The Big To Do

There are certain people who make a big To Do, wherever they go, whatever they do. Even the most mundane tasks become big deals, much more complicated, obstreperous and time-consuming than necessary.

I’ve long been fascinated by this behavior, wondering where it comes from. Is it caused by obsessive-compulsive or attention deficit/hyperactivity disorders? If so, the sufferers have my sympathy. They probably would like to mellow out if they could.

I enjoy doing many tasks as efficiently as I can, and figuring out new and improved methods. Not that I rush, but I don’t like to waste time, especially on unpleasant chores. When I was a teenager, I fell in love with Frank and Lillian Gilbreth, the mother and father efficiency experts in “Cheaper by the Dozen,” a memoir written by two of their children. At that time, I wanted many children and, despite the Gilbreth family efficiency, they seemed to have fun. After having two children (and also realizing the many benefits of birth control), I changed my mind. Family efficiency can work, but is more often a distant ideal, especially at 7 a.m. when you’re rushing out the door and realize one son doesn’t have shoes on and the other has knocked over the fish bowl.

HyperThe two activities where I’ve noticed people can be inefficient is doing laundry at the laundromat and setting up yoga mats. Fortunately, it’s been years since I’ve observed laundromat behavior in person, but I recall it vividly. My own approach was simple: take basket of clothes, detergent, quarters and book or magazine to the laundromat, throw clothes and detergent in washer, read, throw clothes in dryer, read, throw clothes in basket and get the hell out of there. Sort the clothes at home – that part I actually enjoy.

The Big To Doers were in the laundromat before I arrived and after I left. They had brought and lined up several baskets, carts, racks, hangers, boxes and bottles of detergent, bleach, softeners and other additives. They never sat down, even for a second. Their complicated routine went something like this: Carefully pre-sort, turning some items inside out. Pop a few in one washer, a few in another, pull some out, start a dryer, then back to another washer. Pull clothes out of dryer, hang some up, fold some, back to washer, back to dryer, back and forth, constant motion, washer woman or man whirling dervish. I never was able to figure out what they were doing, or why. Maybe they have 12 children. Maybe it’s the highlight of their day. Maybe they just enjoy making a simple task as complicated as possible.

The Big To DoThe other Big To Do I find fascinating is the setting up/setting down of the yoga mat that some yogis elevate to a ritual before class. Most of us walk in, bend or kneel down, unroll our mats and lie or sit down. Sometimes we walk over to the prop wall to get a cushion or a strap or to the cubbyhole wall to store a wallet or purse.

The show-offs walk in (or sometimes rush in late), unfurl their mat in the air and drop it on the floor. This makes a loud noise and sends a whoosh of air out over those of us already on the floor. They then unfurl a second cloth mat over the first mat. Because these slip, spray bottles are provided to dampen them with water. That’s right – spritz, spritz, spritz. Then the lining up begins, one mat over the other, and both in line with the lines on the floor. Then several trips for props and blankets. But not the cubbyholes. No, they prefer placing water bottles, coffee, keys, wallet, jackets, cell phones around their mat on the floor.

One man comes in before class fully dressed in long pants and a jacket and by the end of class, he has stripped down to shorts and tank top, his long pants and jacket in a heap behind him. Sometimes, after all this, a person will decide the space is not right and move – and start the yoga mat routine all over again! Every few months this behavior crescendos and “Yoga Etiquette” guidelines are posted inside the bathroom stalls to remind us. But those of us who set up quietly and quickly don’t need reminding and those who don’t don’t think guidelines apply to them.

To do or not to do. For them, it’s not even a question.

Bite Me. Bad Behavior Sound Bites

Waiting room. Fox News blaring. My personal version of Hell. Trapped with the yelling heads. Everything is wrong, wrong, WRONG! No good in anything.

Another waiting room. A reality show. The sound is muted but subtitles are on and blast across the screen in capital letters. Family members blowing out the words from angry faces. MY MOTHER’S BOYFRIEND IS TOO YOUNG. AND HE’S A NO-GOOD CHEAT.

Bad behaviorWaiting in line for a bagel. A big, older man comes up too close behind me and looms down over me. “What’s good here?” he asks. “I like the cinnamon-raisin bagel with peanut butter,” I tell him. “I’d like a redheaded, hot mama,” he says. “Well, you can’t have this one,” I say. “I didn’t think so,” he answers.

Waiting in line at Starbucks. At least half a dozen people in front of me. A woman breezes in and walks straight up to the counter. Two or three people tell her there’s a line. “Oh, I’m just here for a cup of coffee,” she says. There is silence for a few shocked seconds, then we all say, “So are we!” The woman stomps out.

More bad behaviorWaiting in line in a discount store. Extremely long and close lines. A woman in the next line keeps ramming her cart into me. The woman behind me tells me the thin pretzels are good with the ranch dressing. The woman in front of me puts down her basket in line and walks away. She returns a couple of minutes later with two additional items, picks up her basket. The woman in back of me says, “Boy, I’ll have to remember that trick the next time I’m in here. Save my own place in line.” The woman in front of me turns around and says to her, “Ma’am, I just went nearby for one or two things. I’m very busy and I have to get back to work. And I don’t appreciate your sarcasm.” I decided not to roll my eyes, give the peace sign or say that I had to get back to work too.

A man stands with his young daughter in the middle of the sidewalk. He sees me coming, gently guides his daughter to the side. “We have to watch for people, honey,” he says to her. He smiles at me as I pass by. I smile back. He gives me hope.