Thursday, April 15, 2010

Just Another Routine Story (Thinking The Lions)

There are no routines in my life anymore, and as a result, I tipped a locksmith $2.50 today.

I, like any person who wears his A Christmas Story t-shirt out of season -- and doesn't even do so ironically -- like to think of myself as a creative, spontaneous person who is always breaking free of the restrictive molds society puts on me. I congratulate myself every time I do something "outside the box," like this past Saturday, when I really expanded my horizons in the process of ordering breakfast at the McDonald's drive-thru on my way to work with the Babies!

The Babies! have started accompanying me to my office on the weekends, for the few hours I stop in on Saturday or Sunday mornings. They serve three purposes on those trips:

First, they let Sweetie get a break from having them around. That will sound terrible to anyone who hasn't spent much time around the Babies!, so if you're one of those people who reflexively thought "Wait, she's their mom, how come she needs a break from them," then I'll just tell you Wait. I won't say Wait until you have kids of your own, because you'll probably be a jerk and have kids-of-your-own who are perfect. You'll probably have kids who will not, as you are reading a story to one of the Babies!, come rushing up to you in a panic with some unexplained white goo on his fingers, and try to cram the white goo into your mouth.

That's what Mr Bunches did last night, as I read a story to Mr F. While Mr F and I got lost in the magical world of A Bugs' Life knock-off storybooks, Mr Bunches was toodling around on his own and I was paying him no attention until he came barreling across the room, hand held out and yelling. I barely had time to register that there was white goo on his fingers before he was trying to stuff them into my mouth, crying, while Mr F tried frantically to head somewhere less white-goo-ful. I wrestled Mr Bunches' hand away but not before the goo was in my mouth, a turn of events that mollified him. He walked away, peacefully, and Mr F climbed back up to continue the book, which I did -- but I was distracted by wondering what I'd just eaten.

Before you get too grossed out, I'll let you know: It was sour cream. Mr Bunches had, unbeknownst to me, dunked his toy train engine into the sour cream and then tried to clean it off with his fingers -- but that had apparently left him with the mess on his fingers, so he needed a way to clean those. The reason I couldn't place the taste of the sour cream at first was that I don't usually eat sour cream, and also it tasted a bit like a toy train engine and a lot like Mr Bunches' fingers.

Your kids probably won't do that, although if you thought Why does Sweetie need a break, then I hope that someday you get your own snack of Forcible Mystery Goo and you'll see what I mean, then. Get enough foreign objects stuffed into your mouth by a kid who will then try to knock a dresser over on his brother, and you'll want a break.

The second purpose the Babies! serve is to make sure that I don't end up staying at the office too long on Saturdays or Sundays. While I'm not likely to get caught up and stay there very long, it's always possible that at some point I'll decide to actually do a little work, and if that happens, I might also lose track of the time and lose track of the fact that it's a weekend and I'm at the office, and stay longer than the planned 3-4 hours.

The Babies!'s maximum attention span for anything is 3 hours. They can achieve 3 hours of doing something if you have enough things going on in their presence at once. If you can get a TV show going, and give them snacks and milk, and have roughly 37 red cars for Mr Bunches to play with, and have something for them to jump on (a mattress or desk chair or, in a pinch, coffee table will work find) and also have something for Mr F to like to play with that you wouldn't expect him to like to play with (lately, it's coat hangers; he's obsesssed with those. Prior to that, it was spatulas. Briefly, it was a rake), if you have all that you can possibly buy three hours of time in which you can do something other than put their pants back on. When I take them to the office, I put them in a spare office and turn on the computer to Youtube and provide them with snacks and give them various highly-inappropriate office implements to play with like White Out, and hope that I can get something done, should I ever choose to try to get something done.

The third purpose for the Babies! coming to the office with me on the weekends is to give me a reason to buy McGriddles. I ordinarily do not like to spoil myself by buying fast food breakfasts, but I have to when the Babies! are around because the Babies! like the McDonald's hash browns and have come to expect them when they go to the office with me. (They expect them because I taught them to expect them so that they'd make me get them.) When I buy their hash browns, I always buy a value meal to take advantage of the value (it's right in the title!), because doing so lets me get them a milk-and-a-hash-brown each, which is the breakfast they like. So I buy two McGriddle value meals and give the Babies! the hash browns and milk and take the McGriddles myself, as a service to them.

