"With the certitude of a true believer, Vellya Paapen had assured the twins that there was no such thing in the world as a black cat. He said that there were only black, cat-shaped holes in the universe."
-- Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I have always been a multi-tasker.  I talk on the phone while folding laundry.  I make lists while eating dinner.  I once attempted to put my contacts in while brushing my teeth.  (It did not work.)

One of my favorite ways to multi-task used to be grading papers while watching TV.  I always convinced myself that I was being super-productive while also relaxing after work and catching up on my favorite shows.  Though in actuality, I was really just watching TV and then trying to frantically grade during the commercial breaks, which sometimes resulted in my accidentally writing things like, “Great idea development but you need to work on your whitens teeth,“ on the tops of papers.  This method of multi-tasking has become more difficult now that I have a DVR and a husband that hates sitting through commercials.

Recently, however, I have taken my multi-tasking to a whole new level.  I have begun reading in the car.  Before you get all huffy and judgmental, I do not read whilst driving.  I read at stoplights.  Let me explain.

For years, I have held the firm belief that you should always, ALWAYS have a book with you. 

Problem:  Long wait at the dentist office and no magazines without the word “parenting” on the cover? 
Solution:  Book. 
Problem:  Standing in line at the DMV and the weird guy who smells like Pine Sol is looking for someone to chat with?
Solution:  Book.
Problem:  Your husband says purchasing a new TV at Best Buy won’t take long at all, but he’s more wrong than he’s ever been before and all the display models are showing 3-D movies, but you don’t have any 3-D glasses, so it’s kinda like seeing The Blair Witch Project with only one contact in?
Solution:  Book.

Because I love to read anyway, and often long for time to peruse a few pages, these previously unpleasant experiences can actually be made enjoyable by having in my possession… a book.

Which brings me back to my new pastime. 

In order to get to work, I drive 26.4 miles and encounter 29 stoplights along the way.   The commute takes me 45 minutes in the morning and up to 55 in the evenings.  Although I know it could be worse, it’s not my favorite hour of the day.  I try to pass the time by listening to NPR, but sometimes after a long day of teaching you just can’t listen to any more stories about budget cuts or riots.  I often (I’ll be honest) pass the time by talking on the phone to friends and family, but people frown on that and I am tired of giving AT&T all of my money.

So… I’ve started reading.  I pull up to a red light, come to a complete stop a safe distance from the car in front of me, open my book to my marked page, and read a few sentences.  That’s usually all I get before traffic starts to move again.  And I instantly (even mid-sentence, I swear) close the book and proceed on my way, pondering the few words I’ve collected in the mean time.  The next time I am compelled to halt, I again safely stop my vehicle before seeing what happens next in the chapter.

What I have found, is that I am much more calm of a driver, much less impatient to get home, and much more relaxed when I get there if I spend my red lights reading rather than stewing over time lost.  If it’s a “bad day” I can sometimes read up to two pages during my commute.  And I have not been honked at even once.

I’m not trying to suggest that other people pick up my new habit.  I’m sure it’s not the safest thing to do, and if there is not one yet, there will probably soon be a law against reading in the car, as well as eating french fries or singing at the top of your lungs (both of which I do as well, often at the same time).  All I’m saying is that for me, taking in a few paragraphs at a traffic light has brought a little peace to an otherwise stressful hour of my day.


  1. I used to carry my bills in my purse and write checks for them at stop lights. Very efficient and saved an hour or more on a Saturday--extra sleep :0)

  2. Wow... that is SERIOUS multi-tasking!