Thursday, July 28, 2022

Routine is your friend


     Routine gets a bad name. It's equated with boredom, sameness. But routine — the same thing, done in the same way, every single time — can be your friend. It is not only efficient, but protective. You break your routine, even a little, even doing something that makes perfect sense in itself, and you're asking for trouble. You're asking for coffee grounds in your shoes.
     I guess I'd better just tell the story.
     So every morning I make coffee. Nothing dramatic there. A complicated, multi-step process. Which I have down to a series of smooth, efficient motions. Take the bag of coffee beans and the filters from the cabinet to my left. Rinse the pot and the filter holder from the day before in the kitchen sink to my right. Grind the beans while water runs in the pot. Dump and return the pot and the filter holder and insert the paper filter. Take the canister of ground beans and dump it into the filter. Fill the water chamber.
     The only variant is whether I use the ideal coffee that God intended us to use, Peet's Major Dickason's. Or Dunkin Donuts Hazelnut, the preference of ... let's say, a certain person who lives with me and probably shouldn't be exposed to the public shame of preferring hazelnut coffee to regular Joe joyously drunk by decent people.
     Though the Dunkin' coffee is already ground. That is easier. While Peet's needs grinding. 
     Where everything fell apart Wednesday is because something new entered my finely-tuned system. On Monday, as I tapped out the ground coffee from the little clear container, well, it didn't seem so clear. Not entirely clean. It was ... yes ... dirty. From months of coffee being ground into it. Not wildly dirty. Not filthy. Just a little. Since nothing about the coffee making system should be dirty, I took the little clear container and cleaned it out with a soapy sponge, and set it aside to dry.
     Honestly, I felt thorough, observant. No detail ignored.
     But a detail was ignored.
     Do you see what's coming? I didn't.
     Tuesday passed. I didn't make coffee Tuesday. I drank what was left over from the day before. An economy. My wife winces at that. I consider it manly.
      So I began preparing the coffee Wednesday. Everything normal. The sense that something was amiss came to me after I had returned the pot and filter holder, placed the unbleached filter, and reached for the clear plastic canister in the grinder. My fingertips touched coffee grounds. That's not supposed to happen. But it did happen. Because the canister was still to the right of the sink, where it had been placed to dry on Monday. I had obliviously ground four scoops of coffee while they spilled out of the grinder, across the counter, onto the kitchen floor — a rough slate floor, just the thing for trapping coffee grounds forever. My blindly reaching over had further spread the mess. Onto my top-siders. Even inside one. Have you ever gotten coffee grounds in your shoe? I have. Now.
     Here I must have uttered a wild beast cry of pain, because my wife came running, calling "What's wrong!?!" from the stairs.
     "Don't come down here!" I replied. Why? Maybe I thought I could somehow clean this up and conceal the blunder from her. Avoid diminishing my heroic stature in her eyes. Or maybe I knew she would just make it worse, by taking charge of the clean-up, as if, having fomented this disaster through my carelessness I was now to be deemed incapable for cleaning up my own mess. 
    Which is exactly what happened. She didn't quite body check me aside with, "Out of the way, you clod, haven't you done enough damage for one day?!" But the tone was there.
     I grabbed the Dustbuster and dove in. Between the two of us, we made short work of the spilled grounds. And she did make the useful suggestion that the grounds, spread across the clean granite counter, could merely be slid onto a plate and then put into the coffee maker and brewed, which I did, at least salvaging that.
     "You do the same thing every day, you're bound to screw up eventually," I said, trying to put a bright spin on my oversight. Then a larger concern, in that vein, dawned on me. "I wonder what the column version of this will be?"
     Twenty-six years and counting. But one fine day... a misfired joke. An underchecked claim presented as fact.
     "That's what editors are for," she said.
     Later in the day, I managed to wreck the ending. I noticed the clear canister, still among the dried dishes, to the right side of the sink. In all the commotion, it hadn't moved from its spot. I might have had the whole disaster happen again, a second time. Wouldn't that be a great ending? But this time, I grabbed the canister and slid it back where it belonged.

23 comments:

  1. I loved the column from a few years ago when Neil talked of installing a window inside out and then on the 2nd try upside down. Exactly my level of competence.

    john

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    1. Why do any home repair yourself when you can pay someone to do it right? Words I live by.

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    2. My wife and I had a big argument when I attached completely fake decorative window shutters to our house siding, with long fencing screws. The fake louver slots were facing upward, instead of downward. She said they were actually upside-down. And she was right.

      Unscrewing them and reinstalling them was, in my opinion, too much trouble. And anyhow, nobody noticed. They remained inverted for the next 25 years. Finally, somebody noticed--a handyman who was painting some wood trim, two summers ago. I paid him extra to flip them.

