The fine freedom of a to-do list - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

The fine freedom of a to-do list

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Posted: Tuesday, September 19, 2006 6:52 am | Updated: 5:04 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

“Bank and the oil change place!” the man shouted. We were in the waiting room of an oil change place.

The complimentary coffee was stale, the magazines were hopelessly out of date (“New Accessories for Your Gremlin!”). We were strangers. Sitting on those hard plastic seats that crush your buttocks till the truth comes out. “Bank and the oil change place!” he said again.

Blanche DuBois said she “always depended on the kindness of strangers.” She didn’t say “guys,” because vulnerable strangers freak us out. “This is my life,” the first man continued. “Every Saturday. Free time? No! My wife tells me, ‘You’ve got to go to the bank! You’ve got to take this car to the oil change place!’ ”

“It could be worse,” I told him. “She could come with you.”

And he knew I was right.

Errands are a married man’s time to shine. We can shrug off the mantle of spousal scrutiny and listen to sports talk radio, or lip-sync to heavy metal. We can try that new shortcut, get hopelessly lost and find our way back without EVER asking directions. We can gorge ourselves on grocery store sample trays, perch like meerkats in front of department store big screens and purchase jerky without shame. Errands are Married Men Gone Wild. Just return with a crossed-off to-do list and it’s all good. Gone a long time? Gripe about traffic and you’ll rack up martyrdom points as well.

This will seem pathetic to bachelors. But one of karma’s cruelest twists is this: Young, unmarried males have unlimited free time, which they squander like drunken sailors. (Some, in fact, use it to become drunken sailors.) Most bachelor to-do lists include stuff like “Dodge student loan collector,” “Post bail” and “Explain tattoo.”

No one appreciates freedom like those with responsibilities. Give a married man a short list and a glimpse of daylight, he’ll bolt from the blocks like a gazelle released from captivity.

Most women don’t get this. (“Why do you need to get away from me?”) It isn’t that. (Unless you’re horrible — then it is that.) Errands are our chance to be individuals. A wife who says: “I’ll go with you on your errands” will get the same deflated look as a husband who says: “Let me pick out your clothes!”

One new air filter and 5 quarts of 30-weight later, my oil-change friend felt a little better. He agreed that, with a little creativity, countless adventures could be found between the lines of a to-do list. He asked if I’d like to have a beer with him sometime. I said I might.

“But not now,” I told him. “I have to get to the bank.”

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