Friday, April 15, 2005

Somethin' Stupid

I estimate I spend up to 7% of my life doing Stupid Errands. I don’t mean Regular Errands: they take up to 25% of my life, and while I may not do them with brio, I recognize their importance. No one goes to the grocery store; my family gets thin and irritable. No one gets to the Post Office to ship Hiphuggers; my creditors get thin and irritable. No, I am talking about Stupid Errands, a separate sub-category of how to spend your day. If you are asking yourself “What’s the difference?” please take the following test:

The errand I am doing is:
a) Vital to National Security,
b) Essential to my family’s dental health,
c) Capable of being ignored for up to six months with no ill-effect.

If the errand involves an object to be returned, the person to whom you are returning it says:
a) “Thank God, now Mom can get that kidney!”
b) “Wow, I’ve been wondering where that was”
c) “Uh, you’re sure this is mine?”

If the errand involves personal improvement of some kind, the effect provokes this response:
a) “You’re either having an affair, or I must know the name of your Doctor”
b) “Did you lose weight, or are you getting taller?”
c) (Silence)

You get the picture. A Stupid Errand should do nothing more productive than remove an item from your house. It’s never about adding something to your house, because a Stupid Errand, by definition, cannot improve or really affect anything. I am thinking about this because today, I did what I hope will be one of the more Stupid Errands this year. I need to believe there isn’t an even more irrelevant activity lurking.

About a month ago, Consort was filleting out things from his attaché case, and he pulled a brown binder out and frowned at it. Upon opening it, he discovered it was a menu from the restaurant he had been to that day, which had the misfortune of resembling the, at last count, 47 other brown binders in his attaché case. I have toyed with the idea of making each one more distinctive by putting Hello Kitty stickers on one, a My Little Pony sticker on another…you know, giving him a fun surprise when he pulls one out during an important meeting. But since I haven’t done it yet, he was now in possession of a menu. His first instinct was to toss it on to his desk, to be dealt with later (“Later”, in this case, meaning “Possibly before the Earth spins into the sun”). My first instinct was to grab it before it could mate with something else in his To-do pile, forming a super-predator menu/Post-it hybrid. I assured him that I would take it back to the restaurant. Since this is a chain, and one of them isn’t far from my mother’s house, this wasn’t unrealistic. The menu went into my car.

It then proceeded to decorate the passenger floor. For various reasons, whenever I was at my Mother’s house, I was never heading toward the restaurant. Or I was heading kind of in the direction of the restaurant, but was under a time crunch. I certainly never forgot it was there: every time I hit the brakes, the menu would go sliding along the floor. The noise it made was not completely unlike derisive laughter.

Within a fairly busy life, I was starting to grow a little frantic about this idiotic task. I would not bring it back into the house, as I know my house creates a weird gravitational pull on useless objects; if it touched a table, it would be there as if soldered until we move out. I would not tell Consort that it was in my car, because then he would offer to take care of it himself, what with it having been his problem to begin with, and his car has too much room to be encouraging the accumulation of objects. I dismissed the idea of mailing it, as that would be wasteful (we won’t discuss the amount of time I spent planning days that would somehow leave me near the restaurant). Besides, this had become a thing. The sheer stupidity of my inability to move a menu to a restaurant within twenty minutes of my house was beginning to hurt my pride.

Today, I had to meet my business partner in the Valley. As I planned my day, I realized with an almost physical excitement that, by driving a scant eight miles and two freeway exits out of my way, I could UNLOAD THE MENU. I got to the restaurant, placed it on an empty table on the patio, and waited a second. Should I go inside and hand it to a waitress and explain the situation? No, that would make me look silly, unlike the rest of this journey to nowhere. Besides, what was I hoping for, a free Arnold Palmer? No, I had done it for the pure love of the Stupid Errand.
Back in the car, I took a moment to enjoy the sight of the floor of the passenger seat without a brown fake-leather menu on it. My eye then fell upon a pair of my shorts on the passenger seat. I lost the waistband button, and while they aren’t good enough to wear anywhere decent, they are perfectly good for the gym. Now, all I have to do is stop at a notions store, find the right-sized button, and convince the store to let me buy a single button.

I guess I’d feel lonely without something Stupid in the passenger seat.


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