I could just buy the hash browns, and take milk from home, but then I'd be missing out on all that value.

Plus, it's kind of weird to just order hash browns at McDonald's, don't you think? I don't want to be one of those people who does that. People who would just order hash browns at McDonald's are weird, like people who just get water with a meal at a restaurant or people who sit on a rotating bar stool and don't immediately spin it around. I don't want to be one of those people.

This past weekend, I took the Babies! with me to the office on Saturday, and as our routine went, we stopped at McDonald's for the value meals. This time, though, I shook things up -- because I'm crazy-wild like that. (I even own Crocs!) This time, I ordered not two McGriddles but one McGriddle, and one Sausage Biscuit.

That was probably the start of the downfall that led to my tipping the locksmith. I shouldn't have pretended not to be a Routine Guy, because we are all Routine People. We are all people who thrive on routines, who love things to be the same day in and day out. No matter how much we say we'd like things to be shaken up, we are lying. And I'm no better than the rest of you.

Well, I'm a little better than some of you -- you know who you are -- but not in this area. I'm a routine guy, too. I like my routines. I like to get up and have each day work a lot like the day before: when I go to work and when I come home and the route I take to work and the radio I listen to and what I do when I get to work (not much of anything) being the same day in and day out.

I say I don't -- I propose doing things differently and shaking things up and trying new things, but that never works out well for me. The effects might be immediate, like the time I gave up drinking soda for a month and ended up putting on five pounds because I tended to substitute chocolate milk or shakes for diet soda. Or the effects might be more distant and harder to read, like when I order a sausage biscuit instead of a second McGriddle and thereby end up losing my keys.

I think one led directly to another, and led me, also, along a path that had me going through yesterday's garbage while wearing my nicest, newest shirt, and I'd like to avoid doing that again. (I'd like to avoid going through garbage regardless of what I'm wearing.)

After I ordered the biscuit, things went all to Hell. First, when we went into work on Saturday, with my biscuit and McGriddle, the Babies! wouldn't settle down like they usually do. Instead, Mr Bunches kept sneaking out of the office they play in and trying to get into another office, where there's a decorative violin that he really wanted to play with. So I had to keep getting him away from that, and I eventually distracted him by letting him play with the little sailboat made of seashells that I'd bought as a souvenir in Florida two years ago.

While Mr Bunches broke that, Mr F alternated between getting himself hypnotized by the lava lamp in my office -- he stood by it and hummed for about 20 minutes straight, and I'm pretty sure he never blinked -- and trying to grind into the carpet all the pieces of Pop Tart that Mr Bunches was breaking up for him to grind into the carpet. So I had to give up on what I'd tried to do in the office (I was trying to blog) and instead organize my office.

That might seem like a good thing, but the fact that my office was organized was itself a change of routine; I'm not used to having the office be organized, and I'm not used to trying to keep it organized. That would pose problems as the week went on, but in the short run, it was responsible for me not eating lunch on Saturday.

I didn't eat lunch on Saturday because we went to the zoo with my dad, which meant that immediately after I left the newly-organized office with the newly-Pop-Tart-dusted Babies!, we had to run home and pick up Sweetie and then stop for gas for the drive to Milwaukee. I was so disoriented by the biscuit and organization that I stopped at the first gas station we went by, the one by our house, and that gas station had no good food to eat for lunch, not even one of those kind-of-okay gas station sandwiches, so I had to make do with just a bag of chips and a chocolate milk, which threw me off even more and left me hungry when we were at the zoo.

But by then I couldn't eat anything because by then we were not that far in time from when we would be going to my second-favorite burger place, Kopp's, in Milwaukee, where we were taking my dad for dinner as part of his birthday present. By the time I got really hungry, at the zoo, we were close enough to dinner that I didn't want to spoil my appetite for a Kopp's burger and onion rings and ice cream, so I didn't snack on anything and we went to dinner there, but the dinner there was late enough that I wasn't able, when we got home, to go grocery shopping like I'd planned to do, so I decided to do that the next day, Sunday...

