiny LED screen and I couldn't read anything, so I just tried to turn the power off on the printer and restart the whole thing. But that didn't work, so I had to unplug it completely, wait a few seconds, and then plug it back in. When I looked at the tiny LED screen, it said "Press Menu," and I tried to calm myself down by pressing "Menu" and then going to get more coffee, earning me a reproachful look from Stormy. I came back out and saw that the printer wasn't doing anything, and I thought briefly about whether it would make sense to simply get rid of this printer, preferably by throwing it out the window on my drive to work. But I managed to read the LED screen again and it said "Load paper."

I loaded more paper, keeping it to about 10 sheets, and as I was doing that, I noticed that the clean white paper I'd picked off of the stack of clean white paper that I had ready to print my writing on was not, in fact, clean white paper. The clean white paper instead was clean and white on only one side. On the other side, many of the sheets I'd grabbed had typing on them, typing that as I scanned it looked like the kind of typing that would be a rough draft of Middle's essays from before Christmas break.

That worried me and created more work, and to understand why, you'd have to know that when I was 21, I worked in a gas station. Working in a gas station can teach a lot about life, and people, and people's lives. Actually, no, it can't. What it can teach is the same lessons over and over. Those lessons are:

1. Everyone thinks of the same comment or joke under the same circumstances. Seriously. You may think that you are a unique or creative individual, like I think I am, but you are not. We are people and being people means that we all think, more or less, the same exact thing. And I will prove it to you. Suppose you run into me at a social function, and I'm talking to a short white guy. (You'll see why he's got to be white in a minute.) I introduce you to him and say "This is my coworker, Barack Obama."

102 times out of 100, you or I or that person whose phone call you are trying to avoid or your mother or anyone who hears that comment will say something to the effect of "not THE Barack Obama," and only then will you realize that you are likely the 1,000,000th person to say that to this Barack Obama. I know that not only because I did it -- I worked with a lawyer named "Steve Young," a name shared by a quarterback at the time, and I said "Not THE Steve Young," and he didn't even try to pretend it was funny -- but because everyone does it, a fact you learn if you work third shift at a gas station, when you're the only one there and everyone who comes in the door says more or less the same thing when they come through the door. What was fascinating was that the "same thing" would change, each night, but each night everyone said the same thing. Some nights, everyone who came in would say "Sure is quiet. Bet you don't get much business at night. Maybe they should just let you go home and sleep, ha!" and I didn't, each night, point out that all of the people who'd come in had said that -- and that because the speaker was there, I had to be there. Other nights, it would be the cold, or the bars closing, or something. But whatever the topic, everyone said it.

The other thing that I learned at the gas station was this:

2. Never take the top paper on a stack. I've followed this rule for nearly 20 years, all because I worked at a gas station. People come into a gas station, some of them, and pick up the paper, and read it, or thumb through it, or look at the headlines, or do something with it. I never understood it. These guys -- they were almost always men -- would pump gas and then come in and go pour a cup of coffee and then go to the newspaper rack and pick up a paper and pull out the sports section and look at it while sipping their coffee and then would flop it back down and would come up and pay for their gas and their Winstons and beef jerky.

So as a side note, you people who feel perfectly comfortable going into Barnes & Noble, taking a book sitting in one of their chairs and reading it, you are a pack of Winstons and a beef jerky stick away from being One Of Those Guys. You're on the same branch of the human family tree. And as a second side note, come on, really? Just go to the library, if you want to read a book but not pay for it. Honestly.

What that means, that action by Winston & Jerky Guy and all the people like him, is that the top paper on a stack of papers has always been thumbed through and picked over and read and had sections moved or taken out, and the coupons torn out, and has beef jerky stains on it. (I know, he bought the beef jerky after reading the paper, but don't you kind of think he bought that beef jerky because he'd eaten his stash already that morning and needed to replenish it?) So if you take the top paper on the stack, you're buying a wrinkled, beef jerkied newspaper.

Because of that, I never take the top of any stack, because I assume Winston & Jerky Guy (or his brethren, "Barnes & Noble Reader" or "Grocery Store Picker Upper & Putter Downer") has been there ahead of me and has in some way altered or poisoned or jerkied whatever it is I'm picking up. I don't take the top newspaper. I don't take the front book on the shelf. I don't select the first package of frozen bagels. I fool those people and take one lower down.

All of which means that when I grabbed my clean white paper to print on yesterday, I grabbed it from the middle of the stack, because Winston & Jerky might have been in our house, for all I know. Which means that the paper that Middle had used printing drafts of her essay had not been thrown away, had not been set carefully aside, had not been put on the desk, but instead, had been inserted into the middle of the stack of printing paper.

