Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Multi-tasking for Beginners

Scotty Schneider, Multi-Tasker Supreme

I didn’t think it was possible, but I’ve found a whole new way to annoy my youngest son. Catering to his every need isn’t one of them. He has no problem with that. On any given day, I’m likely to ask him one of the following questions: “Shall I toast that for you, my darling?” “Shall I launder that for you?” “Shall I buy that for you?” “Shall I do more for you than I would ever do for myself?” I understand that he’s busy. He plays soccer and basketball and a variety of challenging video games. There are friends to chat with online, and drums to bang on, and music to blast at eardrum-piercing decibels. Now and then, there’s studying and the small matter of college applications. The boy has no time to pick up all those nice clothes he leaves on the floor. Please. That’s my job. I get it. Duh! After years of following silly advice in parenting books, about setting limits and blah-blah-blah, I’ve concluded that my way works better. I go with my natural instincts. I spoil him rotten.

Until recently, fulfilling his every wish got a big thumbs-up. But lately, he’s so impatient with me. He doesn’t understand why I can’t match his level of extreme multitasking. I’m only good for one or two tasks, tops. I can sit at the computer and drink coffee. I can sit at the computer and answer the phone. I can sit at the computer and stare at the screen, as I was doing the other day, when he asked me to read a rough draft of his college essay. So here’s what I did: I sat there and read it. I went sentence by sentence. I lingered over this word and that idea. I took my time. And it drove him crazy.  “What’s taking so long?” he asked. “I’m reading your essay.” “You should be done by now.” He made a move to turn on the music. “Don’t,” I said. “You can’t read with music on?” he asked. “No.” “You’d fail at being a teenager,” he said. (As if I’d ever want to be one again.) “You couldn’t multitask if your life depended on it.” “Is that such a bad thing?” “Yes!” he said. “What’s so great about multitasking?” “You get more done.” “Maybe so, but you get it done, badly.” I went on to explain my philosophy for the eightieth time in two weeks. “I’m old. I need to concentrate. I lost valuable brain cells back in the ’70s.”

I played the pity card next. I told him how I didn’t even have a computer in school. I had a lousy electric typewriter. “No spell check!” “That’s awful,” he said. “No cell phones. No Google. No Wikipedia,” I said. I could tell I was reaching him. I was getting through at last. We were really connecting. He put a loving hand on my shoulder. “What’d you think of my essay?” “I haven’t finished it yet.” “Why not?” “We’ve been talking.” “You can’t talk and read at the same time?” “I refer you to our previous discussion.” “Which discussion?” “The one we just had.”

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Oh, No, You Didn't!

The summons arrives in my mailbox. I stare at it in disbelief. My brain fills with dread. Anxiety swoops down for a landing. “Oh, no, you didn’t!” I say. I mean, seriously. I just did freaking jury duty three years ago. A scary, criminal case. Attempted murder. Very “CSI.” Guys with tattoos. Gunshots. Gangs. Contentious deliberations. Lots of shouting. I screamed the loudest. The experience left scars, people. Deep ones, on my hands from all that table-banging. For three weeks, or was it four, I was one angry gal. Oh, the trauma. Oh, the police escorts to the parking lot. I ask you: Haven’t I done my civic duty? Don’t I deserve a lifetime pass?