This morning I was plumping the pillows while I was making the bed & wondered how much time pillow-plumping would add up to over the course of a lifetime.
My banjo-playing friend, Mark, used to say “It costs money every day just to live,” but that’s not the half of it. Add to pillow-plumping time the time it takes to eat, get dressed, read your mail, eat, pee, shit, brush your teeth, polish your faucets, vacuum. Very little is left over for curing cancer, & even renowned cosmologists still have to clip their toenails. If I had a car that required this much maintenance between relatively brief trips to somewhere luscious, I would have junked it a long time ago. I don’t know why I put up with it. Even if I haven’t put forth a good quintessence theory of the universe by the time I’m dead, at least I’ll have clean underwear & no nose hair? Really?
So let’s see. Eight hours sleeping (also maintenance), 5-ish hours working, 3-ish hours fucking off, watching Law & Order re-runs, etc. (mental maintenance). Eight left over, probably 5 of which is maintenance for me & an 2-3/4 is for maintenance for my dogs (I think if you have kids this is probably reversed), & 15 minutes for “fun,” not to be confused with Law & Order re-runs, which fall more into the category of “addiction.”
That’s 74% on toenail clipping, tooth brushing, food prep, driving to places where maintenance must be conducted outside the home, cleaning belly-button lint, folding laundry (you’re kidding), sanding calluses. All stuff that will just have to be done again relatively soon. I guess that’s what makes it “maintenance” rather than “repair.” That leaves 25% for solving global warming, of which 23% has to be spent on my actual day job, & 1% on fun (I don’t have any examples, since I’ve forgotten what that is, exactly). If I live to be a hundred (I’m cursed with longevity), that means I’ve spent 74 years of it just trying to stay here. I find the thought exhausting. All that time just so I can have hairless legs? So my dogs’ nails won’t scratch the Pergo? So my pillows look like little breath mints instead of crumpled-up pieces of newspaper? Lawdy. I’m beginning to understand my friend Tom Field, who said he wanted to just clean the bathroom once & then never have anyone use it ever again. I just got my dog Andy’s teeth cleaned for the first time in his 7 years. How great would that be. If I could do that I’m sure I could milk at least another month and a half out of my hundred years. I heard a dermatologist say once that if your skin didn’t self-exfoliate, you’d be driving your face around in front of you in a shopping cart. I wish it were all like that.
All this hamster-wheel running is aimed at staying here as long as possible so that I can do more maintenance, & even more of it is aimed at nothing whatsoever. Only a fraction of my time on the planet will be devoted to something other than checking my email, & this just suddenly seems astonishing to me. I don’t know if there’s really anything that can be done about this other than having dredlocks & bad teeth. It occurs to me that this describes street people & those from third-world countries. They have almost no maintenance, but they also don’t live as long. 100% of their time is spent on survival, which is totally different from maintenance, since you’re trying to buy a ticket to stay rather than paying the equivalent of HOA dues so your lawn can stay mowed. Still, I would bet the net number of years without maintenance is more than it is in a long life with. & potentially here’s a lot more meaning in survival than in pink toenails & buying loofas at Walgreen’s. There’s something about this in the Tiny House movement, not that Tiny House-ers all have too much hair, but at least they don’t have to take 1.9 years out of a life to vacuum.
This all makes me think some serious time management is in order, but it’s going to have to wait until I’m done squeezing my nose pores.