Commentary 25 Feb 2010 10:41 pm

Check it off

Here is my column from Feb. 25, 2010, as published in The Alliance Review:

I’m feeling ADHD today, one random thought colliding with another like water molecules in a boiling pot. Let’s see where it takes me:

“Checklist Manifesto” is a new book by Atul Gawande that defends the lowly to-do list, without which many of us can’t make it through the day. I’m a believer: A list-less day is a listless day, one where very little gets done.

My wife teases me that if she doesn’t make my list, she gets no attention. I shush her and scrawl, “Talk to wife.”

According to the author, a checklist in surgery causes hospitals’ mortality rates to drop, presumably because the last step is always, “Be sure to remove all equipment from patients before sewing them up.”

Which gets me thinking that some jobs aren’t complicated enough to need lists, which gets me thinking about shoveling snow: 1. Insert shovel into drift. 2. Throw snow over shoulder. 3. Repeat as necessary. 4. Don’t overexert.

I’m that weirdest of cats, a person who likes to shovel. While some people yearn for heavy snowfalls to make angels in the yard, I look forward to them because I genuinely like to throw snow the old-fashioned way.

Most Alliance residents don’t share my views. I heard a guy grousing last week that kids shouldn’t have school if sidewalks aren’t clear. If that were true, students would be out until May 1 because the percentage of people who shovel in this city is slightly lower than the percentage who likes to pay taxes, which is why downhill slalom courses at the winter Olympics have nothing on Alliance city sidewalks.

Which gets me to thinking about liability and plausible deniability, how maybe it’s better from a legal standpoint to leave sidewalks covered in snow. That way, if somebody falls on your property, you can claim you had no idea it was slippery. Shoveling and salting is an admission that you knew they were hazardous, making you liable.

Of course, if you shovel and salt, you might keep somebody from falling. But if you don’t, maybe passersby will, uh, pass by on the street instead of the sidewalk. If they fall in the road, they aren’t your problem, unless the plaintive cries of all those people flat on their backs keep you up at night.

Which gets me thinking about insomnia, and one of my surefire cures — watching infomercials. With hundreds of channels, something should always be more interesting than Shamwow, OxiClean or high colonics. But that’s the point: When you have insomnia, you want to watch the most god awful boring program in the universe to lull you back into the arms of Morpheus. So “Gone with the Wind” and “Citizen Kane” lose out to come-ons for turkey flavor injectors and miracle knives that cut through aluminum cans, meat or fish.

Which gets me thinking about Lent, meatless Fridays and the Christian tradition of giving something up for the 40 days leading to Easter, and how my mother once gave up sauerkraut because she thought it would be easy and still couldn’t do it. Because we all find ourselves in those awkward social situations where a refusal of sauerkraut could lead to a pistol duel to the death at dawn. Don’t diss the ‘kraut, man.

Which gets me thinking that McDonald’s could make a killing with a McKraut sandwich. Or maybe not.

Which gets me thinking of legitimate McDonald’s offerings, like Filet ‘O Fish sandwiches, and that weird commercial with the Wide-Mouthed Billy Bass stunt double that croons, “Give me back my Filet ‘O Fish, give me that fish.”

Which gets me thinking that a fish sandwich would taste awfully good about now.

Which gets me thinking that I should add buying one to my to-do list.

Did I mention I was feeling a little ADHD?

One Response to “Check it off”

  1. on 26 Feb 2010 at 1.Cassandra D. said …

    I love finding old checklists that I can say ‘HA! I did that!’ its the new checklists I hate looking at.

    Would you come shovel our driveway? We don’t have sidewalks, so we’re excused from shoveling them.

    I can’t fall asleep with the tv on. I have to resort to the ‘read the book my teacher assigned’ method (no offense).

    Lent is the easy version of a new years resolution.

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