There was snickering in heaven the day God, or his management team, got to the agenda item of Creating Doug Brendel. First they arranged for me to inherit my father’s efficiency gene; then they put me in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
My father, now 86 and sharp as ever, was never an efficiency expert officially or professionally, but he has always been oriented to efficiency. He’s interested in getting the most done in the shortest length of time with the least possible expenditure of energy. Lay out all your tools, in the order you’re going to need them, before you start the job, so you don’t have to zigzag back and forth across the garage over the course of the project. That sort of thing.
To this day, as a result of Richard Irving Brendel’s DNA imprint, I have a hard time walking through my house.
- If I’m crossing the living room on my way to the kitchen, and I see a magazine on the couch that ought to be on the coffee table, I have to grab it and toss it on the coffee table on my way by.
- If then I happen to see a scrap of paper on the floor — perhaps something turned into a cat toy by our enterprising felines, and now abandoned — I have to pick it up too, en route to the kitchen because, after all, that scrap of paper needs to go into recycling, and the recycling bin is in the pantry, in the kitchen, where I’m headed. (Where I’m headed at that very moment! What luck!)
- A stray baseball cap left by our teenager on the armrest of the couch? That will need to wind up on a peg in the mudroom, which is beyond the kitchen, so it makes sense to pick that up on the way as well.
- That book I’ve been meaning to dive back into, which I’ll read later on the screen porch? Pick that up too, because the screen porch is beyond the kitchen too. Getting it as far as the kitchen counter will move it closer to its eventual destination. Efficiency!
At this rate, a trip from the bedroom to the screen porch can take 20 minutes. Nothing is simple for an efficiency nerd. But at least no movement was wasted! God forbid any unnecessary backtracking!
Consider the essential daily (or multiple-times-daily) challenge of making a pot of coffee. Our obsolete little 10-cup Philips machine — they don’t even make this model anymore — sits on the kitchen counter just under the cupboard where the coffee lives in its designated canister, next to a tall, slender porcelain vessel which I have designated for holding the black plastic spoon which I have designated for coffee-scooping. Also in this cupboard, in the spot I have designated for it, is the plastic bag full of Market Basket #4 filters. (Keep these guys standing up against the left wall of the cupboard, please, tucked in there next to my tea-drinking daughter’s tea canister, so they don’t fall down and — most important of all — don’t take up any more space than they need to.)
Now, take note: The sequence of somesteps of the coffee-making process cannot be negotiated. You must, for example, put the filter into the machine’s little basket before you put the coffee in. But there arecertain details in this process which are wide open to examination, if you’re looking to save time. Here’s one critically important question: Do you put the water into the machine and thenput in the coffee, before throwing the “on” switch to start the brewing process? Or do you put the coffee in first, thenthe water, and finally turn the machine on? One approach saves multiple millisecondsover the other, my friend, based on which item is left in your hand at the moment it’s time to flick the switch. Think! Think carefully! Don’t squander cumulative minutes of your life making your morning coffee inefficiently! (Answer: water first, then coffee. Throw the switch while the spoon is still in your hand; then put the spoon away.)
A trip to the mailbox is an exercise in multi-tasking. That little package you’re sending to your kid at camp should definitely notbe carried all the way to the mailbox on the street until you’re sure you don’t have anything else that needs to be mailed. On the other hand, you have to get out there before the mailman comes. If it’s garbage day, bingo!You can put your daughter’s package under your arm, swing through the garage, grab the handle of the garbage bin with one hand, the recycling bin with the other, drag them both to the street, stick the package in the mailbox, and head back to the house — all in a single, fluid motion. Brilliant! You just saved yourself 128.9 feet round-trip. Do it every week, and you’ve saved yourself more than a mile and a quarter over the course of a year. That’s half an hour of walking time. Half an hour — that’s enough time to dash to Cumby’s, or phone your mother, or make a macramé plant hanger. Anything you want! It’s yours! Free time!
The invention of GPS was a boon. No more taking the obvious main roads, when a cut-across on Mill will get you to Beverly 45 seconds sooner. God forbid you should arrive in Beverly 45 seconds later than you had to!These three-quarter-minute savings add up, I tell you. Over the course of a week, you can write another novel in the time you save.
Now superimpose this low-grade obsessive-compulsive behavior over a simple journey through Ipswich, Massachusetts. I’m driving down Linebrook Road from the west, heading toward Ipswich Center. Up ahead is a Marini Farm vehicle. These are fabulous vehicles, with a top speed sometimes approaching 18 mph. I love Marini Farm. I’m grateful for their farm stand, and their commitment to growing corn for me and my family. But my next novel will come out a year later than scheduled because I live in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and got caught behind a tractor.
Efficiency? Don’t get me started on Lord’s Square. Or Depot Square. Or that anguished dogleg at High Street and Town Farm Road — an impossible hairpin if you’re coming from the northwest. (Of course, it’s a beautiful glide if you’re coming from the southeast — and zipping past all those unfortunate folks lined up on Town Farm waiting to get out onto High Street.)
And that place where County Street becomes County Road, and South Main can’t decide whether to go straight into Poplar Street or bend south into County? You could grow old sitting at that intersection wondering whether it’s your turn to go.
Oh, for a helicopter!
I’m sure my father could figure this out.
Doug Brendel lives on outer Linebrook Road. How to get there? Don’t even ask. From where you are now, it’s probably impossible. Just follow Doug here at Outsidah.com. Click “Follow.” It’s efficient.