Somehow, almost every morning I manage to burn my toast. I put it in the Panini maker that we use for absolutely everything and then I go to get on my computer. Fifteen minutes later, I am sitting in front of my computer, and it hits me: Bah! Toast!
This is because multitasking doesn’t exist.
Sure, I am bad at it, I’ll admit that too, but really, it isn’t a real thing. I used to tell my mother that people who were good at multitasking just managed to switch back and forth faster than others. They couldn’t actually keep track of more things at a time. Sounds like severe ADD and I am just far to focused for some of the things I attempt.
My favorite is making lattes. It takes my espresso machine a while to heat up. Too long to stand there while I wait for the water dribbles to become steam.
Then the steam starts and it makes that loud whistling steam sound, but oftentimes by the time I hear it, I ask myself, how long has that been going off?
This past semester I was really struggling on my Critical Analysis essay for Fred Johnson’s American Drama Since 1900 class. I love Suzan-Lori Parks. She makes me want to write plays. I was writing my final paper on her Pulitzer-winning 2001 play, Topdog/Underdog. When I write papers, especially about books (or plays in this case) that I love, I become overwhelmed that the sheer quantity of inspiring ideas that I don’t have time or pages to take hold of. It’s like each strand of essay idea is a huge boxer man, pulling me in a different direction. (I really wanted to find a great metaphor here, but it wasn’t happening.) Anyway, it is literally painful and a bit paralyzing.
This is when I go to the professor (Fred in this case) and say, I am really sorry, but there is no way this paper will be done by Friday. You can mark it late or whatever, but I just wanted you to know, it isn’t going to happen in time. They say, okay, you can have until Monday. Or sometimes they even say, when can you have it done? (Choose your own deadline. If you don’t make it then you’re really screwed.) Now what are you thinking, what’s your thesis?
So the conversation goes. Anyway, I almost managed to escape from the point but now I am reigning myself in. The point was that as we were talking, I began to type what Fred was saying about my ideas, so I didn’t forget later.
FJ: Are you typing everything I say?
ME: Notes about it.
FJ: But you’re looking right at me.
ME: So I can actively listen at the same time.
FJ: You can only process one thing at a time.
ME: Yeah. I don’t think there’s such a thing as multitasking, just switching back and forth really fast.
FJ: Where’d you get that?
ME: I realized it was true. I used to say that to my mom in high school.
FJ: That’s actually what research shows.
Okay, so I was, or might have been, right, but really, the question I have now is, so how was I having an active conversation about those ideas with fj, while looking him in the eye, and typing? I’d like to know if I was really listening, or bah! No clue.
Bah! Toast! Seriously, I know it sounds ironic, but I may or may not have just burned the second batch of toast this morning.
UPDATE: It was fine.
Also, I use the word “bah” as an onomatopoeic exclamation a lot this morning. I am not a sheep, I promise.