Confessions of an Errant Errand-Runner

Life would go better if I could leave the house list in hand and run my errands the way the how-to books say.

“Plot your course,” the experts tell us, “and knock those errands out one by one.”

The idea is No Backtracking, no “wish-I’d-stopped-at-the-cleaners” sighs.

All that’s needed, they say, is a list of errands to be run in some logical order, prepared thoughtfully over morning coffee. That, and a back-seat errand box stacked with pick-up slips, returns and protein snacks in case of traffic.

“Then,” they say, “you head for the car, and you’re on your way.”

Sadly, I get only as far as the errand box, a Ziploc bag of cashews and the end of our street.

“Back already?” my husband asked the third time the garage door went up. “I thought you just left.”

I have. Several times. The truth is that streamlined errand-running works only for those capable of leaving a house just once. I have never, ever left the house only once. Two, three times I return.

At first, he suspected I was one of those obsessive-compulsive types who returns again and again to check the stove.

“I am not OCD,” I insisted, and proved it one afternoon by leaving the stove flaming for several hours.

“On those rare occasions I have checked,” I confessed at the time, “it has actually been on.”

The truth, I explained, is that I’ve always done my best thinking in the car. In law school, I aced every exam on the drive home. After work, I brilliantly recreated my every conversation on the commute. It only makes sense that at home, I have honed my errand-running to an art form only behind the wheel.

“Dry cleaners first,” I say. “But wait! It’s right by the grocery. Better run back and check the chili recipe. Might be out of tomatoes.”

Recipe in hand, I leave again, only to remember that the grocery also sells shelf paper.

“Nine inches wide or twelve?” I wonder, heading back for a tape measure, but I forget to add tomatoes to the list.

I wish we lived on a longer street in a larger neighborhood. Then I could vary my route back and my many happy returns might go unnoticed. Instead, we live in a circle around a park where neighbors tend to wave to passing traffic.

“Didn’t we just wave to her?” they must think. “How many times today?”

My mood is not improved by being married to a one-trip man. He leaves once and comes back once with his handle-sack reliably full of whatever he set out for.

“It’s easy,” he says, and I envy him for a moment.

But then I remind myself that he is earning his A+ only in Errand-Running 101, not my accelerated graduate course in multiple errands. His self-described mission is to fetch a tub of cream cheese, not to empty an entire errand box.

“Ha!” I think. “I’d like to see him negotiate the dry cleaners, grocery, library, video store ….”

I laugh uncontrollably at the frenzied picture, all the way back to buy the tomatoes.

Copyright Pat Snyder 2007

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