... which was ordinarily the day I would do the grocery shopping -- and also the day I'd go to work with the Babies!, but this week I'd altered the routine and taken the Babies! on Saturday to the office, and I wanted to keep the office and groceries on the same day, because that would be less disruptive of my routines than all this other flipping-around and biscuit-substituting, only it didn't work out that way.

You can probably see exactly how this leads to losing my keys -- it's a pretty standard story. We've all been there: go grocery shopping on Sunday, plan to stop at Wal-Mart, but don't because the Babies! are tired, and they're tired because you went grocery shopping at a different time than usual so it's more crowded than you expected, and because they're tired you head home instead of stopping at Wal-Mart and then later that night end up having to go to Wal-Mart anyway because Mr F broke the baby monitor in their room and you really don't feel like the Babies! are able to sleep through the night without some monitoring because they'll probably choose that night to throw the TV through the window and escape so you go back to Wal-Mart later Sunday night and get a baby monitor, thinking that at least you've gotten your errands done for the week but you haven't, because on Monday you go work out later at night than usual, so you're kind of tired on Tuesday when you realize that on Tuesday evening you've got to go for a ride with Sweetie and The Boy to figure out where The Boy's rugby game is on Friday, because you're going to go meet Sweetie there at the game after work on Friday, and she wants to know how to get to the field before hand because she doesn't trust The Boy's directions, so you go to find the field in advance and you have to stop at Dairy Queen for ice cream for Sweetie and The Boy, only you go to a different Dairy Queen than you usually would, and then on the way home you stop at Wal-Mart, because Sweetie needs to pick things up and you're wondering why you couldn't have picked things up Sunday when you were there, but you go anyway and try to buy a light for the yard but Mr Bunches takes that out of the cart and you don't realize he did that until you get out to the car, so you didn't get the one thing you intended to buy at Wal-Mart, which you can't focus on because it's late and you've got to give the Babies! their bath at about 9:00 p.m. and you don't get to bed until late and then Wednesday you get up and you've got to get dressed but because you were busy the night before you didn't put away your laundry like you planned to, so you've got to wear the green shirt that really is kind of a winter-y shirt and it's a little too warm for it today, but you wear it anyway and instantly you're sweating in it but it's too late to change because you're already late for work -- late even for you, and you usually don't get there 'til 8:30 or so, but you're going to be later than that, so you just wear the green shirt and figure you'll make the best of it and you do until you come home and realize that Sweetie has made the fancy-sandwich dinner that night, instead of the Tuesday night it had been planned for.

I know, I know, we've all been there. But in case you're wondering how that all -- especially the sandwiches and green shirt -- add up to lost keys, I'll tell you.

My ordinary routine when I come home is to come in, be greeted by Mr Bunches opening the door for me, and then set my stuff on the counter while I talk to Sweetie. We then eat dinner, clean up, and I then go change out of my work clothes and play with the Babies! or go work out or something.

But Wednesday, yesterday, I got home and Mr Bunches didn't greet me at the door; he was preoccupied somewhere inside, so I had to let myself in. Then, when I got in and found him, I also found out that Sweetie had made Tuesday's dinner on Wednesday. We plan our meals a week in advance, and Tuesday I'd planned that we would have fancy sandwiches and soup -- fancy bread, fancy meat (roast beef), and soup. (I called it Fake Panera night.)

We didn't have that Tuesday, but we did on Wednesday. The sandwiches were ready, the soup was ready, and we could have sat down and eaten, except that I was still wearing the green shirt that I didn't want to wear in the first place, and it was itchy and sweaty because the weather was warm.

I said I was going to change before dinner, and did that, and we ate dinner, and then after dinner, instead of cleaning up right away like I'd usually do, I took the Babies! outside in the yard to play with them for a while. When I came back in, at 8, Sweetie pointed out that I hadn't cleaned up at all, and I had to start doing that before giving Mr F and Mr Bunches a bath at 8, like I try to do.

I cleaned up, and then Mr F wanted to read his book, so I did that, too, and then Mr Bunches pulled the sour cream stunt, so I gave them a bath and put them to bed and hoped for the best, vis a vis the sour cream, and then went to bed.

