The hazards of multitasking: A cautionary tale
Special to Stars and Stripes December 29, 2023
Military spouses have master’s degrees. Millions shop with Mastercard. Some are masters of disguise. And I wouldn’t be surprised if a milspouse is one of the Masters of the Universe.
Anything’s possible, but one thing is certain: All military spouses are Masters of Multitasking. It’s an expertise that comes from managing the many demands of our unpredictable, mobile lifestyles while our active-duty spouses are away from home.
A typical military spouse will figure out ingenious ways to accomplish two, three or four tasks simultaneously. Despite the miraculousness of these feats, extreme multitasking can become hazardous duty.
Case in point: Recently, while my Navy retiree husband was away in Connecticut, commuting for work, I needed a few groceries. My tendency to multitask was permanently ingrained from our active duty years. “Hmm,” I thought, “I’ll take my bike to the small grocery store down the street for exercise, and I’ll catch up on my audio book during the ride.” But like many a masochistic milspouse, I didn’t stop there. “You know,” I bargained with myself, “Gilligan still needs a walk, so I’ll let him run alongside my bike. And I’ll bring my afternoon coffee.”
Envisioning a lovely half-mile ride to McQuaid’s Market, I took off on my pink beach bike with my coffee in the cup holder, my headphones playing an audio book, my purse in the basket and 10-month-old yellow lab happily running alongside on his retractable leash. An unseasonably mild afternoon, the descending sun shone on my face as I sipped my coffee and inhaled sea air.
“Chapter fourteen. Tom called Eloise” — the back wheel came to a sudden halt and my earphones were plucked out when Gilligan darted into someone’s yard. Somehow, I’d avoided falling when Gilligan’s retractable leash became tangled in the chain gasket. While he made a most revolting deposit in the grass, I tugged at the snarled leash until —“SNAP!” — it broke in half, one end slurping up into the spring-loaded handle, never to be seen again.
I bagged up the enormous pile left by Gilly and placed it in the basket before carrying on to McQuaid’s Market, holding onto the remaining leash. In the last three blocks, Gilligan jerked toward a squirrel running across the road, a cat on top of a garbage can and another yellow lab behind a fence — stopping my bike, spilling my coffee and sending the dog doo and my purse airborne.
Remarkably, I made it to McQuaid’s without doing a faceplant on the pavement, tied Gilly’s leash to a cart stand and commanded him to “stay” while I went inside. Adorably, he cocked his lug head sideways, vaguely remembering what I’d trained him to do. Inside McQuaid’s, I wandered the aisles to regain my rattled composure, digressing from my short shopping list and mindlessly buying two large bags of food.
“What a good boy!” I exclaimed, finding Gilligan waiting patiently outside.
“Is this YOUR dog?” an angry voice came from an idling car’s window. “Dogs like yours get stolen, you know! You think he’ll be here when you return, but then, ‘Merry Christmas,’ your dog now lives in New Jersey!”
Feeling like a scolded child, I stuffed one grocery bag into the basket with the dog doo, hung the other over the handlebars and took off with Gilly for home. Just as before, he darted back and forth, investigating whatever caught his attention, while I tried to maintain control in the fading light.
Just as we passed the residence of a pit-bull mix named “Meatloaf,” Gilly yanked one last time, causing his leash to wrap around my back tire and become irretrievably jammed in the gasket. “PHSSSSSSSSS!” I heard, as the tire went flat.
With Gilligan still attached to the last three feet of leash trapped in the gasket, I carried my incapacitated pink bike, two crushed bags of groceries, my purse, coffee mug and the dog doo the rest of the way. Sweaty and exhausted, I arrived home in the dark, cut Gilligan’s leash loose and salvaged what I could from the battered bags of food.
I’d accomplished nothing but a helluva workout. In my overzealous attempt to master multitasking, I’d ironically earned the distinction of Master of Disaster.
Read more at themeatandpotatoesoflife.com and in Lisa’s book, “The Meat and Potatoes of Life: My True Lit Com.” Email: firstname.lastname@example.org