Thursday, August 21, 2008

Post-It Notes == Torture Devices

Notes written on little scraps of paper are the bane of my existence.

I just fielded the fifth call of the day from Mom (and probably around the twentieth since I was there on Saturday) about "Jim the carpet guy." And for the fifth time today, I've gently reminded Mom to throw that note away.

Back when I first began helping take care of Mom, I started trying to get her to write down any questions or subjects that she wanted to talk to me about, so that she wouldn't lose track of them between the time they first came to mind and whenever we next talked or saw each other. She started using a pad of baby blue Post-It Notes that she found somewhere around the house.

A couple of months later, I begain to realize what a mistake that was. Notes that had been dealt with or answered would be set aside, to be buried under the shifting dunes of paper that had accumulated around the house. Post-Its would appear seemingly out of the blue about something we hadn't talked about in weeks, but to Mom they were often brand new issues. So I quickly went on an expedition to hunt down and destroy all Post-It notes around her house.

Next we tried a new approach. We got her a legal pad to keep all her notes and questions in one place, and I would mark off topics and questions that were no longer relevant each time I visited. That worked fairly well for a while, until she found a couple of other notepads or spiral notebooks lying around the house, and the collection began to spread again.

A few months ago, Mom suddenly started using little scraps of paper again for notes. I'm still not sure what event or memory restarted this trend. But with the absence of pre-cut Post-It Notes, she just made her own scraps by cutting up old papers and using the blank backsides.

Which brings us back to the present, and the current "carpet guy" issue. A couple of weeks ago, I got a call from Mom saying that she had finally talked to "Jim the carpet guy" and he would be over "this Wednesday." This was a complete surprise to me, in that we had never talked about a carpet guy coming for anything, so I asked what he was coming to do. That stumped her for a moment, until she found her note and replied he was coming to clean the upstairs carpet.

Okay. At least she hadn't inadvertently ordered new carpet or anything, right? This we could deal with. The problem: she had written down neither an estimate for the service nor a phone number for the man, only his first name and a company name — which I wasn't able to locate in any online directories. Red flag!

The man did show up on Wednesday as the note promised, but I had Mom feign illness and ask him (through a closed door) to leave his business card so that we could reschedule at a later date. Everything worked out, I retrieved the business card for my records, and she decided she didn't really want to spend the money on carpet cleaning at this time anyway. Problem solved.

Until last weekend, when that first scrap of paper reappeared with the ominous foretelling that "Jim the carpet guy" would be coming "this Wednesday." And for some reason, that one scrap of paper just can't seem to find its way into the waste basket. Instead, it keeps popping up unexpectedly all over the house, urging Mom to call and ask once again what she needs to do to get ready for the carpet guy.

I'm convinced that little scraps of paper were originally invented as evil, sadistic torture devices.

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