Cambrian: Slice of Life

My ‘mind train’ is easily derailed. But hey, I’m a journalist, wife and... I could go on

Does this sound familiar?

I open my email account to do something urgent, get sidelined by an equally important incoming message, take a detour to deal with that issue first and promptly forget to do whatever it was that made me open the browser to begin with.

Unfortunately, the aftereffects can be damaging and damning.

Editor: “Haven’t you sent that story yet? It’s past deadline, again!” (And I can’t use the “dog ate my homework” excuse, partially because we don’t have dogs anymore.)

Friend: “Are you mad at me? Is that why you didn’t answer my email? Again.” (My bad, but I didn’t see it.)

Household accounts payable: “You need to pay this bill now or you’ll find yourself without our ___(fill in the blank)___ service!” (Their first-volley way of saying “pay up now, dummy, or get cut off.”)

Relative: “You forgot Mom’s birthday! Again.” (OMG. ☹)

And it’s not just social media. There are a gazillion other, less crucial versions of those mind-burp predicaments, such as:

• Forgetting the name of the book I want at the library when I’m looking at the stacks, but remembering it while I’m overwhelmed by the assortment of yogurts at the supermarket (did you ever think there’d be that many of them?).

• Answering the cellphone while I’m doing something else, performing the “chat-and-chore” combination dance, ending the conversation and setting the phone down while I finish my task, and then later forgetting where I left the phone. In the refrigerator? Really?

• Putting on one earring and leaving the other one on the bureau. (I had a good excuse for that one: The phone rang. Again.) With luck, I’ll realize my mistake before I leave the house. If not, maybe I’ll start a new style.

I know all the sensible rationales about why my mental train wanders off the tracks. I understand that part of this agony is having too many things to do and only one mind and one set of hands. I get that I’m besieged by way too much information each and every day... online, on TV, in conversations, in magazines and newspapers like this one.

And I know I’m not a twenty-something anymore. Sigh.

But still.

I like to think I’m a competent person, able to multitask. I’m a reporter/columnist, for heaven’s sake! Just sit behind my desk on deadline day and watch me mentally juggle and write about lot of topics, which may account for why I forget to feed the dog. Yeah, yeah, I know. We don’t have a dog. But if we had one, I’d forget to feed it.

I’m also a wife, mom, caregiver, cook, chauffeur, family member and community member. So, if my ability to multitask is going to desert me now, I’m going to be thoroughly ticked-off.

Then I remember an explanation someone gave me long ago: Our brains are like condominiums. When all the units are full, but someone new has to move in, somebody else has to move out. Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose which occupant has to leave.

That should be comforting, but somehow, it’s not.

So, I give myself a stern talking to, and while I’m doing that, I get one of those incoming emails. And the smartphone notification music makes me smile, even if it does trigger some really startled looks from people if it goes off while I’m out in public.

That music is the opening vamp to the “I’m a Woman, W-O-M-A-N” song from the “Smokey Joe’s Café” musical (and Peggy Lee’s recording from much earlier than that!).

Remember that one? “I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have ’em hangin’ out on the line. I can starch and iron two dozen shirts ’fore you can count from one to nine. I can scoop up a great big dipper full of lard from the drippin’s can. Throw it in the skillet, go out and do my shopping, be back before it melts in the pan. ’Cause I’m a woman! W-O-M-A-N!”

Yeah, baby. At least, that’s the multitasker I’d like to think I am.

And those startled looks from passersby? The chords in that notification are very, very similar to another song... leading some younger folk to think I’m deliberately “Bad to the Bone.”

Me and George Thorogood? Umm, no. Me, rebellious? Often. Irredeemably bad? Sheesh, I hope not.

Even if I did forget your birthday.

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