I sat there, looking at the 20 or so pages I'd already printed, and the pages waiting to be printed, and the paper in my hand with the draft of an essay about cell biology or something, and all I could think of was Isn't it WAY more work to take the used paper and put it neatly into the middle of the stack of paper, way more work than ANYTHING ELSE YOU COULD POSSIBLY DO WITH THAT PAPER? If I assume that she didn't want to throw the paper away, for whatever reasons (laziness? environmental concerns?) wouldn't it have been easier to just put it on top of the stack where I would avoid it? How could it end up in the stack?

I didn't get much else done yesterday morning, which put me then a little more behind today which meant that I was a little more pressed for time than I usually am in the morning, so that when I came downstairs at 7:50 to leave for work, I was definitely going to need a Pocket Breakfast.

But we had no Pocket Breakfasts. We had no Pop Tarts, Toaster Strudels, French Toast Sticks, or anything else that could be quickly toasted or simply eaten for breakfast, because this is grocery shopping day (one of them.) Granted, we had food. We had cereal and milk and things to make sandwiches with, and we have bread and a toaster and butter and peanut butter and even Goober, but we had nothing that qualified as breakfast. I can't simply grab a handful of crackers, or a "Drumstick Ice Cream Cone" and call it breakfast.

And toast is out of the question. I was already feeling pressed for time, and I didn't have time to both heat up the bread and butter it, plus toast doesn't make a good pocket breakfast because th butter soaks into the paper towel I wrap it in so that it can be carried to the car in my pocket, and then the paper towel sticks to the toast and I feel like I'm eating paper for breakfast, so if I have toast I not only have to toast it and butter it -- someone should seriously consider selling frozen, pre-buttered toast that could just be popped into a toaster and then eaten, and in a world where there's McGriddles and hot dog "singles," we're probably not far off from the day that there exists "Toaster Ready Frozen Toast [Now Pre-buttered!]" and we're not far off from the day that I will buy that and make it and say "This is pretty good. I mean, it's not as good as REAL toast, but it's not bad."-- not only would I have to toast and butter the bread, but I would then have to carry it to the car, and I'm already carrying to the car the mail to take out, my lunch, my notebook of ideas, and my iPod and also my coffee.

So I didn't take a pocket breakfast, and I figured I could eat something from the stash in my drawer at work. I have a stash of Extra Food in my desk, the Extra Food that Sweetie puts in my lunch but which I don't eat because it violates the Three Courses Rule, so I save it for just such an emergency, and luckily for me, I had some Pop-Tarts in there, all set to be my breakfast, but then I couldn't have one, because I had nothing to drink.

Pop-Tarts are dry. Really dry. They need to be washed down with something, and all I had available was our office coffee, about which the less said, the better. Our office coffee is terrible and I only drink it because it's a free source of caffeine. It is oily and bitter and coats my mouth with oily coffee residue, a coating that I can feel and that I know (because Sweetie tells me so) that others can smell, so the less coffee I drink at the office, the better off I, and everyone who runs into me during the day, is.

Drinking the office coffee with a Pop-Tart is out of the question; mixing those flavors would probably put me off Pop-Tarts faster and more permanently than the Great Hamburger Helper Disaster (a story for another day) put me off Hamburger Helper... and wrecked a very good briefcase.

I had a soda with me, but that soda needed to be saved for lunch, which left, as Sweetie pointed out, water.

I can't drink water with a meal. That's just lame. Water is to be drunk when working out, or when waiting for your appetizers to arrive at Denny's. Water isn't a drink to be had with a meal.

With no drink option, the Pop-Tart was out as a potential breakfast, which left only microwave popcorn or a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup that probably was packed into a lunch around Halloween and then put into the Extra Food drawer.

I don't have to explain why a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup is more acceptable as a breakfast food than, say a handful of the red licorice that we have in the cupboard where the Pop Tarts used to be but weren't this morning, because I didn't immediately eat the Peanut Butter Cup for breakfast. I opted, faced with no good solution, to simply skip breakfast today. I reasoned that it would not kill me to not eat breakfast one day out of the week, that it would probably help me lose a little weight and get more in shape, and that therefore today, I would not eat breakfast but I'd simply wait until lunch.

I then congratulated myself on both my willpower and my ability to maintain a strict demarcation of what IS acceptable for breakfast (toaster-cooked frozen cinnamon rolls) and what is NOT acceptable for breakfast (leftover Halloween treats). But I was a little early on that, because by ten a.m. I was famished and was not going to make it even to eleven, which is when I usually break down and eat my lunch, so I caved and ate the Reese's for breakfast.

Although I suppose by then, it was brunch. Which makes it okay.

Important Mug

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