"Come on, you guys. You need to stop just mailing it in."
We don't expect a lot of our two daughters. Really. It's not like they live on a dairy farm or a ranch or something. No one is requiring one of them to pin down the steer while the other severs his nectarines with dental floss.
All we ask is that they clean up after dinner. The younger kid cleans the pots and pans while our newly christened adult loads the dishwasher and wipes down the counters. Seriously, I could perform both in the time it takes to urinate, which at my age is around fourteen minutes.
"Dad," one of them said, "I don't even know what 'mailing it in' means."
I propped my elbows against a portion of the counter not still speckled with crumbs and milk rings. "It means doing the bare minimum, being half-assed…like, rather than breaking up with someone in person, you text them instead."
"Oh," they both replied. I knew they'd understand that one. They'd each had friends who'd done that.
"Okay, sorry," said the elder, "but it's not like you've never mailed it in, Dad."
That's one of her most utilized weapons—the deflector shield. I chose not to return fire, leaving the room with her rebuttal lingering in the humid evening air.
But is she right? Am I a mailer-inner? Oh yeah., In fact, I think I'm not only guilty of mailing, but of faxing, FedExing and occasionally even Morse-coding-it-in.
I've taken the easy route more often than Sarah Palin has, well, taken the easy route. Have I ignored the "toner low" screen on the work printer? Have I taken half of the half of the half of a glazed donut that was left in the pink box, just to avoid striding four steps to the left to discard it? Have I chosen to leave less than a full-wiping's-worth on the bathroom tissue roll, knowing that whomever goes next will be…pissed?
No comment. But this morning, as I mounted my bike in the milky morning air for a crisp ride through West Seattle, her accusation continued to bore into my thoughts. I resolved to do everything I could, right now and with each subsequent moment, to avoid mailing it in. But how?
I passed the woman I always pass first, the one always walking her dog just past the first turn. We greeted each other, as always. That's it, I thought. I'll say good morning to everyone I pass, especially those who ignore me on a daily basis. Who knows, maybe my greeting will sway somebody's outlook from overwhelmingly yin to fifty-one percent yang.
It's usually the dudes who ignore me. And the men who don't ignore me will typically silently nod in my direction, acknowledging this intimidating figure in spandex and neon, chugging away in all his anaerobic splendor and straining to avoid bruising his stomach with his knees.
I wasn't sure about saying hi to the first guy. He lives in a beautiful house with a panoramic view of Puget Sound, and never even looks when I pass him and his golden retriever. He slicks his hair straight back, even at six in the morning, causing two words to repeatedly invade my consciousness: organized crime. I know that sounds bigoted, like I'm some sort of "Mafiast," but hey, nice house and slicked back hair are things we typically associate with solid waste disposal careers in suburban New Jersey.
He didn't respond as I croaked a robust "Mornin'!" He looked irritated. That's cool, I'll just ask him for a favor when his daughter gets married.
From that point on, everyone returned my greeting. I only acknowledged those who I passed face-to-face, since nobody really wants some ass hat sneaking up behind them and causing an aortic infarction with the yelp of his latest compulsive obsession.
The only people for which I muted my voice were a couple who strode along the beach wearing matching yellow head-to-toe hooded jammies. I didn't want to yank them away from their symbiotic tweaker buzz and they looked like they were in a hurry to get back home before Telletubbies started.
The last person I encountered was an elderly man who stood at a bus stop as I ascended the final hill before things leveled off. "That looks hard!" he said cheerily.
"Kinda!" I replied, far too loudly, my voice parroting someone named Madge who enjoyed chain smoking Virginia Slims while keeping score for the bowling league.
"Good for the old heart!" he added.
"Oh yeah!" Again too loud.
I guess he'd also decided not to mail it in today.