Dawdle

Dawdle: (v) to waste time; idle; trifle; loiter

I don’t know whether to apologize to the word “dawdle” because it’s so old-fashioned that it’s already up in the attic with dust all over it, or to feel sorry for folks who never had a grandparent speak to them tersely, “Come on! Don’t dawdle!”

You see, I didn’t know what “dawdle” meant when I was a kid, but I did know the sound of my grandparents when they were pissed off.

That was an era when grandparents were very dignified and would never think of saying “fuck you,” but with the same intensity of voice would call you a “pernicious dawdler.”

“Pernicious” meaning constant and unchanging.

And “dawdler”—a lazy mofo.

We call these words “old English.” Sometimes I wonder if they’re still spoken in England or just bandied about the royal palace by aging monarchs.

I think “dawdle” would suffer anyway—even if it weren’t so stuffy-sounding.

People, in general, do not like to be hurried.

Matter of fact, one of the worst things you can do if you’re waiting in line behind someone is suggest they speed up—or dare to act upset because they’re taking too long. (This usually causes them to slow down.)

But writing this essay makes me think about when I dawdle.

I now dawdle a little bit about going to pee. It’s not a big deal—and when I get there, I really enjoy myself.

And sometimes I delay by watching another television show—putting off getting my butt up to go to bed.

I dawdle over doing chores (although I never call them chores). Chores are things you would never do yourself, but somebody has suggested you address them. Yes, I have dawdled over things that people want me to do that I don’t necessarily want to do myself.

So I am grateful you can join me here, on the final day of “dawdle’s” life on Earth.

From now on, young children, when asked what the word means, will look with a perplexed face and say, “Dawdle? Isn’t that one of Donald Duck’s nephews?”

Chore

Chore: (n) a routine task, especially a household one.

I suddenly realized that there is no happy word to describe work.

“Labor.” That sucks.

“Effort.” Well, that takes effort

“Struggle.”

Even the word “employment” is constricting, brings a frown to one’s face.

How do we expect to ever move forward in our consciousness when everything seems to be a chore? We didn’t like chores when we were children, so are we going
to wake up one morning having accumulated enough birthdays that we will become intrigued with doing repetitious tasks?

And if we don’t like doing these “events,” what’s to guarantee that the mechanic who’s repairing the airplane doesn’t get bored and take a shortcut?

If we don’t like doing the things we’re supposed to accomplish, won’t we eventually just do them poorly?

And once mediocre becomes normal, normal is certainly dangerous.

How can we re-train ourselves to believe that work is not a chore and that chores do not need to be repetitious, but rather, gain glamor and gleam by being enhanced with new possibilities?

This is not the season to insist on tradition. The work force in America needs a revolution–a revival, if you will–of the passion that originally made us believe we wanted to do what offered us a paycheck.

Don’t ask me to do my chores.

I will rebel, go to my room and listen to the music you don’t like.

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Botany

Botany: (n) the scientific study of plants

“Old Lady Martinson.”Dictionary B

That’s what we called her because we were young, cruel and indifferent to the feelings of anyone who wouldn’t giggle at our silly jokes.

I knew her because she occasionally hired young boys to do chores, offering a quarter for what we deemed was worth a dollar.

She had lots of cats. You didn’t need to see the cats to know this. It just required you being “nosy.”

The smell was horrible.

She was also rather odd (which, as I look back at it, I am not so sure is true, considering that when you’re in your early teens, “odd” is anything that doesn’t fit into your two-square-inch box of understanding).

But I do have one solid memory–she loved to lecture about botany.

She told me she used to teach it in college. To prove her point, she constantly talked to the plant life in her large, unkempt, stale-smelling house.

One day she took me on a tour of her various vines, plants and ferns. As she pointed out each one, she offered a greeting, uttered a name and mustered a bit of encouragement.

She spoke to them.

I was spooked–I thought she was going to have a spasm or attack me with a butcher knife like I had seen in one old movie.

She didn’t.

But it was when she introduced me to her African violets and began to sing to them in mumbo-jumbo that I realized it was time to go.

I think plants are wonderful.

I think we should study them.

I think they are essential to life on Planet Earth.

But I also think we should not “chat them up.”

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Basket

Basket: (n) a container used to hold or carry thingsDictionary B

I have never been particularly fond of work.

I do prefer work that I make up instead of chores that are made up for me. But like every other God-fearing American, I enjoy money.

