It’s 10:15 a.m. when the coffee kicks in. I look at the floors. I have to run the vacuum cleaner over them, even though I ran it at 6 last night and they’re clean.
The bathroom’s white tile floor will need the most work. I’ll vacuum it once to pick up each speck that six dogs and three people track into the room. Then I’ll go over it again.
And then I’ll get on my hands and knees and clean each tile with a disinfectant wipe, even though I did it yesterday. I’ll use several wipes, even though I cleaned the floor last night. I’ll open the windows and close the door to make sure a whiff of the wipers doesn’t whisper into the rest of the house.
When the coffee kicks in, I’m sitting at my desk and see dust on the office furniture, so I add cleaning it to the day’s must-do list. I’ll have to empty every shelf and clear every surface, wiping them down with spray cleaner and a paper towel. Then I’ll have to polish it, just in case I left behind any streaks from the spray cleaner.
Before I can start cleaning, though, I’ll need to take care of five new, colored T-shirts that came in yesterday’s mail. I’ll peel back the sticky sealer flap at the bottom of each plastic bag and put the bag in the wastebasket. Then I’ll cut the short plastic strand that attaches a garment care tag to each shirt, making sure to cut each strand in the same spot.
Next, I’ll put on a shirt in my bedroom, walk into the bathroom to check the fit in the mirror, walk back into my room, take the shirt off, fold it in half, put it on the left side of my chest of drawers, and then repeat the exact same process four times.
Then I will have no choice—I will have to wash them. Richard Pryor had a routine about how his crack pipe would call to him by name, and he couldn’t resist it. More than most, I know what Pryor meant, even though I never smoked crack.
So now it’s time to wash the shirts. The care tag says to wash them in cold water with similar colors. I sort my dirty laundry into piles of clothes that are roughly the same color. I won’t wash all of my dirty clothes because the piles must be the same size. I’ll put each new shirt on the pile that is mostly the same family of colors. There are four piles, because two shirts are from similar color palettes.
After they are washed, I will dry them individually on a low-heat cycle; I can’t talk myself into drying them all at once because I’m afraid wrinkles will set in if they sit damp.
Timing is vital. I need to make sure each shirt is in the dryer only long enough to dry it. I worry that if they are in the dryer a minute too long, they might shrink.
The washing and drying are finished, so it’s time to run the vacuum cleaner. Our house’s floors are either hardwood or tile, which is perfect, because the tiny cracks between the hardwood slats and the grout between the tiles form straight lines. I push the brush of the vacuum cleaner hose parallel to the lines, marking my progress by the wood grain or by counting the rows or columns of tiles I’ve cleaned.
It’s time to check on the dogs’ water dish. Like I always do, I empty it and wipe the inside dry with a paper towel. I start running filtered water into it, counting as it fills—one, two, three, four, five, six—and stop filling it when the water is a finger’s width from the rim.
As long as I’m on that side of the house, I’ll head into the basement to clean the cat litter box. Each time I do this, I count the 13 stairs on the way down. I count them on the way back up, too.
To kill some time later today, I have a beer mug full of pennies that I need to roll up. It’s been overflowing, and I can’t take it any more. Fortunately, I don’t feel compelled to roll them all up at once; there are hundreds. So I’ve been rolling them 150 at a time (not 100, not 200).
Time to go wash my hands. I might have picked up germs from handling those dirty pennies. I also washed my hands before trying on the new shirts, after sorting the dirty laundry, after cleaning the lint collector in the dryer before drying each shirt, and after cleaning the cat litter box. My hands get dry—the skin sometimes even cracks—because I wash them so often.
Now, back at the desk, I take a swig of my soft drink and notice the edge of the coaster under the can isn’t parallel to the side of my desk calendar, which is aligned with the edge of the desk. I line up the coaster.
It’s 11:15. I’ll write for another few minutes—actually, until 11:30. Not 11:28, not 11:33, but 11:30 precisely.
It’s 11:20. Six minutes left. I think I’ll hit “save” and start editing.
The first paragraph looks OK. The second paragraph needs work. I make the changes. Now I have to go back to the first paragraph to start reading again. Then I read the second paragraph again and make changes. Once again, I have to go back to the beginning. The cycle repeats itself with every paragraph.
The writing has to be perfect, but I’m compelled to post it as soon as I can. It’s a constant battle: perfection vs. speed. Each demands full attention, which is impossible. After I post it, I’ll re-read it again and again, looking for mistakes.
It’s 11:27. Three minutes until 11:30. I race through another two paragraphs, which means I have to repeat reading the earlier one.
It’s 11:30. I’m going to go wash my hands. On the way, I count the steps into the bathroom.
I start thinking about lunch. I brought home a dozen chicken tenders for supper last night from my favorite take-out place. I knew I couldn’t eat them all; I ate four so there would be an even number of left. I’ll probably eat four more for lunch.
Oh-oh. I only have three containers of the blue cheese left. While I eat the next four chicken tenders, I’ll have to figure out how to even up that odd number.
It’s 11:35 a.m. What’s next?