This morning, I finally got the karmic reward for all that routine-busting that began with the ill-advised decision to order a sausage biscuit on a Saturday. At 8:10, as I was getting ready to leave (for the job I'm supposed to get to at 8) I asked Sweetie if she'd seen my keys.

She hadn't.

I had my work keys, and my cell phone. They'd been sitting on the counter, where I pretend I don't set them because officially we don't store things on the kitchen counter. But my car keys were not there.

They weren't hanging on the hook on the chalkboard.

Or on the tray above the hook.

Or on my dresser.

Or on my other dresser.

Or on Sweetie's dresser.

The keys were not in any of those places, and they were not in my dirty clothes basket, under my dresser, in my pants from yesterday, in my drawers, in my shoes, under my bed, under my dresser, in The Boy's room, in the Babies!' room, in the bathroom, behind the toilet upstairs, on the kitchen counter, under the microwave, in the Babies!'s toy bin, under the living room couch, behind the desk, under the family room couches, in the play room, in Sweetie's car, in the garbage, or in the recycling bin.

They weren't in any of those places twice -- which is how many times I checked them all (except the garbage.)

By then, it was 8:30, and the change in routine had led me to forget that I was supposed to have a phone conference at 8:30 -- I'd remember that at 9:10 -- and I was resigned to the fact that I'd have to do... something about this.

Mostly, what I did was try to figure out who was to blame. I managed to place blame on the Babies!, who I'm pretty sure flushed the keys down the toilet (Sweetie's guess was buried them in the cat litter). I also placed a little blame on The Boy, for playing rugby and for possibly having taken my car keys when he left this morning, maybe as a belated April Fool's Joke. Middle got a little blame because she had come home from college last night to go to a doctor's appointment today. Sweetie took a little blame for me not having put away my laundry yet -- if she wouldn't do the laundry so fast it would not be sitting in front of my dresser possibly serving as a repository for keys that may have dropped into them off my dresser.

There was also a little blame left to give to Duke University, which won the NCAA Tournament and thereby got me a Duke T-shirt bought by The Boy, a shirt which came yesterday and which I stopped to admire en route to changing out of my green shirt, and even some blame for the car dealer who sold us the car five years ago and didn't give us a spare key.

After all that blaming, surprisingly, didn't turn up a key, I located a locksmith who makes house calls, and then gathered stuff from work so that I could actually work from home while waiting for the locksmith to come; I didn't have the ability to just take Sweetie's car because she had to take Mr F to the doctor to see if he had an ear infection, a development that, while depriving me of the car, allowed me to also put a little blame on the doctor, in this case because he was able to see Mr F today; if he'd had the decency to be too busy to see Mr F today, I would've had a car and Sweetie would've waited for the locksmith.

The locksmith, when he came, was polite and didn't laugh at me or anything. He just told me it was $142.50, and I got out the cash that Sweetie had left for me. I had $150, in 20s, 10s and 5s.

"Do you have change?" I asked him.

"I've got a 10 in my truck," he said, and I was left to wonder what kind of guy has, in a truck, everything he needs to break into and make ignition keys for any car, in about 30 minutes, but who doesn't have change?

I gave him $145. "Keep the change," I said. "Consider it a tip." I don't know whether or not you're supposed to tip a locksmith, and if so, how much, but I couldn't do anything else, anyway, and I didn't want him to think that I was expecting him to come back with my $2.50.

I guess no matter how many times I congratulate myself on the creativity that leads me to put Dracula's Lament on my "Running Playlist," or the spur-of-the-moment-ness that lets me decide Heck, no, we're NOT having corn dogs tonight, I'm a creature of habit, and $2.50 is a small price to pay to learn that lesson for once and for all.

$142.50 is a larger price to pay, of course, and of course I'd rather not have paid anything to learn that lesson. Because the more money I pay as a result of life lessons, the less I have to buy McGriddles with, and if there's one thing I've really learned from all of this, it's that under no circumstances should I ever not buy two McGriddles again.

This Is Why I Hate People:
It's not just a way of life -- it's also a blog and a Twitter.

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