Trust me, I have a system for that!

Terry Fallis. Photo credit Tim Fallis.
Terry Fallis. Photo credit Tim Fallis.

Maybe it’s because I’m an engineer by academic training. Or perhaps I’m just anally retentive. Some have suggested I’m obsessive. I like to think I’m, at least, gifted, and at most, more highly evolved than the average member of the human tribe, though there is mounting evidence that this view is held by a minority of one. Whatever the explanation, I have developed and honed systems for most of the big and small tasks life hands me on a daily basis. No haphazard approach for me that changes with each execution. No. I have a system and I stick to it.

Some of you – okay perhaps many of you – are wondering, what’s he talking about? Allow me to offer an example or two to illustrate. I seem to be the one in our family who loads the car for excursions, whether for a cottage weekend or a family vacation. I don’t mean to make that sound like someone delegated the responsibility to me. No, I seized the honour, called dibs first, thrust my hand into the air faster than anyone else (not that I recall any other takers). Having carefully examined the cargo area of our modest Mazda SUV (of course procured from Leaside’s Gyro Motors), I have developed a system for optimal loading. I know where, when, and how to position the larger pieces, the medium-sized articles, and my favourite (not), the small and loose items that are free-floating and utterly unencumbered by any containment device at all, be it bag, box, or elastic band. If you play this important cargo-architect role in your family, you’ll know this is just as much art as science.

This is no slight against the rest of the family – they have other strengths – but it’s immediately obvious when someone who lacks my packing gene has loaded the car, usually as soon as the tailgate is opened, and items avalanche onto the driveway. The other giveaway is when I slide into the driver’s seat ready for a two-hour drive in rush hour traffic and notice in my rearview mirror that I have absolutely no visibility of the road behind me, so mountainous is our load.

I have systems for dozens of tasks, including snow shoveling, folding laundry, stocking the fridge (a natural extension of my car-loading gifts), cutting the lawn, cooking, and many others. One of my favourites is loading the dishwasher. I suspect the fabric of many a family has been strained by divergent views on dish placement in the racks. (Or maybe it’s just in our house.) Dishwashers are carefully designed to accommodate dishes of various types and sizes. Thin items, like dinner plates, side plates, cutting boards, Tupperware lids, etc. are made to be lined up in the main area of the lower deck. Obvious, right? And then there’s that special section on the edge that takes thicker items like those flat pasta bowls, or shallow casserole dishes. I confess I get a little agitated when I’m reaching to load one of those pasta bowls only to find that a microscopically thin cookie sheet is taking up the only real estate in the dishwasher that can accommodate these thicker bowls. I try to stay calm as I move the cookie sheet to one of the 14 other spots that can take it among the other dinner plates so I can then slot my bowl into the only area where it will fit. People, there’s a system!

So, what does my fixation on systems say about me? (I can’t repeat in a community publication what some – in my own family – have said.) Perhaps I’m just a creature of habit who takes comfort in routine. I don’t consider it obsessive-compulsive behaviour, though some do. I think it’s really about locking in tried-and-true approaches so that when established, they free up cerebral capacity for me to tackle more important matters, like world peace and bringing the Stanley Cup back to Toronto. You need a system? I’m your guy.

About Terry Fallis 55 Articles
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis grew up in Leaside and is the award-winning writer of seven national bestsellers, all published by McClelland & Stewart. His most recent, Operation Angus, is now in bookstores.