The Coffee Rule is really quite simple: “No chore may be assigned or performed until I’ve had a morning cup of coffee.” That’s it. No fine print, no codicil in legalese, no warning about dangerous symptoms. Just one simple little rule designed to get the day off on the right foot. I came up with it one morning when my eyes were barely open and the day’s chore list was growing longer by the minute. If I didn’t create the coffee rule on the spot, I was doomed.
You see, I’m a contemplative sort. I tend to think about things for a while, to observe before I act. Like Ferdinand the bull, I want to smell the rose before I pluck it, to resist impulse and instead, make a space for action before action is required. That’s just my modus operandi and it works for me, most of the time, anyway.
The wee wife, on the other hand, is a doer: when something needs doing, she does it and with a burst of energy that makes that silly pink, drum-banging bunny look slow off the line. Between you and me, I admire her attitude: it’s how the world gets turned, but without a coffee rule to slow her pace, it would be spinning a little too fast for me.
Most of the time, she will wait patiently for me to finish my morning cup but sometimes I catch her tapping her foot or peeking into my cup to see how much coffee is left. For my part, I try not to take advantage. While I don’t exactly gulp my coffee down, neither do I linger ’til that good last drop. I’m well aware that I can only get away with so much thinking and observing; eventually I’ll have to drop into the day headfirst and do my best to keep up or get out of her way.
There’s another aspect to this. The wee wife is a planner who thinks nothing about making plans for next November. I, on the other hand, tend to take life as it comes. I’m willing to trade a little uncertainty for some spontaneity. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but come on: who knows if it’s going to rain three Thursdays hence so why plan a dinner party with our old friend Al Fresco today? She counters with, “Well, at least put it on the calendar; if we have to amend, so be it.” She’s probably right that, too. Sigh.
Fortunately, we love each other—I guess opposites really do attract—so we make our differences work. Most of the time. I’m well aware that there are days when my honey-do list grows annoyingly long and when that happens, I at least try to scratch off an item or two before noon when it’s time to invoke the ice-tea rule. The ice-tea rule is very similar to the coffee rule except it takes effect at midday, not first thing in the morning. For some reason, the ice-tea rule gets a little less traction in our house because, as we all know, time flies and there are only twenty-four hours in a day. Tap, tap, tap.
I think our friends get a kick out of watching our little show. I’m guessing we’re not the only couple who operate on different schedules or who approach timetables differently. Once upon a time, I worked for a woman who didn’t think twice about getting to the airport just before the airplane closed its doors. Drove me nuts. I’m the guy who likes to get to the airport two hours before flight time, just so I can watch all those stressed-out people running to catch their flights. Makes me feel so superior!
Be all this as it may, in my heart of hearts, I know the wee wife is right. It’s good to make a plan; it’s good to not let the chores pile up too high. We live in an old wood house and left to my own devices, I might well let the honey-do list get so long that it would be over my head and I’d be left with walls that look like Swiss cheese. On the other hand, there are still some blossoms on the rose bush worth sniffing before it’s time to trim it. Again.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with a home in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine.
Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com