Monday, November 22, 2021

Occupational Hazard: Absent-mindedness? by Nancy L. Eady

 The fellow authors I know are delightfully organized people.  I am not one of them.  I am not sure whether absent-mindedness is an occupational hazard for writers or just a character flaw on my part. But I have it in spades. 

My family is resigned to this trait. They are used to reminding me of the dinner choice they made in the six feet between the couch and the kitchen, traveling behind me to be sure doors are locked and speaking up before I miss the turn because I am thinking about something besides driving. 

Of course, they can’t help me when they’re not with me. Once I sat in the drive-through at Wendy’s for five minutes before I realized I was waiting behind a parked car in a parking spot, which explained why the line wasn’t moving. That’s what I get for trying to read while waiting in line.

More than once, I sat at a four-way stop sign waiting for the light to change, wondering why the people behind me were honking their horns

Another time, I swapped cars with my husband, and became quite annoyed when it wouldn’t start - only to realize that I had been pressing the air conditioning on/off button to start the car, instead of putting the key in the ignition. (My car back then had a push button start, while my husband’s was a traditional keyed start). At least I realized my mistake before I called for a wrecker.

I have left the house for one specific item from the grocery store and returned 30 minutes later with $100 worth of groceries, none of them the item I left for originally. I started wondering whether and where a murderer could hide a body in the grocery store while I was shopping.

I have found the peanut butter, and various other dry goods in the refrigerator; I have found the ice cream in the refrigerator and not the freezer; I even found the milk in the cupboard once or twice. It is so much more pleasant to be thinking through characterizations and plot while cleaning the kitchen than to pay attention to what I’m doing.

My latest escapade happened last week, when I was mentally outlining an essay I had to complete in the afternoon. Heading out to lunch, I walked to my car, opened it, and got in before I realized I was in someone else’s Ford Bronco Sport (the car my husband now drives and which I had driven over the weekend) rather than my own faithful baby Buick!

So what do you think? Is absent-mindedness an occupational hazard for writers? If not, is it a character trait you share? I’d love to know I’m not the only person out there!


  1. Whenever I am in the woods with kids, I am always fascinated by how much stuff they see that I walk by. Somewhere along the way I became less attentive to my surroundings (and more attentive to my thoughts?). It takes effort for me to be mindful, but I always enjoy the results.

  2. This has the makings of some great stories or a humorous novel.

  3. My occupational hazard is absence from dusting, but if I focus on my writing, I hardly notice it.

  4. Also known as the "absent-minded professor syndrome," so at least we're in good company.

    I know that when I find my gloves on a shelf in the refrigerator, it's time to look in the closet for the milk.

  5. LOL, this is hysterical! Love the parked car one. Oh, Nancy! I've driven right past the drive up order kiosk and tried to give my order to a pole, unsuccessful, but the kind teen at the delivery window flagged me up and took my order - I'm pretty sure I didn't have to be a mind reader to know what she was thinking. Then there were all the times I've apologized to mannequins, and the day I tried to open my hotel room with a credit card. Nope, didn't work.

    In the 1970s I lived in Queens and drove my car daily to Long Island City to take the subway downtown. One night, lost in thought, I inserted my key into the door of a silver Toyota, slid behind the wheel, inserted the key into the ignition, and stepped on... the floorboard. No clutch. I looked to my right and discovered an automatic transmission. I'd not only gotten into the wrong car, the key had fit. My car was parked two over. Cue the Twilight Zone music.

  6. Oh my goodness, I thought I was the only one who'd tried to drive off with someone else's car! It did look just like my black Suburu. I "beeped" it to unlock (not realizing that my car was parked just on the other side, so I heard the beep) opened the hatch, threw in my packages, then got in the driver's seat and noticed a Starbuck's coffee cup in the cup holder. That's when I realized my car was parked next door! I jumped out, praying no one saw me.