Thursday, November 06, 2014

COLUMN: Routine

Someone said the craziest thing to me the other day.

"Shane, you need to break your routine more often."

Routine? ROUTINE?! Who does this person think she is?

(Actually, she's the girl I've been dating for a month. But that's another column for another day.)

Let's get back to the issue at hand. Routine? ROUTINE?! Clearly this girl doesn't know me as well as I thought.

I am the opposite of routine. I am gonzo, lady. I march to the beat of a different drum. I am a trend-setter and a go-getter, a leader and not a follower. I take no prisoners, forge my own path, and roll with the changes. When necessary, I've even been known to occasionally damn the man. I am unconventional, counter-culture, and the maker of my own destiny. I am a special little man (at least that's what my mom always told me.)

I do what I want WHEN I want. And if I want to come home every night and do nothing but watch TV, that's not a routine -- that's me flying by the seat of my pants. It's just that the seat of my pants REALLY likes watching TV. There's nothing "routine" about it. One night I could be watching "MasterChef," the next "Pretty Little Liars" or "True Blood." That's just how I roll. Okay, so maybe half the time it's "Big Brother," but that's CBS' fault for putting that stupid show on so often.

I'm not routine. I'm just honest with myself. Occasionally, you've got to weigh the entertainment value of your life against that of fictional vampires, and sometimes those pesky vampires are gonna win out. Let's face it, I might march to the beat of a different drummer, but I also don't have a team of scriptwriters to ensure that my life is a constantly balanced and compelling mix of action, scandal, romance, and laughter. "Shane's Lunch Hour" will never be nominated for Best Drama. My life does not star Matthew McConaughey (nor does it feature Katie Holmes in a scene-stealing supporting role, despite all of my best efforts and constant wishing.)

There's only one part of my life that I'll admit to being routine, but it's a routine born of necessity, not choice. And it's a routine that the Quad Cities currently seems to be conspiring to thwart.

I am not a morning person, and that's a crass understatement. If I had a say in the matter, I would never experience mornings. In a perfect world, I would wake up by the crack of noon and spend at least an hour or two hiding under the covers until it was good and safely mid-day. Some people reach the height of productivity at 8 a.m. and embrace the day with zeal and gusto. I'm usually at the crest of my productivity around 1 a.m. That's usually when I get the urge to tackle 5-6 long-term projects while the responsible voice in my head screams at me to go to sleep.

I usually wake up every day around 9:15 or so. This is a bit of a problem, mostly since I have to be at work every day by 8:30. Getting dressed and somehow making it in to the office while still technically asleep isn't recommended for amateurs, but I've had some twenty years to perfect the skill and I'm fairly confident in my abilities. The key to it all is a well-oiled, time-tested, and carefully managed routine.

My alarm goes off precisely at 7:23 every morning. This gives me exactly 67 minutes to get to work. The first two of those 67 minutes are spent sitting up in bed and booting up the brain in safe mode -- you know, just the basic files and drivers required to start my operating system. Then I reach for the remote and hopefully click on the TV in just enough time to hear Greg Dutra tell me what the weather's going to be.

I then allow myself exactly seven minutes to soak in the witty banter of Matt Lauer and Al Roker before heading into the bathroom. When I finally DO wake up at 9:15, I usually find myself well-groomed, wet-haired, and smelling springtime fresh, so I can only presume that I use this bathroom time to shave and shower, but who's to know for certain?

It takes me exactly 11 minutes to get dressed, take a Claritin, feed the cats, and find my wallet and car keys. This leaves me a perfect 20 minute window to get from my house to the office, including a brief stop at the gas station to procure the essential morning coffee. It's a perfect system -- except when it's not.

This summer, the Quad Cities is doing its absolute best to ruin my morning routine. It's been a multi-tiered attack that starts with the closing of the Centennial Bridge. Thankfully I don't have to mess with Iowa during the work day, but I do have to mess with the crazy traffic backups resulting from folks waiting in line to either slowly roll across the Government Bridge or test their fate on the white-knuckle thrill-ride of I-74.

The temporary closing of Centennial is awful, but simultaneously blocking Rock Island's 7th Avenue is downright immoral. I have no idea what they're doing over there by Augie, but it involves shovels, angry looking guys holding signs, and what I can only presume to be the lost treasure of the Sierra Madre. And because I'm clearly less than awake every morning, I forget about it each and every day until I get there and realize the road's closed.

As if that's not enough, I'm also pretty sure The Man has now positioned agents inside every gas station between my house and the office. Usually, I can dash in and out in seconds. THIS week? I've been caught behind people filling their pantries with convenience store junk food. Or my personal favorite, "I need ten dollars in gas... and 74 instant lottery tickets, which I will now choose one at a time in as slow a manner as possible." Yesterday, a clerk left me waiting while he went to the restroom. I can't win.

The morning routine has to stay. It's the only way to keep me gainfully employed. As for the REST of the day? I'm kicking routine to the curb. Today, I went to a DIFFERENT greasy spoon for lunch. And I ordered BREAKFAST FOOD at lunchtime. Clearly, I'm living on the edge. I'll have it out with anyone who thinks I live my life to a boring, humdrum routine -- just make it quick, I've only got a half hour 'til "Big Brother" starts.

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