Men don't get the concept of an errand

April 02, 2006|By SUSAN REIMER

I WAS HAVING LUNCH with my husband and son, in a rare aligning of the planets, when I excused myself early.

"I have to run some errands," I said.

They exchanged glances and then turned their high beams on me.

"Wha-a-at?" I said, defensive.

"You know," said my husband, stroking his chin, "ever since the kids were little, you've been running these so-called errands. What are these errands? And when will you be done running them?"

"Yeah," said my son. "What errands?"

They were not suspicious that I had some kind of secret life and used the vague excuse of "errands" to go and live it. These men -- honest-to-god -- had no idea what a woman is doing when she is running errands.

It is just another way in which the sexes differ. I don't think men make lists, either.

Errands, if I can risk a definition for something that is a rather sprawling concept, are a set of unrelated tasks that require you to drive from place to place, usually in irritating traffic, and waste what might otherwise be a very pleasant weekend morning or afternoon.

Errands are most often recorded in a list (see above), because they are too disconnected to be remembered, and they are usually set down in a kind of geographical order so you don't have to double back on yourself.

There are usually a lot of them -- more than can be accomplished in the time you have set aside -- and you usually don't get them all done. That means, of course, that you have a head start on your list of errands for next Saturday.

That's the other thing. You usually do errands on Saturday. And since it is impossible to do errands with children, they require that your husband watch the kids. (If my husband and son are any indication, it takes many, many years before your family questions this arrangement.)

Men don't run errands. They go to the hardware store to find the one thing they need to do the one job in front of them. Women do errands.

Examples of some errands?

A new shower curtain liner; a deposit at the bank; picking up a prescription; returning an article of clothing; replacing windshield wipers on your van; picking up that specialty item you need for a recipe; picking up the dry-cleaning; dropping off the dry-cleaning; returning something you borrowed from a friend; getting the art supplies your child needs for a school project, and getting a bottle of wine for that night's dinner.

This list seems straightforward, but crossing off these items is not. For example, returning an article of clothing might require you to try on several others. Purchasing a new shower curtain liner could cause you to think about changing the color scheme in the bathroom and to spend a chunk of time in the linen department toward that end.

You are bound to run into someone you know while at the pharmacy, or see the mother of your child's classmate in the checkout line at the craft store. This usually leads to conversation about, among other things, the state of things at the neighborhood school and what teacher you hope the kids get for fourth grade.

None of the supermarkets you visit has the ingredient you were searching for, so you have to recast the dinner menu on the spot and collect what you need to prepare it, plus a few other things you see that you are pretty sure you are out of. The result is a full-fledged grocery shopping that you had not planned to do today.

And, if you are lucky, you will meet your girlfriend at the liquor store and she will suggest that you bring that bottle of wine to her front porch, where you will drink it in the waning light of a Saturday afternoon.

All the while, your husband is at home accomplishing absolutely nothing because he is "watching the kids."

"Watching the kids." A mysteriously unproductive activity that women do not understand. The opposite of "running errands."

susan.reimer@baltsun.com

To hear an audio clip of this column and others, go to baltimoresun.com / reimer.

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