The Trouble with Old People

Trouble With Old People | Pandemic procrastination

Writing by Steve Van Auken

Pandemic isolation isn’t much fun. This is a great time, however, to work on your home. You know what I’m talking about — those decluttering and deep-cleaning projects you have been putting off for so long. Your usual excuse — that you have no time because of your busy social schedule — no longer applies. So, ready to roll up your sleeves and make your home that well-organized, sparkling place you’ve always dreamed of?

Just kidding. Of course you aren’t. 

So if you want to avoid the hideous peril facing you — actually having to do those miserable tasks — you will need a whole new set of excuses.

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Help is at hand. Those of us in the older cohort have decades of experience in evading our home-based duties. Check with a veteran homeowner or apartment-dweller and ask for ideas. We’re happy to share. To get you started, here are some procrastination techniques that work for me.

Drink coffee. Read a detective novel.

Reorganize your sock drawer by color.

Read an article in a scientific journal that says exercising outdoors in winter improves health. The article cites a traditional Norwegian saying, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inadequate clothing.” Dress in multiple layers of adequate clothing. Go outdoors. Discover that what the weather app is calling “wintry mix” is actually freezing rain. Go back indoors. Remove multiple layers of adequate clothing. Understand why there has never been a best-seller titled, “There is No Such Thing as Bad Weather.”

Wonder whether it is too late to send Christmas cards, rebranded as Valentine’s Day cards or possibly Groundhog Day cards.

Reorganize your sock drawer by thickness.

Decide to audit your bins of old photographs. In the first five minutes find a team photo of your daughter’s sixth grade softball team. Start remembering each player and wondering what they are doing now. Call your daughter to ask. Learn that you have interrupted her (not for the first time) while she is on a Zoom call with her boss. Agree never to call her again during a weekday except in urgent circumstances, such as you getting vaccinated and becoming able to borrow a grandchild for a week or two.

Worry about wearing out your Roku remote-control after months of over-use.

Realize that the characters of Schitt’s Creek have become more real to you than your actual friends. Set aside the remainder of the day to worry about your mental health.

Calculate, based upon your current rate of consumption, and factoring in the TV schedule of upcoming sporting events, when you will need to go back to the beer store. Smile at the short-sightedness of your friends who claimed no one ever had a good use for algebra after high school.

Realize you are sick and tired of all the non-organic food you have been feeding yourself. Decide to listen to your body and learn to prepare meals rich in vegetables. Find the “heart-healthy” cookbook you got as a Christmas present ten years ago. Open it at random and read:

“Follow recipe above, except add 5 teaspoons minced zucchini squash with the green peppers. Add one cup each diced onion and radish and one-half cup Swiss chard with the turnips; double the amount of water.”

Call the pizza shop. Ease your guilt by ordering the Veggie Supreme. Brood for three minutes. Call back and change it to sausage.

Decide it’s high time you made a priority of your spiritual life. Resolve to begin meditating. Find a quiet place. Recall the meditation techniques you learned in that class at the Y. Begin to embrace the essential goodness of the universe and of yourself. Try to ignore a growing realization that you were a fool to try this on an empty stomach. Form a vivid mental picture of the left-over chicken in the refrigerator. Decide that Ram Das would have wanted you to have it. Right now.

Drink coffee. Read a detective novel. Stop at page 86 when you realize you read this book in October. 

Decide to read it anyway. As best you can remember, it was pretty good.

Steve Van Auken is a longtime contributor to The Devil Strip and a psychologist.