It’s funny how we go about our daily routines. Coffee. Exercise. Watching the news. Checking e-mail. Breakfast . . . or not.

Mornings naturally develop a rhythm whether you’re getting kids off to school, heading in to rush hour, catching a flight, meeting friends for coffee, or attacking the to do list.

Some go more smoothly than others.

And then there are the mornings when the routine goes right out the window. Someone is sick. A snow day. The car won’t start. An unexpected change of plans.


My mother always used to say we are creatures of habit. She was right. From the time we are tiny babies until we breathe our last breath, we like our habits. Most of them anyway.

So when Chapter3 means retirement after years of hard work, or a lay-off from a job, or a switch from executive to stay-at-home spouse, there’s a new routine and it doesn’t even remotely resemble the old one.

One of my friends described the day her newly retired former CEO husband found his way into the kitchen, thinking she could benefit from his organization and management skills.

He was wrong.

When my husband volunteered to go to the grocery store, I happily handed him the list.  He arrived home 90 minutes later, looking like he’d been in a war zone, and said, “You have no idea what it’s like in that grocery store.”

I don’t?  Really?

He poured himself a scotch.  And begged me to never ask him to go for groceries again.

I recently heard from someone who retired after 40 years of teaching. She was thrilled and she was also feeling a little bit out of her element. Who wouldn’t? Forty years in a rewarding career and a comfortable daily routine.  Now there’s a blank canvas in front of her and she’s not sure which color to paint with first.  She’s ready for her Chapter3.  She just isn’t sure what it’s going to be.

Living in southwest Florida, I’ve learned to spot a lot of couples getting situated into brand new routines, most evident on their shopping days. I can’t help but feel sorry for the spouses who look uncomfortable pushing a shopping cart, who don’t quite understand the need to stay to the right of the aisle, who find the rows and rows of groceries fascinating and walk s-l-o-w-l-y, taking it all in, oblivious to the traffic jam behind.

It’s a little annoying at times but it’s just someone learning a new routine. It’s the fish out of water who hasn’t quite figured out their new element.


So when I received a copy of a letter to Mrs. Harris from the manager of her Target store, I thought of all those couples . . . .

Dear Mrs. Harris:

Over the past six months, your husband has caused quite a commotion, in our store.  The complaints against your husband, Mr. Harris, are listed below and are documented by our video surveillance cameras:

1.  July 2: Set all the alarm clocks in Housewares to go off at 5-minute intervals.

2.  July 19: Walked up to an employee and told her in an official voice, ‘Code 3 in Housewares. Get on it right away’. This caused the employee to leave her assigned station and receive a reprimand from her Supervisor that in turn resulted with a union grievance, causing management to lose time and costing the company money. We don’t have a Code 3.

3.  August 4:  Went to the Service Desk and tried to put a bag of M&Ms on layaway.

4.  August 14:  Moved a, ‘CAUTION – WET FLOOR’ sign to a carpeted area.

5.  August 15: Set up a tent in the Camping Department and told the children shoppers he’d invite them in if they would bring pillows and blankets from the Bedding Department to which twenty children obliged.

6.  August 23: When a clerk asked if they could help him he began crying and screamed, ‘Why can’t you people just leave me alone?’  EMTs were called.

7.  September 4: Looked right into the security camera and used it as a mirror while he groomed himself.

8.  October 3: Darted around the store suspiciously while loudly humming the ‘Mission Impossible’ theme.

9.  October 6: In the Auto Department, he practiced his, ‘Madonna Look’ using different sizes of funnels.

10.  October 18: Hid in a clothing rack and when people browsed through, yelled, “Pick me!  Pick me!”

11.  October 22: When an announcement came over the loud speaker, he assumed a fetal position and screamed,  “Oh no!  It’s those voices again!”

12.  October 23: Went into a fitting room, shut the door, waited awhile; then yelled very loudly, “Hey! There’s no toilet paper in here.”  One  of the clerks passed out.

Wait . . . . you didn’t think I’d write something serious every time, did you?  Sometimes a good joke tells the story better than a page of prose. Sometimes you just need to laugh . . . maybe even laugh at yourself.

The Life Lesson here?

Maintain your sense of humor. Even when you’re out of your element.

Especially when you’re out of your routine.

Because eventually you grow into a new routine and though it might not seem like it at the time, pretty soon it’s going to feel exactly right.

And that’s no joke.