What is it about routine that is so comforting to humans? Are we that afraid of predictability.
This is the thought that crosses my head while I stare at the ceiling of my tiny bedroom. The clock reads: 6:54. The little red dot in the corner, to signify that it’s in the AM. The same time it reads every single morning.
I slide my feet over the edge of the bed, and they drop down with a little help from gravity. I pull myself into a sitting position, and eventually to a stand. The sand-hued tan carpet is rough and scratchy under my feet. That kind of low-priced mass produced carpet that you can get at any large home improvement retailer for a limited budget. Every low-income apartment complex uses the same stuff. It’s not that pleasant, but it’s better than a slab of concrete I suppose.
Alright, let’s tap the fast forward button and jump ahead to the bathroom scene. Staring myself in the mirror, toothbrush hanging out of my mouth. A white foam reeking of fluoride and spearmint congregates gentle on my lips. The biting strong taste as it nests on my tongue. The same taste I walk out of the house with every single morning.
A short stop at Misty’s Home Style Chow for bacon (extra, extra crispy) and toast (burnt black, no butter). With a side of orange juice (with the pulp) to wash down the bitter taste. The same breakfast of chumps I eat every single morning.
Catch the 563E from the corner of Hope St. and Bitter Resentment Ave. (reading on the sign as “Forester Ave.”). The same bus route, the same driver, even the same patrons as every single morning.
There are a few changes to the familiar sea of lonely faces on the morning commute. Today, a rather annoying lady spewing religious nonsense to a young girl with two kids in tow. You know exactly what is being discussed, and why it is being discussed with this particular young girl. A pamphlet handed from said religious nut bag to said underage child bearer. This happens quite often on busses. The religious nut bags see public transportation as a chamber of people in need of saving. As if God gathered them all together, slapped $2.25 in their hands and told them to hop on up and take a seat for Diving Retribution. Forgiveness On Tax Payers money. And these church-ladies see themselves as shepherds for this lost flock. This particular pamphlet has clouds on it. Like all the rest. And it has quite a simple statement etched across the top in overly fancy lettering.
Well, what if you aren’t supposed to be saved? What if what is considered “saving” is actually just meddling? What if an end is the only means to a new beginning? What if saving just delays salvation? If you really think of it, being “saved” is anything but. These are words I pretty much use to get through the day. The complete opposite sentiment as the church-lady probably uses.
It’s always the same lady too. The same middle-aged lady with the over-zealous, perky demeanor. The same fake, plastered on Jesus-induced grin. Too much teeth to be a real smile. She always says everything in that condescending sing-song tone that grates on your nerves like nails on the old green elementary school chalk boards of the past. You know very well that this lady goes home to the same mid-sized house, to be welcomed back by the same mid-sized dog. Proceeding to head into the mid-sized bathroom to consume an unhealthy amount of Xanax, or Prozac, or Zoloft. Just to force her face into that fake smile for just a few more hours. Jesus saves, my ass.
Let’s go ahead and tap the fast forward button again, skipping the rather obnoxious God rant scene and jump straight to downtown. The streets bustling with the usual suspects. Business men and women in their disgusting expensive suits. They always look the exact same, with a few attempts at difference cast in for good effect. Maybe the women are wearing a bright red shade of lipstick or they‘re equipped with over-priced brand-name shoes or handbags, or the men decorated with brightly colored ties to attempt to look more like a human being and less like a corporate drone. Ultimately, it just makes them look desperate. Trapped in the mundane passing’s of the typical office worker.
Walking side by side with them on the streets, are the college students. The only people under the age of 25 that seem to be up at this time in the morning. They all have the same attempts at looking “scene” or “indie”. The girls cut their hair short, or wear it awkwardly on their heads, some form of piercing on their face, maybe a stray tattoo here or there. The men with a dirty messenger hat drooped down over their eyes, which rest just slightly above the rest of their face, which is coated in a unkempt (on purpose) beard. They all seem to be carrying messenger bags, to shove their expensive textbooks and wads of notebook paper into. They all have the same headphones crammed deep into their ears, blaring the same pretentious “hip” music.
