Story ripped from the headlines: “Woman Found Safe in her Vehicle After Failing To Return Home for 48 Hours. Claims She Was Just Running Errands.
When interviewed, Mrs. X said she didn’t know what all the fuss was about. ‘This was just my normal schedule, except my to-do list did not go as smoothly as planned, is all.”
Does my fictitious lady sound familiar? Someone you know? You? Definitely me. Especially on those days when I find myself getting in and out of my car so frequently that it feels like interval training.
Let’s face it. Equality between the sexes stops short when it comes to errands. It is part of the unwritten contract between men and women that females still bear the primary responsibility for never running out of toilet paper. Males will assist when called upon, but generally consider it a favor, as opposed to a part of their job description.
That’s okay. Men have equally irksome things to contend with, like locating items of food in the refrigerator. (You’re familiar with that plaintiff cry, “Honey, where’s the……….?)
Errands aren’t so bad. One or two, maybe. But then there are the days when the list seems to reproduce faster than you can scribble a check mark. And you fear that you will never see your home again.
One such day loomed before me very recently. But I decided I would not suffer the same fate as our female alter ego, Mrs. X. I would sit down and strategize. I would develop a plan of action that would outsmart those that would ruin my entire afternoon. With the focus of a cartographer, I would map out a route that would minimize time spent and maximize efficiency.
If I first dropped the dog off at the groomer, then drove to the car wash, I would be able to hit the post office and the pharmacy without backtracking more than two blocks. I could then go to the dry cleaners to fetch the white shirt my husband needed for the party we were to attend that evening.
Next, I would return the book to the library, bring the vacuum cleaner to the repair shop, buy some pet food, and stop at the stationer, all in a nice, straight line.
Executing only one right turn, I would be able to return the sweater that I bought on an impulse (why did I think I looked good in puce?), fill the car with gas, circle around to the supermarket, load the groceries, fetch the dog from the groomer, return to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, and finally head back.
With a little luck, and not too many red lights, I should be home in an hour and forty-five minutes. Possibly a new world’s record for errand-running!
Armed with my map, and filled with confidence, I headed out, dog in tow.
Items No. 1, 2, 3, and 4 went without a hitch. Almost. I was somewhat thwarted at the post office by the woman ahead of me who was having some difficulty choosing the perfect postage stamp. It was a toss-up between the seasonal “spring flowers” or the traditional, patriotic American flag. While I commiserated with her dilemma, I was in danger of being thrown off schedule. I tried to ignore her murderous expression as I encouraged her to get on with it.
But the real snafu occurred when I entered the dry cleaners. I was brandishing my pink ticket and the precise amount of money, anticipating a quick pick-up, only to be told that the shirt was not yet ready. Could I please come back in an hour?
What? How was this possible? This was a disaster. This extra hour could disqualify me from the Guinness Book of Records.
A quick decision was in order. Do I abandon the shirt and convince my husband that he looks much better in light blue? Or do I add another stop to my list and buy him a new white shirt for the occasion? That might be more efficient than returning to the cleaner’s. But what if they didn’t have his size and the trip to the men’s shop was simply a waste of time? It was a risk I would have to take.
I returned to my car and reconsidered my destinations. The GPS in my brain was calling out for route recalculation. There was still the library, vacuum cleaner, pet store, stationer, sweater, gas station, supermarket, groomer, and drug store.
I decided the shirt store could best be managed after I returned the sweater. This would require doubling back only half-a-mile, crossing the railroad tracks twice, hopefully missing the freight train each time, and resuming the rest of the journey heading northwest. Go!
(In retrospect, I suppose I could have called my husband and told him to pick up his own damn shirt, but quite frankly, at the time, it never even occurred to me. Which tells me just how programmed I am for errand-running. Scary!)
Devoid of library book, vacuum cleaner, and sweater, and armed with new white shirt, pet food, medication, a full tank of gas, and groceries, I finally arrived home, breathless. Only fifty minutes off schedule. Not exactly a world record. Yet. I would do better next time.
I was greeted by “Hi. What took you so long? I thought you had left home. (chuckle, chuckle.) I looked around for a heavy object. He was saved by his offer to help me unload the groceries from the car.
I was just about to store the last can of tuna, feeling very happy to be home, when a simple question sent me into a tailspin.
“By the way, honey, have you seen the dog?”