After the Fact: By the Numbers


People like lists They give them a sense of organization and purpose, as grocery lists (even when you leave it at home before going to City Market). It doesn’t seem to matter whether the items are listed alphabetically or chronologically or by aisle in the store, a list is among those things that we all think we need even when our memory is sharp enough to remember the names of all of our grade school teachers (and what grade we got in math every year).

Numbers are a big thing in my dreams I fill blackboards with numbers solving problems that have never been problems until my mind thinks them so. I have even invented numbers, or symbols for numbers that don’t exist. And I dream lists. Not that they have any more touch with reality than the numbers. The other night, I dreamed a list of things that needed lists. And then there was the night when I thought about things I needed to think about. The dreaming mind knows no logic. It also knows no boundaries, which, I guess, is why we can do amazing and astounding things in our dreams, like leaping tall buildings in a single bound. And flying. The “without benefit of aircraft” sort of flying.

When I retired at Behavioral Health, Nancy Plane (Herman’s lovely spouse) gave me a Wonder Woman T-shirt that has an attached cape. I’ve worn it dozens of times because it’s just fun to wear, but, so far, I’ve not managed to lift off. Is that false advertising? Or simply wishful thinking? I can’t picture Nancy in a Wonder Woman T-shirt, but I’d bet she has a pair of butterfly or fairy wings in her closet for times when her grandkids visit. That’s the sort of thing you should wear when planting fairy gardens, and I know she’s done that. Grandmothers have a fashion sense that only other grandmas and grandkids understand. Granddads have a fashion sense, too. It consists of whatever is remotely clean and entirely comfortable. Their idea of dressing up for an occasion is to wear clean overalls and to scrape the mud and cow pies from the bottom of their boots. I think granddads would rather have both feet on the ground than wear a T-shirt with a cape.

But back to “lists.” It’s been a while since I had to attend a meeting where the order of business was presented as an “agenda.” You’re either handed this agenda when you come through the door or it’s waiting for you on a table. After sorting out your worldly goods (jacket, purse, coffee cup), you quickly scan the agenda. As the meeting goes on (and on and on), you look again. And again. As if, by looking, you’re going to shorten the list of things they want to discuss by even one item. The longer the meeting, the more times you’ll peruse the agenda. It doesn’t change. By the time you’ve dropped your agenda to adjourn, you can’t remember where you started, and it really doesn’t matter because you’ll go over it again at next week’s meeting. 

The longer the meeting, the less important the items on the agenda become, and the fewer things that will actually be accomplished. Oh, and then there are the committees’ and sub-committees’ reports of things that never seem to get done at all.

Added to the list of lists, there are the menus. South Central Colorado Seniors puts a monthly menu in the newspaper and the “real thing” seldom deviates from that plan. If it     says “rutabagas,” but the rutabagas aren’t in season, you may get turnips but, by golly, the kitchen will tell you they are RUTABAGAS. And they’ll even have a schedule of how many calories, how many atoms and protons are in one rutabaga.

Contrary to the opinion of some diners, a menu is not a list of suggested selections: you cannot choose one item from column “A”, another from column “B” and so on until you’ve satisfied the 12 major food groups you think will satisfy your appetite. A waitress dislikes nothing more than someone who wants to make substitutions. If you think that’s your due, try suggesting that your mother. Or your wife.

Advertisement