Wednesday, 17 June 2009

a life in a list

Found a piece of paper in my shopping cart yesterday. Torn from a school exercise notebook, sloppy handwriting. Being nosy, I started to read it ... and found myself unable to stop. I read the whole page twice, put the scrap of paper in my pocket, thought about it all through my shopping trip (I was so preoccupied I forgot to get a watermelon), and came back to it repeatedly through the evening. No, it was not a love letter or a suicide note. It was not a poem or a plan to rob a Brinks truck. There was no excitement, no emotional content at all. It was a list -- a series of things to buy and do. Straightforward, incredibly everyday things ... and yet not. Taken together the list can be seen to represent, well, a life. Reading it again now I am amused, sympathetic, moved -- totally fascinated. Here it is. I've kept the spelling but changed the names.
At the top are a few circled grocery items: Tide, Kleenx, air freshener, apple cider. (I guess you start with the essentials.) Then the to-do part begins.
- Get hair fixed
- hole punch shoes

- Penningtons - 3 shirts (present for
Then there's a boxed off area, a sort of side-bar. These are the must-do things:
- mark 100 on calendar for Dad
- put in ww fluid

- p/u Sue @ noon

- put in flowers 8 am

- cut dad's hair 11 am.

The list resumes:
- go out with Kathy 6 pm
- call Dougal after 10 on SUN
- order nasel spray

(That last is my favorite.)
Some more grocery items are scribbled off to one side: coffee, rice, fruit, soup, nachos, pasta, real fruit cookies, mac & cheese, water bottle, Equate, deoderent, toilet chain.
Maybe toilet chain is more hardware than grocery, but it's on the list.
The final entries seem to be more serious. They are double spaced.
- Sue - try nails
- check map account online

- Do SIN application

- sign and return Dance form - Sue

- find present for mom

- Book Dr app for me

Truth is in the details. Put enough small bits of truth together and you have a whole truth. In this case, a character. I do not know her name or address, or the colour of her skin or hair. I don't know why she is hole punching her shoes. I can only speculate as to the significance of 100 for her dad. But I get a very strong sense of her. I like her a lot, and wish her well. Her parents and friends are lucky.


Anonymous said...

That person has too much to do.

A list like this would be a great starting point for a writing exercise. I'm always fascinated when I find someone's list in a grocery cart, but they aren't as interesting as the one you found.

Richard Scrimger said...

We all have a lot to do in a day -- but this person wrote it down. That's the key. Organized, thoughtful, trying hard for control.

Anonymous said...

Ah, yes, but then they lost the list. Not so organized.


Richard Scrimger said...

Yes, well, she is human and flawed.