Today I rubbed hair conditioner onto my face.   I did not mean to.  I was just distracted and grabbed the bottle of leave-in hair conditioner that I keep next to the sink, squeezed a dab onto my hand, looked myself right in the eye in the mirror, and rubbed it all over like it was face moisturizer.  When I was done smoothing it into my skin, I looked at the bottle sitting innocently beside the sink, looked at my hands, sighed, laughed, and then washed my face off and started over.

It made me think of all the times we do the wrong thing or use the wrong ingredient or product because we are distracted.  There is so much going on in our heads during our day that it is easy to lose track sometimes.  The proverbial ‘multi-tasking’ that we all do every day can get the best of us.  Sometimes it is a small and easily correctable thing, and hopefully there aren’t much larger consequence.

I had a friend who actually used her prescription hemorrhoid cream as toothpaste one morning, to her shock and disgust.  She spit and rinsed with mouthwash repeatedly.  Have you noticed that mouthwash labels don’t contain that phrase “rinse and repeat” like conditioners and shampoos do?  But she repeated vigorously that morning with mouthwash.  She thought it was funny once she got it all out of her mouth, and we roared with laughter when she told me the story.

Once my mom distractedly used salt in place of sugar in a cake recipe back when I was little (with five children under the age of nine, who could criticize her level of distraction?).  That was in the days before people used pre-packaged mixes.  The cake looked fine, but after dinner when we all bit into it, it was, of course, horrible.  You never saw five kids spit so much cake at the table at once.  Mom was horrified at our behavior and started chastising at a high decibel before she understood the reason.  Once we all settled down and she tasted it, we all laughed at that horrible mistake.

Mom left us with a babysitter once who was supposed to make a pot of spaghetti for dinner for all of us.  She was doing a fine job until she mistakenly added a large can of hot sauce instead of tomato sauce.  We all sat down to eat and, once again, five children were spitting food all over the table.

Why do we do these things?  Why is there so much going on in our heads and throughout our days that we can lose track of what we are doing? Sometimes, it’s just that we are in a hurry.  Sometimes it’s not so much that we confuse two objects, but that we bumble along because we are just not paying attention.

I once grabbed the seasoned salt from the spice cupboard to season a roast for dinner.  Instead of flipping open the flip-top for sprinkling, distractedly I unscrewed the whole top off and then started to shake like a salt shaker.  Needless to say most of the jar came out on that roast.  I yelled when it happened and my husband tried to reassure me by saying that he uses lots of seasoned salt when he seasons for the grill, but when he saw most of the jar burying the roast, he just said, “Oh!”  I started to brush it off and realized that it was like shooing waves off the beach:  impossible!  So I rinsed the darned thing off.  And had to buy a new jar of seasoned salt.

My grandmother was cooking eggs for all of us grandkids one weekend (of which there were eleven that morning) and I asked for the pepper.  She grabbed the shaker off the stove and walked over to the table and shook that shaker while watching the cooking eggs.  She looked at the plate and assumed that she had missed because she didn’t see any pepper, shook  some more, and then stopped.  Distractedly she told me to try them now.  And when my face screwed up into a sour mess, she realized that she had grabbed the salt shaker, not the pepper, and had nearly poisoned my eggs with salt.

All of us have stories like these, and some are hilarious.

One event that I will never forget is not so much a story of mistakenly using the wrong ingredient, but of the necessity of improvisation.  Mom was making the yeast rolls for Thanksgiving dinner.  With all of the family in attendance, she was getting ready to feed thirteen children and eight adults.  She was kneading the very large ball of yeast dough:  push, grab and pull and tuck, push, grab and pull and tuck, push … and while she was looking over at the mashed potatoes cooking on the stovetop, she grabbed and pulled and the whole ball of dough flew off the counter and onto the floor of the kitchen.  She looked over at me and I stared at her with my hand over my mouth.  She put her finger to her lips and whispered “Shhhhhhhhhhhh,” picked up the dough, dusted it off, and continued kneading, forming and set them to rise the last time.  We still laugh about it to this day.  First of all, her house was so spotless that her floor was probably cleaner than most people’s tabletops.  Secondly, it was too late to start a new batch of rolls.  And thirdly, with all those people in the house and the grocery stores closed, Thanksgiving dinner would have been roll-less, and that was just unthinkable.

Our busy lives will always be busy.  There are always going to be jobs to rush to, children to shepherd, homework to get done, meals to cook, and all the other myriad of tasks of living.  Among all of that are the thousands of conversations we have.  And then add to all of that the brain work that goes on: the scheduling, worrying, and planning.  It’s no wonder that sometimes there is a little flub in our day. But those “flubs” can be some of the fondest memories we have of our friends and family.  Hopefully they are minor flubs and don’t have longer reaching consequences than being able to spit out a little cake or hemorrhoid cream.

Copyright © 2011, Maura White. All rights reserved.

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4 Responses to Chapter XVIII – GRAB THIS, NOT THAT

  1. Siobhan says:

    This one definitely made me giggle a lot. 🙂

  2. tarryma says:

    Funny stuff. So true, we all have so many distractions in our lives. The stories that are created from minor distractions are hilarious. Makes me think sometimes about what it would have been like to live in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.

  3. Elise Evans says:

    Thanks Maura – Always a good read. Looking forward to the next “Girl Out of Water.”

  4. Rubymay1029 says:

    Heee! My mother-in-law once rolled steak in cayenne pepper instead of paprika for one of her signature dishes. We didn’t spit, but lunged for our water glasses.

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