I Can Do This and That and This and That and This and That — All at One Time! By Kirsten Walker – Originally published in The Hamden Chronicle on November 14, 2005

I can’t believe it. I’ve gone from flesh and blood — with maybe a tad too much flesh — to a machine without even realizing it. You know what I’m talking about. If you don’t then you’re sitting in an easy chair reading a novel and are not concerned that the dirty laundry is piled to the ceiling fan, mail is unopened on the kitchen counter and the ring around the tub can second as a chair rail.

What has turned me into a machine? Multitasking. It’s been the buzzword for a few years now. Here’s the definition according to an Internet dictionary.

Multitasking – n. “The concurrent operation by one central processing unit of two or more processes.” And further on, “A technique used in an operating system for sharing a single processor between several independent jobs. The first multitasking operating systems were designed in the early 1960s.”

Guess what? I was born in 1960. I was destined to become a multitasker. And I am my own worst enemy, as studies are now showing that fatigue and weariness are causing us to have stress/anxiety attacks at an alarming rate. And what do multitaskers do, you ask?

I warn you — this gets graphic.

I can sit on the john with a cordless phone cradled in my neck (c’mon, I don’t flush while you’re still listening and you know don’t either) and also have a Clorox wipe in the other to wash down the window molding, bathtub edge and any floor tile I can reach safely. In the past I was also caught blow drying my hair and nursing a baby while on the john.

In the kitchen, I can help with homework trying to remember French from high school over 25 years ago, cut vegetables for stew, look out the window and make note of the fact the yard has leaves to rake, stop a minute to put birdseed in the feeders and in the middle of it all be scanning old photos one at a time into my computer before they stick permanently together in one big glob in the bottom of a shoe box.

With methodical organization and the click of a button I can write a news piece, send out a press release and put together a Sunday school lesson having multiple documents open at once on my PC. Responding to an e-mail while on the phone interviewing someone I can also sort coupons for grocery shopping and even order my favorite coffee with yet again a click of a button.

While on the phone planning another volunteer activity, I can spray my kitchen floor with cleaner and drag a dishrag around with my foot to wipe up the spills made by the kids I babysat for “just a few minutes” who thought it was great to see if the cats liked chocolate milk while I was in the bathroom.

And then I start to get tired. So I take out one of the books I borrowed from the library, sit down for a few minutes to read to calm my mind, and as I sit I notice the layer of dust — that looks like a first snow — on the TV and coffee table. I remember when I look at that table and see the latest Newsweek that I really should start my next column as I have to meet a deadline for my editor, and then I remember that the newsprint I’ve been saving for packing for our move slid off the table into a heap on the floor when the two cats jumped up in fright to get away from me when I yelled at them to stop licking the spilled chocolate milk the little ones gave them.

That is just a peek at some of the multitasking I do. For the most part I succeed. It is how I’m built. But on occasion, I have found that “pride go-eth before a fall,” and when I pride myself on my ability to multitask it will be on that same day I discover I sent the water bill to the phone company, the meeting I was planning on going to this Thursday was held last Wednesday, and in my laundry basket are my husband’s only white sport socks now in a lovely shade of pink.

If you’ll excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom and find the phone.

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