Embracing the Routine

by Calendar Hacksaw

Each workday begins the same. I arise at 4:30, often before the alarm sounds. The clock radio is set to some FM station which plays horrible music, so there is never any delay in shutting it off, and never any temptation to hit the Ďsnoozeí button. I do reset the alarm for 6:30, if I remember, because thatís when Betty gets up.

After briefly visiting the bathroom, I slip out to the common area known as dining room/ kitchen/living room, where I put on the same Wranglers and socks I took off the night before. After checking the temperature, I light the stove and begin heating the teapot for coffee.

Firing up the computer takes a few minutes, so I use that time to clear the cobwebs from my brain and try to take a reading on my physical state. I ask myself what the odds are of having a heart attack that day, and if the line is even or less, I proceed with plans to go to work.

By then the computer has come to life, so I quickly check my e-mail and the Associated Press national wire in case anything important happened during the night. I donít respond to e-mail at that hour, for the obvious reason that any such reply would make no sense to the recipient whatsoever. Then I shut off the computer.

Iím usually able to get to the teapot just before it begins to whistle, and I use a Melita #4 filter to brew 16 ounces of Yuban coffee in a Styrofoam cup.

Itís about 4:40 a.m. at this point, so I don an old, gray, hooded sweatshirt and sometimes a coat before heading out to the garage for my morning meditation. One of the dogs usually comes along with me, but sometimes neither of them feels like getting up at that hour.

Once in the garage, I might turn on the radio and listen to the news channel for a few minutes in case there are any local or regional stories of note that werenít picked up by the Associated Press.

I return to the house at 4:55 and then retrieve the morning paper from the driveway. It takes me about 15 minutes to scan it for anything interesting, after which I return to the garage for my second and final meditation session.

With any luck at all, by 5:25 I have a serious need to return to the bathroom, and not just to take my morning shower. But first I put my coffee in the microwave and nuke it for 45 seconds.

So, anyway, the shower gets underway at 5:30 or 5:35 and lasts about five minutes unless I need to shampoo, which adds about three minutes to the process. I try to keep the shower brief and not run the water too hot, lest it fog up the mirror and delay the rest of the grooming routine.

After toweling off, I shave using a real razor and shaving cream, dragging the blade in several directions across the skin in an effort to get the closest shave possible. Then I rinse and dry my face, and brush my teeth.

The dayís clothes have already been selected and put out the night before, so there are no important decisions to be made early in the morning, and no reason to wake Betty by turning on the bedroom light.

Getting dressed usually takes about the same amount of time from one day to the next, unless itís one of those days when I have to wear a tie. I donít like those days.

I put on my shoes in the dining room, because thatís where I stage them the night before. I donít know why I leave them out there instead of in the bathroom, but I guess itís just an old habit. I have one pair of black shoes and one pair of brown ones. I wear them on alternate days.

I take my morning pill and load all the stuff in my pockets like car keys, building pass, knife, fingernail clippers and four quarters. I always have four quarters in my pocket; I donít know why. Check it out sometime.

At 5:55, I heat the remaining coffee again for one-minute, 15-seconds, then grab my briefcase and head out the door, turning off lights as I go. Sometimes I have to squeegee the rain or dew off the windows and mirrors of the truck before leaving. The second newspaper is usually in the driveway by then, so I throw it inside to take to work.

I normally gas up on the weekend, so thereís seldom a reason to make any stops during my 30-minute morning commute. Sometimes an accident on one of the freeways slows me down, and if things donít speed up within a few minutes I search out one of my pre-planned alternate routes. Iím seldom late to work.

I finish the coffee prior to arrival, and deposit the cup in the trash receptacle by the entrance. I walk upstairs, unlock the door to my office, turn on the radio and computer, and begin my day.

Do you find yourself nodding off as you read this?

Some might characterize my behavior as evidence of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. I disagree strongly, preferring instead to think of it as sheer military precision and the epitome of efficiency. It gives order to chaos while leaving nothing to chance.

When our men and women come back from Iraq or wherever, they will undoubtedly exhibit patterns similar to mine. While away, they have found new and much better ways of doing things, including many tasks which were previously done for them. They very well may not fit back inside the same envelope and house from which they came. Changed forever, in ways both good and bad, they must move forward with their lives. Within a few days, parents grow weary of the "Yes, Maíam," "No, Sir" routine, and wish they could have their child back. No such luck.

The best we can do to help them re-adjust to civilian life is to give them the same freedom they fought for, and expect of them the same behavior we expect of ourselves. Let them sort out their emotions and priorities. They truly deserve a few months to cool down and plan for the future. School, jobs and families will come soon enough. But their newfound confidence and self-discipline will see them through their reentry to society.

And in no time at all, theyíll be patterning the first two hours of the day after me, and the excellent example I set. That leaves 22 other hours unspoken for. Deal with it.

Calendar Hacksaw lathers up at calendarhacksaw@highdesert.com, and he doesnít really know why he carries four quarters in his pocket. But he thinks it may have something to do with what was once the price of a draft beer in the enlisted menís club.

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