UNITED STATES—Recently, I had a houseguest who asked, “What do you have planned for today?” and I burst out with my ideas about plans instead of burying them in silence. “Well, I usually have plans for five things,” I said.
I feel a bit on the spot when someone asks, “What do you have planned for today?” I feel more than just taken back because, like as not, they usually catch me in the middle of feverishly planning and plotting what I am going to be doing. And perhaps, my deeper self associates exposure of my plans to abetting the enemy of my plans by putting the targets plainly in view. In my case, getting back to a manuscript and walking up to the coffee house on Sunset held out some allure, but it seemed to early to defend them.
Instead, I decided to do something different and hold forth on my long-brewing thoughts on being asked what I have planned. I got as far as, “I usually have plans for five things…”
It became obvious when my friend asked “What do you have planned for today?” and it was merely an advance guard for announcing what he already had in mind. Meanwhile, I was bravely launched on formulating my inchoate ideas/reactions to this question—a process of discovering which sought, above all else, being listening to. But it was interrupted when my friend said, “I was thinking of going and getting coffee at Farmers Market.”
“I had thought about walking up the street to get coffee,” I said, revealing a longing to stay around home and soak up the sites of home.
“Well, we can do what you like,” he said. Well, I told my houseguest as my best-laid plans to speak my mind soared off into the yonder. “We can do what you want.”
And that was the truth. All I really wanted to do now was philosophizing about my reluctance to talk about plans. Instead of being able to weigh the extent of my musings on plan-making, I was suddenly, inwardly, wanting to do an about-face and drop the subject.
“No, that’s not it at all,” I said. Knowing that the thing I was most engaged in was speaking the unspoken, even as I was in retreat, knowing this would be the last morning of my friend’s visit, and his trip deserved a good ending. Now I realized that I am by nature very pliant: If my ex-wife wanted to shop I would let her go off. I was able to take that ghastly shopping mall boredom and find something to entertain me. That is why I always go out with a book in my hand for when the tedium lurks.
“We don’t have to go to Farmers Market,” my friend said. I began to regret starting this subject, and craved my early-morning default, which is silence. “If you don’t want to. I’m OK with going up the street, if that’s what you had in mind.”
If I was to insist on my agenda, I would be untrue to the spirit of this enquiry: developing ideas for illumination’s sake, discovering and developing. What I’m getting at is this: it’s a talent to be always occupied and entertained, but I wonder if it’s not a flaw, in a relationship to always accept the boring and uninteresting without retort and find my own entertaining purpose. Guillermo del Toro says he could never be bored. He could be waiting at a bus station and start looking at the salt and paper shakers, and they would start bleeding, and the heads of some people in the station might switch to other people’s bodies, but when dealing with my wife and daughter, deferential treatment, may not be the best thing. Appeasing is not pleasing. Those who are closest really ought to know, that one has things to do.
That said, with hindsight the change of plan is always beneficial. It pays not to be dead set against things as they unfold. I had a picture in my mind of what might be, going up the street in my neighborhood; in the end we went to Farmers Market instead of up the street. There would be many future times to go up the street.
Humorist Grady Miller divides his time between Los Angeles and a quandary. He is the author of the comic volumes “Late Bloomer” and “Later Bloomer: Tales from Darkest Hollywood.” http://amzn.to/2HJKNPf