So when I was a kid–about twelve–my dad, for a very brief time, grew strawberries on our little farm, with the intent of picking them, selling them and procuring an extra income.

Nobody in our family knew how difficult it was to pick strawberries. The plants do not have the decency to grow tall enough to reach up to you. No, you have to go down to get them on the ground.

My dad wanted to sell a pint of strawberries for a quarter. He offered me a nickel for every pint of strawberries I picked.

So I picked and I picked and I picked–and every time I brought him a pint to examine, he said it was not quite full.

At the end of the first day, I had only picked two pints, earning a dime. So overnight, practically in my dreams, I came up with a plan.

Unknown to my father, I carried a roll of toilet paper with me into the strawberry patch, and filled the bottom of my basket halfway with toilet paper, making sure that when I picked the strawberries, they covered the toilet paper so that it would take half as much to achieve a pint.

That night I not only received great praise for picking more baskets–eight in all–but proudly walked away with 40 cents.

I pulled this off for two days until people who were purchasing the strawberries began to complain to my parent about being cheated out of product by being given bathroom issue.

My father was furious.

I don’t know whether he was more unhappy because of the complaints of the people or because I was such a cheat.

But I learned that day that a basket is a basket and never will cease to be a basket.

If you find the basket is too small, then you need to get a larger basket.

And, as in the case of my strawberry picking, if you find the basket is too big, rather than cheating, you must acquire a smaller basket.

 

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Arcade

dictionary with letter A

Arcade: (n) short for video arcade

In 1985, the average babysitter cost about two dollars an hour. Usually an additional dollar was added for each child you encumbered upon the hapless watcher.

So I had three children, and that meant I would be paying four dollars an hour to have them observed by a stranger for a certain length of time so that I could escape and regain my sanity.

What I discovered was that it became much cheaper to drop the three of them off at the new, popular video arcades with a roll of quarters, tell them to spend it wisely and that I would be back in three hours.

The arcade was a tremendous babysitter–sometimes literally a hundred machines captivating the interest of the youngsters, with no sharp edges, tobacco or alcohol temptation or any danger that they might pursue mischief instead of destroying asteroids.

It was truly amazing.

I will grant you that they would come back from this experience in more or less a catatonic state of wonderment over when the next time would arrive, when they would be allowed to enter the mystical world of imaginary enemies and victories.

But it was quite pleasant due to the fact that it was a place your offspring could go which was separate from your home, and then they would depart and you could gradually nurse them back to consciousness of eating, chores and bathing.

When these systems became portable and could be planted in your house, the whole procedure changed. Once a child was addicted to video games, all conversation ceased, meals were ignored and the idea of cleaning one’s room was eschewed in the pursuit of killing Gargons.

 

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Amusement Park

dictionary with letter A

Amusement Park: (n) a large outdoor park with fairground rides and shows.

A magical time and a magical result.

Being the father of several sons, I had the opportunity to instill into them the most important virtue available in the human arsenal of emotions: trustworthy.

After all, eventually you have to reach a point as a parent, where you trust your children to do something–because if you trust them to do nothing, you not only taint their self-worth but also turn them into little scavengers always looking for a way to cheat without getting caught.

One of the tools I used to create this trustworthiness in my children was the local amusement park.

When they reached preteen, I purchased a yearly pass for them at this establishment, which was not more than a few miles from our house. It became the means by which we communicated with each other concerning the importance of chores, truthfulness and family obligation.

Quite bluntly, I was fully aware that my children would love to live at this amusement park with their sleeping bags, two weeks worth of potato chips and candy bars. Since this was out of the question, instead I afforded them the opportunity to attend the amusement park frequently if they showed me that their work ethic and honesty were up to the challenge.

Proving this to me long before they entered the amusement park, I could go in with them, sit on a bench and eat really cheap, delicious hot dogs and send them off on their own, telling them to return in exactly an hour and a half, and know with great confidence, that they would honor this commitment i order to maintain an ongoing passage to this magic world.

  • It was magnificent.
  • It was illuminating.
  • It was one of the greatest teaching tools I ever used in my years of fatherhood.

Some people would call it a bribe. These are the folks who have bratty children but insist they always tell them the exact truth and never deviate from the facts.

I am a parent. Like the New York City police, I am allowed to be deceptive if it stops a crime.

So those yearly passes to the local amusement park was one of the best investments I ever made to ensure that my sons would grow up with some understanding of responsibility … which lends itself to the righteous position of tapping pleasure.

 

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