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number 4

Much To-Do

by Doug Moe

1. Reply to emails

2. Pay bills

3. Write Pipe Up! Piece.

Dear Pipe Up!:

I’ve been meaning to write you to explain my short absence from your pages. I’ve been a little frazzled and stressed out. You see, I am getting married soon (Hands off! Ha ha) and have thus been splitting my time between completing items on my To-Do List and worrying about whether I’ve forgotten to include anything. You see, a list is only as good as it is comprehensive.

It might seem obsessive, but double-checking the To-Do List is important when you’re frazzled and stressed out; you could easily forget something in such a state. This double-check is of course prone to error for the same reason. And putting “Check To-Do List” isn’t at all helpful. That’s the one thing you’d never forget to do!

Then again, when you’re frazzled and stressed out (as per above), you tend to overlook the things you’d never forget to do. Best to put it on the list then.

4. Check To-Do List

There. That’s better. It’s an easy one to cross off, after all. And that’s the most satisfying thing To Do. In fact, it’s the primary pleasure, the secret thrill of the To-Do List. Accomplishment! Crossing it off. Oh the joy to be forever rid of Item X, its sub-steps complete, its status irrevocably changed to "Done!"

This is why one must be careful not to give in to the easy temptation of crossing something off the list that is almost done. It is a slippery slope indeed to declare an item “Done” when it is almost done. The To-Do List says “Done” in its booming voice of authority, yet your mind will whisper “…as soon as you find that email address….”

Then the To-Do List takes on a sinister tone of half-truths and obfuscations. Hiding behind this reassuringly crossed-out To-Do List lurks another, truer List. A Phantom To-Do List of sub-items and caveats that will only quietly plead its case, satisfied that, if ignored, the truth will come out someday–you haven’t finished anything!

When To-Do List finishes his confident testimony before your mind’s Accomplishment Sub-Committee, his microphone will squeal with feedback. Just like Tom Ridge, he’ll fail to inspire confidence. There’s just something about him; you know his husky frame should seem intimidating, reassuring. But instead he seems lumbering and slow-to-the-draw. Like Frankenstein or Schwarzenegger, he seems vulnerable to nuance.

The air will hang heavy with dissatisfaction. Papers will shuffle. Then suddenly, a rush of activity! Congressional aides will sweep to the floor with reams of documents and a small bespectacled man, the Phantom To-Do List, will sheepishly take his seat. He can barely be seen from behind his stacks of evidence. Piece by piece, he will make his case, his exacting bookkeeping undermining all “Done” items on the To Do List. At the end, PTDL seems…not so small anymore, his ill-fitting suit not cheap and wrinkled, but genuine and unpretentious.

To-Do List certainly looks the fool. He shifts uncomfortably in his seat. His heroically square jaw now seems to jut too far and his shoes seem tight. Was that whimsical tie appropriate for this occasion? Whispers all around. Senator Guilt-Trip, Democrat of South Dakota, wants to know how these errors were made. Surely a To-Do List is straightforward enough? “My five-year-old child knows when to cross something off her To-Do List. Why don’t you?”

Leaning forward into the mike, To-Do List will meekly reply: “Premature crossing off.” An explosion of titters and guffaws in the chamber. The next day the verdict is in. The newspapers will pronounce The List unreliable and almost-done-isms will have sank another mighty ship of good intentions.

5. Vet To-Do List for almost-done-isms.

A witch hunt? No, it won’t be a witch-hunt. I promise. But it’s important enough to be as sure as we can be, right? I’ll put my top man on it. We don’t want a repeat of that last problem. If the List complies, we’ll be fine. If the List resists, we will comply It.

And here I am. I haven’t even finished Item #3, to write you! You can see why I’ve been busy! Well, that ought To-Do it. I’m crossing #3 off now…ah! Wait, better to cross it off after completing numbers 4 and 5…lots To Do....

Doug Moe is a writer/comedian living in Brooklyn. He has appeared on Comedy Central’s Contest Searchlight and performs regularly at the UCB Theater.

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