There are other types of people sprinkled in amongst the flocks.
Old people on the way to doctors appointments. Ones they must keep in order to prolong death. Hobos with dirty signs with words such as “Veteran” or “Blind” mixed in. The same exact bums I see every single morning. The same pleading hands. The same stories. The same looks of disdain when you pass them without dropping your change into their hands. The same shit as every single morning. Jesus saves, my ass.
Give that fast forward button another tap, and jump us to the park scene. Me seated on a bench with a handful of crumbs in my palm. Tossing them out with short bursts, watching as they land near my feet, where pigeons gather. I swear, they are probably the same pigeons I see every single morning. They know I’ll be here, every day, and they gather in waiting. They must have a good sense of time, because they always arrive right when I’m sitting down. As if they now rely on me to give them the sustenance they require to live. The sad thing is, I always bring the little baggy of breadcrumbs. The same baggy I use every single day. I’d hate to disappoint the ones that need me. I feel as if I’m somehow a proud parent of a dozen or so tiny, feathered children. All pecking at the ground, lifting their heads and splitting up the chunks of bread with their tiny beaks. Swallowing down the now-suitable morsels.
I love those pigeons. Somehow, they have more of a routine than even I do. I find that oddly comforting. To watch them spend their whole day just wandering around in the sun, accidentally stumbling upon everything they need to survive. It’s a routine, and it isn’t. The routine is aimless wandering. It’s the Chaos Theory in practice. All random events eventually form a pattern. It’s as if leading a unpredictable existence is somehow their routine. Everything the same through total difference.
My watch reads: 10:42. A tiny dial in the corner points to the AM. I don’t have to be to work until around 3. The same time I do my job every single day.
The next stop on my guided path to unenlightenment, is the old cinema a few blocks away. I walk the same streets there that I do every single morning. Walking past the same shops I do every single morning.
A flower shop, with most of it’s flowers on the outside. Tables of them right on the streets. Beautiful mixes of flowers I could never give you the names of. All shapes and shades. Today a young couple stands at the table, the women leaning down and sniffing at a yellow flower amongst a bunch of yellow and white ones, arranged in a bouquet. The man looks on adoringly, as he reaches for his wallet. I suppose it’s just another routine. A girl wants flowers, a man buys them for her. Why is it that we all do the same exact things in regards to relationships with each other? High-fives, hugs, little kisses on the cheeks. “Do you remember so-and-so…” and “I found this great deal on whatever’s at wherever.” Those same useless stories that no one really cares to hear, but listen to only because they mildly like the person speaking. The flowers have been purchased and handed to the lovely young lady. I bet you can’t guess what happens next? A leaping hug and kiss on the cheek. That public show of affection you always hear about. Touching and grotesque all at the same time.
The next shop is an outdoor café. More tables on the streets. If you think about it, a lot of people waste precious moments every day hauling those tables out there. Slapping the table cloth over it. Bundling up silver ware in a napkin. Every day, another routine. Set-up, only to be taken down later. Like building a house, then burning it to the ground. Only repeated every single day, for lousy tips. People sit around the tables, having the same stupid conversations I overhear every single day.
Today, a female café patron, with a cup of what one can only assume is a latte or mocha or some other “fancy” coffee, is discussing the job she has been ordained to do her whole life. Data Entry. Jesus saves, my ass.
“It’s repetitive yes, but the pay is well, and I get good bennies.”
Of course, “Bennies”. Benefits. Health insurance, dental, maybe even a life fund. Money that is never seen in a physical form being siphoned out of your hard earned dollars and slapped into imaginary savings accounts never to be seen again unless something horrible happens. I’m somehow glad my job doesn’t offer such poorly orchestrated services.
Alright, I could go on about the stores, but let’s hit the faithful little fast forward button again and fly to the theater. It’s one of those old-time theater set ups, and it plays fitting movies. Today’s showing: “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” circa 1974. Staring Ellen Burstyn. Directed by Martin Scorsese. A decent film, one I’ve seen a few times here in the past. Another part of the grand ol’ routine, I suppose. The film begins at 11:15. The time on my watch reads: 11:13. Somehow, I am always right on time.
