Sunday, February 11, 2018

Water Again? With Apologies to Forrest Gump and Instant Oatmeal

Water and I have a love-hate relationship. It started on my first day of kindergarten when hurricane floodwaters cut my Brooklyn street off from civilization and I couldn’t get to school.  It continued through childhood with the famous bubble bath incident that resulted in a cascade of bubbles flowing down the staircase. And over the years water seems to prank me at every turn, especially when any reasonable person would not at all expect water waging mayhem. To paraphrase Indiana Jones, “Water! Why does it always have to be water?"

Every workday morning, I arrive at the office, drop my bags in their designated spot, turn on the desk lamp and boot up the computer. I grab my coffee cup and take a brown, crinkly packet of plain instant oatmeal out of the box and head to the kitchen. A simple, automatic, mindless routine because without coffee, there can be no mindfulness.

I fill the coffee maker with water from the water cooler. While the coffee brews, I tear open the oatmeal packet, dump it into a bowl and fill up the packet to the prescribed line with water from the water cooler. Mix the water into the oatmeal, put it in the microwave, and wait impatiently, sometimes even leaning against the wall with my eyes closed for a few seconds more of mindless-ness.

The first time the oatmeal betrayed me, I didn’t know what was going on. As I carried the water-filled packet to the bowl, I felt a cold sensation on my leg. Water. I must have spilled some water. I continue with my routine.

The following day, the same sensation. Wow, I must really need the coffee, I am spilling water all over the place. On the third day, the coincidence finally made me look at what I was doing. The oatmeal packet wasn’t all the way sealed, and the water was dripping, no, pouring, out.  A slippery trail reached from the water cooler to the counter. A blurry remembrance of overly dry oatmeal the previous day floated around in my uncaffeinated brain. Finally, I understood that someone at the oatmeal factory had pranked me, (at least I took it as a prank, not some oatmeal factory malfunction) and it had taken me three days to notice.

But by the next morning, this realization had vanished, and again I got a wet leg. This explains to my fellow coworkers why, as a reminder to myself, I’ve placed that new sign in the kitchen, “Life is Like a Box of Oatmeal, You Never Know When You’re Gonna Get Wet.” 

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