He makes no move before its time

July 20, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd

"Summertime, and the livin' is easy."- from "Summertime," a song in "Porgy and Bess"

6:15 a.m.: Alarm clock goes off. Through the gray haze of semi-consciousness come the first stabs of panic: What day is this? What has to be done? Who has to be where?

I stumble down to the kitchen for coffee. And there it is, affixed to the refrigerator with one pineapple magnet and one papaya: a gleaming white calendar, with each day marked with multiple scribbles in black felt-tip pen.

This is: The Schedule.

God help us, today looks insane.

6:55: Drive 14-year-old to school bus stop for summer course.

"Are you picking me up today?" she asks.

"Don't you read the schedule?" I say. "The schedule says mom will pick you up. We have to go by the schedule, sweetie. We can't just have someone summarily changing the schedule. Because without a schedule, it's just ... chaos."

Not that I'm obsessive about this stuff.

"Dad," she says, "you're creeping me out."

8:15: Drive 9-year-old and his buddy to basketball camp.

On the way, mentally map out the best route to get from the camp to Ritz Camera, where I'm supposed to drop off film.

The problem is, there is no best way at this time of the morning.

That's the whole problem with Ritz Camera. They have, what, 300 locations in the greater Baltimore area? Would it kill them to build just one more stinking store near this camp?

9:22: Arrive at office. In a bizarre development, southbound JFX is free of usual lingering rush-hour nightmare - tow truck with damaged car blocking one lane, bored-looking cop directing traffic, guy who slammed into car in front of him while talking on a cell phone exchanging insurance info with other driver.

I grab a coffee and sit at the word processor. I have typed exactly three sentences when the phone rings.

It's my wife. She's at work.

"Who's picking up Chrissie at school today?" she asks.

People, people, people ...

Is it me or are we all being a lit-tle too cavalier with the schedule?

9:43: The phone rings. I have written exactly 11 sentences. It's the 17-year-old. He has an interview with his new college academic adviser today. The kid wants to know, is a red polo shirt and shorts OK to wear for this interview?

I say, you know what? We'll have plenty of time to discuss this as soon as the paper fires me for lack of productivity.

I'll be the unshaven guy shuffling around the house in pajamas at 3 in the afternoon with the Help Wanted ads.

12:10 p.m.:Leave work, go fishtailing up JFX, pick up the 14-year-old from school.

"Where were you?" she asks, climbing into car.

It's 12:33, I say. Your class got out at 12:30. You've been waiting maybe 2 1/2 minutes.

She rolls her eyes.

I tell her, you kids today, you don't know how lucky you are. Back in my day, we had to wait 5, sometimes 7 minutes to get picked up after school.

Once, I waited a whole12 minutes for my dad to pick me up! Can you imagine?

She rolls her eyes again.

I don't know why I love torturing her like that. But I do.

5:15: Drive the 9-year-old to the dentist. Beltway looks like North Koreans dropped bomb on Towson, and now everyone's fleeing before the mushroom cloud gets worse.

Sure, sure, I'm hoping the kid has a good check-up, no cavities, his bite's good, etc. But mainly what I hope is, we get this done fast.

I have to be in Timonium before 6. Gotta pick up my wife's bracelet at the jeweler's. Says so right there on the schedule.

6:45: As my wife makes dinner, 14-year-old announces she needs a ride to the library. She has to read "One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich" by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and "Nectar in a Sieve" by Kamala Markandaya for school.

"That's not on the schedule," I say.

My wife and I look at each other. Instantly, we have a vision of the girl's future if we don't get these books: plummeting SAT scores, a lifelong disconnect from reading, a predilection for skipping class to hang out with the thugs across the street smoking Marlboros.

"I suppose we could pencil it in," I say.

7:30: Drive 14-year-old to library as wife drives 9-year-old to his weekly basketball league.

What an odd scene at the library: lots of kids happily clicking away at computer kiosks, lots of senior citizens browsing through the book aisles, smiling and looking relaxed.

What is wrong with these people? Don't they have a schedule?

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