Monday, December 8, 2008

Some treats take drudgery out of endless errands

Simply Living

(First appeared in Orlando Sentinel December 8, 2008)

I'm not a big fan of shopping, but that doesn't mean I don't shop.

Several times a week, I drive into town to do errands. Sometimes, it's as if I'm constantly running in and out of stores, buying this, returning that and, in the process, checking items off a seemingly endless to-do list.

Chores aren't fun, but someone has to do them.

All partnerships have their divisions of labor. In our marriage, my husband handles the finances and is the official "fixer." No matter what breaks -- and, as any homeowner knows, there is always something needing repair -- he can make it better. He's a regular MacGyver that way.

My part of the deal is to be in charge of most household chores, do the shopping and prepare the majority of meals. I'm also the delegated "go-fer." Ralph has about as much desire to leave home as a turtle has to abandon its shell, but that doesn't prevent him from needing things in town. Often, he requires hardware for one of the many construction projects that are a constant in our marriage.

"Would you pick up a couple 1-inch slip-by-slip CPVC couplings when you're in town?" he might ask. Or he may say, "Get me a box of 3/4-inch galvanized screws and, while you're there, pick up another pressure switch in case the pump goes out again."

My competence in construction hasn't improved much in three-plus decades, but those errands to Home Depot, Lowe's and Ace Hardware have vastly improved my knowledge of the plumbing, electrical and carpentry lexicon.

Other stops usually include the bank, a postal store, the grocery and produce market, a gas station, library, thrift shops and a run into one or another of the big-box stores for assorted sundries. I leave home with a checklist and, determined to make the best use of my limited time, dutifully map out the most efficient route.

While most errands fill needs, two of my regular stops are purely for pleasure. Going to the library and popping into one of several thrift shops are rewards I give myself for performing the more perfunctory tasks. I believe jobs well done should warrant compensation -- but not necessarily the monetary kind.

I'm not one to want new shoes, expensive jewelry or fancy gadgets. The mere suggestion of going to a mall is enough to make me want to crawl away and hide. I find fun browsing the library stacks for this week's perfect read or trolling through the musty aisles at secondhand stores for that special bargain. Thrift shops stock an eclectic mix offering endless possibilities.

Part of the fun comes from not knowing what treasure may be sitting on a shelf when you happen to drop by. Yesterday I found a stained-glass light fixture for only $5. Of course, installing it will generate another project that will undoubtedly require another trip to the hardware store. The circle continues, but I can't complain.

I have one other way of rewarding myself for completing the chore of running errands. I take the slow road back home. It takes a few minutes longer but the scenic route allows me to relax and reflect -- something that's harder to do when driving on multilane highways.

Recently, I discovered a new incentive to make my "go-fer" outings even more enjoyable. While driving I listen to audio recordings of my favorite books. At 13 CDs per novel, it can take weeks to complete an unabridged book, but the anticipation only adds to the allure.

Life is full of pleasant and unpleasant duties. The trick is to find ways to make the best of those undesirable tasks. Thrift shops, libraries and slow rides home while listening to stories have helped turn my less-than-fun chores upside down. Who knew going to town with a long list of errands could actually be fun?

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