Monday, July 25, 2016

Of tea, plans and partners

There might have been no scientific connection between drinking tea and getting one's thoughts in order, but that was the way it seemed, at least in Mma Ramotswe's opinion. Tea brought about focus, and that helped.
Alexander McCall Smith, The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe

I just finished my morning cup of tea, and now I am ready to start writing. So I understand Precious  Ramotswe's point of view. Others swear by that mug of coffee in the morning. Others require a cigarette to achieve the focus they desire. For still others something else may be needed. I used to find that the 30-minute drive into work every morning prepared my brain for what lay ahead, just as the 30-minute drive home later cleared my mind and helped me escape work for the night.

So maybe it isn't tea or coffee or cigarettes or anything else that does the job, but simply the habit itself. Caffeine and nicotine may strengthen the habit, but perhaps it is just the routine, the sense of the familiar and comfortable that we need to focus our minds. For Mma Ramotswe and me, that means a cup of hot tea.

I am still in the early chapters of Alexander McCall Smith's The Handsome Man's Deluxe Cafe and already I've found three passages worth a comment. That was the first. Here is No. 2:

Mma Ramotswe slipped the business plan into a drawer. The trouble with plans, she thought, was that they tended to be expressions of hope. Everybody, it seemed, felt that they should have a plan, but for most people the plan merely said what they would like to happen rather than what they would actually achieve. Most people do what they wanted to do, whether or not that was what their plan said they should do.

Again I agree with Mma Ramotswe. I have never worried much about plans, whether career plans or financial plans or any other kind of plans. Right now I am vacationing in a Tennessee cabin, but do I have a vacation plan, other than a date to leave and go back home? No. That's what makes it a real vacation, as far as I'm concerned.

Nor have I ever cared for listing objectives or writing mission statements. I would hate when as a copy editor charged with building newspaper pages, I was told by management to state my objectives for the coming year. These had to be stated in numerical form for easy measurement and show improvement over the previous year's production. But if I designed x number of pages a day last year, do I really want to say I will do x+1 pages in the future? I was already doing my best. Was I supposed to sacrifice quality for quantity? No, I was more likely to be criticized for making errors than for being slow. So, like Mma Ramotswe, I "slipped the business plan into a drawer," metaphorically speaking, and went on doing what I had been doing.

Partner, though, had come to mean something else -- as Mma Ramotswe had read in a magazine -- and she felt a different word was needed.

So what do you call that person you are living with, especially if that person is of the same sex? The word partner seems to be the one that has been chosen, never mind the anxiety it has produced for lawyers, cops and many others who for years have had partners in a non-sexual sense? Mma Ramotswe is certainly is not alone in feeling the use of the term could now be misunderstood. Nowadays when a cowboy calls someone "pardner" in an old western movie, the audience is likely to giggle.

No comments:

Post a Comment