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  2. So Neil, you don't clean your pot and basket until the following morning? I gave up on grinding my beans long ago. I cannot tell the difference any more than I could discern the different flavors oenophiles claim to detect in their grape juice. I wash my maker when it is empty, I prepare it for the morrow at bedtime and set the timer so I awake to a freshly brewed pot. My only hiccup comes when I lose track of how many scoops I have dumped into the filter.

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  3. Since you don't seem to have had much opportunity to feature Divvy reports lately, maybe the Divvy Diary could be replaced with Dickason's Diary. The June 16 post along with this one make for a good start! : )

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  5. Great column. Routine things allow the brain to go on autopilot. But the "Don't come down here!" Is like putting a neon arrow sign pointing into the room. You know she's coming in now. I get the same "get outta the way I'll clean it up ". Good to know I'm have company.

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  6. Don't feel bad about forgetting how to use your coffee grinder. I was making Jello once; you know you pour 1 cup of boiling water and 1 cup of cold water and mix. I poured the rapidly boiling water into a regular 1 cup Pyrex measuring cup and remember picking the cup up in a very awkward manner. I then managed to pour boiling water onto the same hand that was holding the cup. I have no idea how I did it; I tried to recreate what happened and couldn't do it again. As a friend said, I'm the only person she knows who could injure herself making Jello.

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  7. I got a weird sense of déjà vu when reading this. Did you write a similar column a while ago or am I crazy? Not mutually exclusive.

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    1. Yep, last month: https://www.everygoddamnday.com/2022/06/making-coffee.html

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  8. I just stumbled across this article while trying to find the post I was thinking of: https://www.saturdayeveningpost.com/2018/01/right-way-fall/

    I don’t remember reading it here, but that could be my faulty memory. I was most struck by this quote: “Young people break their wrists because they shoot their hands out quickly when falling. Older people break their hips because they don’t get their hands out quickly enough. You’d much rather break a wrist than a hip.” I (not a young person) actually had a fall earlier this year while walking my sister’s dog. I did shoot out my arms—and broke my shoulder. I’ve fallen before (and since, actually!) and the key really is rolling. I just couldn’t this time because of the dog.

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    1. The last time I fell down jogging, I did a perfect 180 roll and didn't even get a scratch, but I don't think I could replicate that. Far more likely are bloody elbow and knees...or worse. I no longer run more than a block at a time, but I try to keep that precious roll in the forefront of my mind. The problem is that I'm more likely to fall when I try to increase my speed, such as when I hurry to cross a street with a car coming. It's no doubt imprudent of me to risk a fall early in the morning before the sun comes up, but when it comes down to it, I'd prefer to be run over by a truck than to waste away in a wheelchair.

      john

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    2. I guess your memory is batting .500 today, Coey, but at least you're not crazy... Your deja vu was appropriate -- NS wrote about his morning coffee ritual on June 16. The falling article in Saturday Evening Post was adapted from a piece he did for Mosaic, which he posted here in June, 2017. Maybe you were on vacation! ; )

      https://www.everygoddamnday.com/2017/06/how-to-fall-to-your-death-and-live-to.html

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    3. Geez, you're right. Maybe I really am losing it. At least it was a whipped off type of thing. Still, only six weeks ago. https://www.everygoddamnday.com/2022/06/making-coffee.html

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    4. At least it proves we’re paying attention! Every goddamn day.

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    5. Jakash, you made me curious, so I checked. I wasn’t on vacation, per se, but I was accompanying teens from my parish on a service trip to New Orleans. That explains it!

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    6. Oh, my...I certainly do recall that post from June 8, 2017, about falling. I was not quite 70 then. Five years have whizzed by. Fear of falling, and not just in the wintertime, is starting to become more of an issue. Like the story says, it's the leading cause of death for people over 60, and I'm long past that. I knew I was officially old when I installed the grab bars in the shower, three winters ago.

      Time to read that long piece again, more s-l-o-w-l-y this time, and maybe learn a few things that might, literally, save my sorry ass. Kitties are born knowing how to twist and turn while falling. They can even survive long drops. But people are not kitties.

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    7. Well, Coey at 10:24, then that brings your memory batting average back up to 1.000! As for missing the post for such an altruistic reason, no good deed goes unpunished, as they say. : )

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  9. Sitting down at breakfast opposite she who must be obeyed I routinely mutter a sotto voce,'I'm sorry,' hoping vainly that it will cover all the misadventures of the coming day.
    Tom

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  10. So after reading this a few days ago I decided it was time to wash the container from my coffee grinder. And of course did the exact same thing you did so the coffee grounds went everywhere.

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  11. Impressive! Your comment goes a long way toward supplying the "great ending" that Neil lamented having dodged in his last paragraph, Barb.

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    1. Lol ! I must admit I did laugh when it happened.

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