Bad habits: a list, by Emily Winslow

My bad habits:

1) Snacking too much.

2) Pausing to check my email while I’m playing with the kids.

3) Staying up late because I’m too tired to get off the couch to go up to bed (and watching just one more recorded episode is so tempting!)

4) My most pervasive bad habit has to do with parking lots, but it applies all over my life:

I’m an on-time kind of person. Actually, I’m an early kind of person–I like time to spare, and no rushing. I put a lot of work into where I’m going. I print out directions. I keep an eye on the time. I take a few minutes in the bathroom to look right before I appear for an appointment.

What I don’t do is pay any attention to how I’m going to find my car again. I emerge from the mall or office space with no idea where I’ve parked it. I wander the rows, craning my neck. (This is especially hopeless when it’s a rental car and I *literally don’t even know what color it is.*) I treat getting somewhere like an elaborate production; getting home is an improvisation.

I do the same thing with paperwork. I’m careful with what needs to be done. But once the bill has been paid or the handwritten notes have been typed, I don’t pop the old pages into the recycling or file them. I literally put them down right where I am and move on to the Next Important Thing That Needs To Be Done. There the old pages sit, and gradually I forget if I’ve dealt with them already or not. I can’t throw them away without thoroughly reviewing them, and who has time for that? There is more that Needs To Be Done. Piles get taller.

I’d like to get better at finishing tasks off neatly, rather than just finishing the urgent parts and rushing to the urgent parts of the next thing. This includes needing to wash dishes after making a meal, and put clothes away after washing them. And taking a moment to note where I put the car, and printing out reverse directions to get me home.

Do you have a good “lost my car in a parking lot” story?

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Emily Winslow

6 thoughts on “Bad habits: a list, by Emily Winslow

  1. There’s a certain parking lot in Philly where Matt and I lose our car EVERY time, even when we make a point of remembering what color we’re on. Each color has three separate levels, so unless we return via exactly the right staircase, we’re doomed to wander around in maddening circles, calling our car’s name for at least thirty minutes, until one of us spots it and sprints toward it, as if it’s going to leave without us.

  2. Once I couldn’t find my car so I set off its horn with the remote keychain. I finally spotted it and rushed over, remotely unlocked it, and began yanking on the passenger’s side door (I had to put my bags down). The door didn’t seem to work so I yanked harder, then glimpsed the terrified-looking face of a man in the driver’s seat. My identical car was next to his. What with the honking and yanking, I’m sure he thought he was being attacked by a madwoman. Which actually isn’t that far from the truth.

  3. A friend and I once spent an hour after a Cubs night game wandering the streets of Chicago looking for his car. If it’s not my car, I totally forget to pay attention to where we park it. Actually, if I remember correctly, I did have a general idea of where it was, but he wouldn’t go that way because he “didn’t think so.” Boys! Luckily, my husband always knows where he parked or I’d still be wandering around the Vanderbilt hospital after visiting our friend there about five years ago.

  4. Sometimes when I’m surfing, I’ll look out to sea and forget which beach I’m at. I’m so in the moment that the only thing that seems to matter is what’s in front of me, not what’s behind me. Of course it could also be because I’m senile.

  5. Because I have a real phobia of becoming trapped, it is imperative that I figure out my car’s exact location (as Larramie said, “carmark” it) before I leave it in its spot. If I weren’t already acutely aware of my quirkiness in this regard, the fact that I’ve had the same basic dream of forgetting where I parked in my school parking lot numerous times durng my lifetime makes me realize it’s a deeply-embedded big deal. I’d love to be more blase about it like you, Emily, but that’s not gonna’ happen!

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