Before I went to bed last night I jotted down a list of people who I had verbal/physical contact, i.e. on Sunday. In other words, I spoke with them live.
Three people were top of mind; upon further thought, that number increased to seven. Two real estate agents, one neighbor, one woman raking leaves, another neighbor, the movie ticket agent, the cashier at the movie theater, a fellow movie patron whose hands were unable to balance her extra large popcorn and coke to open the door to the theater, two women at the movie theater asked me about parking laws, the bagger at Jewel and the cashier there, too. This morning that number is at 12. The jot down last night was prompted by the realization that I had a lot of quiet in my Sunday. I estimate the sum of the words exchanged with those people was ten minutes.
Ten minutes in a 16 hour day.
Conversely, if I measure how much screen time yesterday was spent engaging with people right here on Table for One, social media, via text, and by phone, that would likely sum up to about two hours.
Two hours and 16 minutes of a 16 hour day spent engaging with other people.
I woke up this morning, earlier than my body wanted. It was 4 a.m. My mind raced and yelled a work task at me that I’d forgotten to finalize last week. After which I couldn’t shut my brain back down. I recalled what I wrote here, and while my bed was warm and it sure would have been nice to stay tucked in, I pulled myself up and started the next race. It went something like this:
- Wash hands.
- Brush teeth.
- Let dogs out.
- Make coffee.
- Let dogs in.
- Feed dogs.
- Pour coffee.
- Get dressed.
- Grab a bottle of water, wallet, phone, car keys, and garage door opener.
- Hop in the car.
- Drink coffee.
- Race to Orange Theory.
- Grab a rower.
- Say good morning to the teacher.
- Listen to instructions.
- Follow instructions.
- See the clock is at 6:56 a.m.
- Wipe down the treadmill.
- Race out.
- Get home and rustle up the dogs.
- Walk the dogs.
- Make sure Cocoa pees.
- Pick up last night’s poops.
- Walk poop to the trash at the curb waiting for Monday morning pickup.
- Rustle up dogs.
- Give them treats.
- Check watch at 7:35 a.m.
- Grab some clothes from the clean laundry basket.
- Brush teeth.
- Apply moisturizer.
- Apply makeup.
- Apply hair product.
- Run dryer through hair.
- Get dressed.
- Check watch at 7:55 a.m.
- Fill dogs water.
- Grab snow boots, winter coat, hat, and mittens.
- Kiss dogs goodbye.
- Throw on the coat, wrap the scarf around neck.
- Grab backpack, phone, wallet, hat, and mittens.
- Hop in the car.
- Check time 8:02 a.m.
- Check rear view mirror.
- Pause to avoid hitting weird neighbor and dog.
- Pray to make the light at Roosevelt.
- Follow driving laws.
- Pull in a parking spot.
- Wait until windshield wipers are midway through the cycle to shut off the ignition.
- Hop out of the car.
- Zip up 1 of 2 zippers.
- Zip up 2 of 2 zippers.
- Grab the whole posse of stuff.
- Balance posse and check watch 8:10 a.m.
- Walk through the parking lot.
- Cross railroad tracks.
- Listen for the train announcement.
- Barring none, check watch 8:12 a.m.
- Walk to coffee stand inside the train station.
- Thank man for holding the door for me.
- Find three single bills inside my wallet.
- Make eye contact with the helper, ask for small light roast.
- Plop three dollars on the counter.
- Receive 75-cents in hand and thank owner.
- Take two quarters and place in a jar.
- Walk away.
- Hear, “oh miss, your coffee!”
- Turnaround, thank the woman owner and man helper. “Guess I really need it this morning.”
- Grab two raw sugars, tear them open and pour.
- Grab skim milk, pour, set down the pitcher, and grab stirrer.
- Notice it’s round and wooden, not like the normal flat stick.
- Toss stirrer into the trash.
- Grab some just in case napkins.
- Hear the announcement the train is running five minutes late.
- Re-walk my steps and stay out near where the front of the train will stop.
- Upon its arrival, file in with other passengers.
- Find an empty seat.
- Bang my head.
- Holler, “Dammit.”
- Take off my coat.
- Unzip both its zippers.
- Hang my coat.
- Open my phone.
- Start this blog.
- Save the draft.
- Show conductor my ticket.
- Continue writing.
When the train stopped at 9 a.m., I saved the draft and promised to return later. It’s 7 p.m. now. The exercise this morning got me thinking about purpose and presence. It’s so easy to fall into a routine and go through the motions of the day. It’s harder to enjoy the moments, or maybe it’s not? I usually walk briskly to work from the train. I normally look at the traffic lights and strategize the most efficient route. I saw a man see that 13 seconds was left on the timer for Wacker Drive, and he began to run. I stopped myself from following him. I took my time.
Being present carried over to the rest of the day. About 1 p.m. I realized my hurried morning left me without a packed lunch. I put the snow boots back on and walked toward a food hall about seven blocks away. As I walked I made eye contact with a man, with salt and pepper hair and black glasses. He was smiling and laughing. His smile was contagious. I returned his smile with my own and automatically shared his laughter. I smiled as I passed a young kid who is always asking for change. He always makes me smile. Today was no different.
My smile hung on for another 15 minutes, through my soup order where I paid cash. As I paused to ask the cashier how her day was going, I noticed that she gave me an extra dollar in change, which I promptly returned. I was glad that I caught the error, and she was grateful. As I walked back to work I once again passed the kid who asked for spare change. This time he was chanting, “you’ve got the money, I’ve got the change,” and he said something directly to me and I smiled. I stopped about 50 feet later. I opened my wallet and shook out my change. I had $1.27. I walked back and threw the change into his plastic cup. He was smiling and singing something. I kept smiling, too.
After I finished my soup, I found an unwrapped and abandoned fortune cookie with some other miscellaneous snacks in the office kitchen.
I walked into a meeting in the conference room. I opened the cookie and I smiled again. Then I walked over to a colleague who I spent part of the morning talking about staying out of negative nonsense. As I loudly cracked the cookie between my teeth, I showed her the fortune. We laughed.
Then she said, “I used to think you had to eat the fortunes for them to come true.”
I laughed out loud, irrespective of the 27 people connected to the conference call.
A funny thing happened when I stopped racing from one task to the next today. It’s called happiness. I think I’ll be avoiding timing the traffic lights, at least on the morning walk to work, anyway. I wouldn’t want to miss the race to the evening train. Or do I?