Same Old Routine? Why Change?

Like many people, I tend to be a creature of habit.

I sleep on the right side of my bed and wake up the same way. My breakfast table has been set the night before with a banana in place. Half for me and the other half for my wife.

But before breakfast, gotta get the workout in sync. Summers you’ll find me at the local gym at 6:30 a.m. Any later will set my day off kilter. An earlier arrival will mean a few extra beads of sweat.

I’m back home at precisely 8:40 in time to turn on the coffee while my wife is finishing up her crossword puzzle so we can dine together. She goes one way in the morning and I travel another before meeting somewhere in the middle to plan our day.

She hands over the sports pages and takes the magazine section. Should the phone ring, I’ll hand it over to her since my place is nearest to the receiver.

I like my coffee a certain way with a drop of cream and an artificial sweetener, same way for years, and rye toast is usually my preference with a dollop of strawberry preserve for good measure.

People say I’m set in my ways. Maybe so. Spontaneity and I do not see eye to eye. I favor routine because it suits me best.

It’s been this way for years, ever since I was in grade school. My pencils were always sharpened, ready for business, and my homework done, except when the cat ate it. In college, I used to wipe my utensils with a napkin before eating and had this aversion to stepping on a crack. Bad luck, I suppose.

In the army, I kept my shoes shined and my bunk so tight you could bounce a quarter off the sheet. I saluted with my right, shook your hand first, and practiced courtesy—a habit I had acquired in Boy Scouts.

You might say I detest change. Anything that breaks my daily routine usually sets me off character. When the grandchildren arrive for an extended stay, I compromise my behavior. Out goes the gym time and on come the waffles and pancakes.

To refrain would mean I’ve become a family outcast. The trick to a good workout in the morning is to maintain some equilibrium to your day. It’s my routine and I adhere to it. Or try my best.

Some of my friends think me odd. They call me Odd Thomas. Why do you peel an apple, they wonder? The skin is the best part.

“Don’t know,” I tell them. “That’s the way I’ve always enjoyed my apple.”

I prefer my blueberry pie with a scoop of vanilla and my tuna sandwich toasted with a slice of cheese. A drop or two of hot sauce in my tomato juice gives it added punch with a slice of lemon. Okay, some vodka might be poured for a Bloody Mary, my favorite summer cocktail.

As for writing techniques, nothing’s changed over a half century—the ability to put one word after another to finish a story. It’s a simple formula that works for me.

It’s always been a habit of mine to set the bedroom clock ahead five minutes, giving me that extra wake-up time. Don’t get me started with television. I’m an inveterate channel surfer, especially trying to bypass commercials during news broadcasts and sporting games. It drives others crazy.

While some people consider it fashionable to be late for appointments and meetings, not my style. Punctuality is my forte, a quality derived from my journalism interviews.

Not like an acquaintance of mine who leads a topsy-turvy lifestyle. There’s no rhyme or reason to his day. It’s all happenchance. Whatever the day will bring, so he tells me. On Sundays, you’ll catch him strolling into church 10 minutes before the closing prayer.

“Maybe he’s a lot better off than you are?” they tell me. “You live by a clock. He doesn’t. He’s got time working in his favor.”

There are plenty of bad habits to which I am not privy, like smoking and drinking and idle talk. I am not a bar fly and prefer a good book and soft music to a rowdy concert. My movies are reviewed carefully and I donate to charities before a gambling episode.

Habits are often mistaken for loyalty so I guess I’m loyal to my ways. I’ve heard it said that it’s easier to acquire two good habits than to break off an old one.

You may accuse me of leading a rather trite lifestyle with my routine.

On the contrary, my yesterdays keep pace with my tomorrows and I’m at peace with that.


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

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