I take my seat in the back of the theater, the same uncomfortable fold-up movie theater chair I sit in every single morning. Third row from the back, six chairs in on the right wing. Not the ideal spot, but it’s mine. It’s not like I couldn’t have a better seat, considering there are only four people in the whole theater. The same four lost souls that occupy this place with me every single morning.
I don’t want to discuss the movie itself, so why don’t we fast forward once more, just short of two hours later. Walking back out onto the street. The time on my watch reads: 1:20. It’s time to head towards my place of business.
This is where the routine breaks. But just like the pigeons in the park, it’s in this chaos I find my pattern. My job is in a different location every day, but it’s always around the same time, and it’s always generally the same thing. Another line on the résumé.
Today’s job is near Master’s Irish Pub on 20th. I think I’ll walk, even if it is a ways away. Try to take some roads I haven’t taken in awhile, to add some variety to my life. Variety is the spice of life, is it not? Cliché’s, another great form of routine.
Today’s walk takes well over an hour. The city is vast, and chock full of streets to cross. The bustle of traffic and the white-to-orange-to-white again crossing signs manages to add quite a few minutes to my travels. How much time is wasted every day waiting to cross streets, I wonder. Do all these business men, hobos, college students, happy couples, old people on death’s doorstep, Jesus-freaks, and mothers in need of saving waste too much time getting from one unimportant place to another? Maybe, but after all, it’s just another part of the routine.
I’ll spare you the details, and we’ll go ahead and use the fast forward option one last time before this story’s end. Jump to 3, in the PM. Time to get to work.
His name is Trevor Mathias. Age: 23. Occupation: Video Store Clerk. No wife, no girlfriend even. Hopefully no kids. Kids just make things complicated. Trevor spends each of his mornings walking from the bagel shop to work, a three minute walk. He takes a back alley behind Eckman’s Tailor Shop. A dark alley. Appears to be an easy job today.
I stand at the mouth of the alley, and just like clockwork, there is my friend Trevor. He turns the corner and starts down the alley from the other side. I guess I’ll meet him half way. I start down the alley myself, the rank smell of piss and dumpster juices burns the insides of my nostrils, much like the early-morning taste of spearmint from the toothpaste eats away at my taste buds. This smell is common in the city, a socially acceptable part of the routine.
I reach behind my back, lifting up the edge of my shirt, and slide my hand around my working tool. A standard NATO 9mm, 15 round magazine, fitted snuggly with an Airsoft silencer. Not the best on the market, but it’s been dependable. Reliable, and in this life, that’s all you can really ask for from something. I’d even go so far as to say it’s been faithful. Jesus saves, my ass.
I watch Trevor watch me, I walk towards him walking towards me. I count the steps.
I grip the handle tight and start to slide it from the waste band of my pants. It’s the same motion I make every single morning. That silly routine. How I grow tired of it’s comforting embrace. I long so desperately for something different. Someone to put up a fight, to run. But instead it’s always the same things. Pleading. Bargaining. Praying. Pissing. Crying. Running. The same human reactions to the fear of death, the same reactions every animal has. Fight or Flight? We choose to fly. The routine in human survival mechanisms.
I’m so fucking sick of routines!
I just want something fucking different!
WHY CANT SOMETHING FUCKING CHANGE!
I guess it can.
I release the handle. My shirt drops down over the gun. I place my hand back at my side, and keep counting.
And just like that, here is Trevor, right next to me. I look at him with some kind of empty look. He smiles and nods.
“Nice day, ain’t it!”
I force a smile. Well, maybe forced isn’t the right word. I broke my routine. Something different happened. That genuinely made me feel good. So I guess this smile isn’t forced at all. I let the smile flow, and look into Trevor’s eyes. And I say something I have never said, a different thing this morning. I say:
“Yeah, you know what… it really is a nice day.”