Monday, May 16, 2011

Be Prepared (Or Else!)

More than a year ago, maybe more than two, I was reading Oprah's magazine at the hair stylist's and I came across an article by Martha Beck. I had some time and I like her so I read it and it's stuck with me ever since. I'm forever saying, "Just in case I need blog fodder I can use this." I couldn't wait. But I did.

I think I finally got the gumption to look up the article because I'm doing a 365 project. You see, the article is called "Trust That You'll Find Exactly What You Need." Beck talks about the contrast between people who operate on a Just In Case philosophy or a Just In Time one. The major example she uses is a Japanese car company that found out that if, instead of approximating the number of cars they'd need and stockpiling them, they waited for orders to come in and built them in time for delivery they saved money, waste and effort. I'd actually be really interested to see how that played out in light of the terrible earthquake and tsunami recently. It could have been quite good because there wasn't inventory to lose or it could be bad since rebuilding will take so long and there won't be any chance of salvaging pre-made items that might have survived.

I cook for a few hours on the weekend to have lunches and dinners for the week. I have two long, hard core winter coats because what if one ripped or the zipper broke or something spilled on it and I got cold? I worry about having enough money in case I lose my job even though I'd like to think that I'm actually saving that money in order to leave the job and finance a career.

In my defense I come from a long line of Just In Casers. They don't throw out the teaspoon of green beans left over from dinner because what if they run out of (all the stockpiled) food before the week is out and go hungry but for a spoon of beans? They taught me to darn socks (which I actually enjoy). I recently used a cake mix that I salvaged from my grandmother's basement after she died. My grandmother died in December of 2000. But I was right, that cake mix did come in handy (and it was still perfectly good).

My landlady when I lived in London owned three pairs of underwear - one on, one clean and one in the wash. I knew someone once who owned one fork, one knife, one spoon, one serving spoon and one mixing bowl so he wouldn't be tempted to leave the dishes until later. A friend once moved to Seattle without finding a place to live there first. She just got on a plane with her suitcases and got into a cab when she arrived and said, "I need some place to stay, can you recommend something, please?"

If we're defending me, though, I am doing this 365 project. The nature of the beast is that you do one thing every day. I set up and execute a photo of my hands doing something each day. Every one. You can't stockpile them if you have three great ideas on Monday just in case you have none on Thursday. Or even if, god forbid, you forget on Wednesday! Cindy does a similar thing and she got food poisoning a little bit ago. She still took her photo, and it was a great one!

This morning I woke up and unhooked my camera from the computer and turned it on to check if I'd deleted the photos I'd uploaded last night. Blank screen. Got out the charger, plugged it in, inserted the battery. No light. Reset the plug. Nothing. Tried a different plug. NO JOY! NO JOY! I DO NOT HAVE THE SHOT! It was at this point in a morning that was already not my favorite that my brain scrambled like a farm fresh egg. I started packing shit into my knapsack. Had to take the battery and the charger and the camera because I had to trouble shoot all of them. I packed my lunch and my iPad to update it at work and a scarf and an umbrella to keep all the electronics dry in the downpour. As I lugged all this to the bus I ran down scenarios. Where would I go to get a new battery? Or a new charger? Or both? When would I go? Would my boss make an appearance in the office? Would I now be so late I'd have to shorten my lunch break? How would I choose to pay for it? What if I couldn't get one before the day was over? How would I take my shot for the day? It's supposed to be both my hands. I don't have another camera! I could...take two pictures, one of each of my hands, with my phone and learn how to make a diptych. I've always wanted to know how to do that. It'd be shitty quality but it'd fulfill the requirement.

Ok, you say, problem solved! Yet, I couldn't let it go. I couldn't feel all right until I had my camera back up and working. I plunged out into the rain before lunch, went to 4 stores, walked approximately a mile and finally bought (and was over charged for) two batteries JUST IN CASE this ever happened again and I bought them at two separate stores JUST IN CASE one store sold me a bum model.

Still didn't take my photo until after 8 at night. You see, I had to do one of my other least favorite Just In Time activities - cooking fresh food. I did both, though. I've got lunches and dinners for the week, I took my photo, my camera works and I've got a back up battery. I even squeezed in some singing practice while I cut up vegetables to keep me from wanting to stab myself with the paring knife.

I'm fucking exhausted.

I don't know how people live like this. It'd probably be a good idea to find out, though, and I think that this 365 project is going to teach me.

If it doesn't kill me first.


  1. Anonymous11:10 PM

    ouch, but well done! perfect shot too ... and I LOVE the first one. I'm a just-in-timer by nature I think, and it drives some of my family mad but so be it. of course it backfires sometimes.

  2. Thanks for sharing! I think the frustrating parts of a 365 project are often the most educational, but many people give up when they hit even the smallest roadblock, so good for you for pushing through! Also I have to say, I love the first shot as well. Maybe you should give yourself some more flexibility in what constitutes an acceptable photo...

  3. I've always loved your photos! And I look at Cindy's all the time and get such joy. Hands... such a lovely idea. So creative. I can't wait to see all of them. Cake mix good since 2000....alarming! Did you ever get the cake balls right? I'd be glad to send my recipes along. My lemon are perfect.

  4. Fuck that battery! :)

  5. I have similar camera anxiety - isn't it funny how we give ourselves these obligations? (although I like having a camera with me).

    I have a back-up battery and I also have a back-up CAMERA in my purse, how neurotic is that?

    Not to mention the cell phone.

  6. My husband works for the just-in-time Japanese car company, and they are hurting bad. They have cut production down to 4 hours a day...not so good for the workers.
    I love your photos, and I am definitely a just-in-caser.

  7. Bethany, you will have to teach me your foreign ways.

    Noah, I think, if it hadn't worked out I would have been fine with the phone pic but on a tough day it was a final straw. Also, if I had a phone that took less grainy photos I would have gone with it. But it sure did get me thinking.

    Chef, The balls are always right if I don't mess with the dipping chocolate. Every time I've tried to flavor that it's ended in tears. The end result has always been delicious.

    Kathleen, Amen.

    Oh, Aunt Snow, I think I just fell in love with you. What kind of cameras do you have?

    garciagirl82, I'm sorry to hear about your husband's job. These are tough times. Just In Casers Unite!