Tennessee Drifter

Random Thoughts at Random Times

Right, Left and the Middle

Something I wrote in 2004 while I was bored…

You would think that buying a small spiral notebook would be a simple thing. As I entered the store, I has a mental picture of what I wanted—a basic spiral notebook with about one hundred six inch by nine inch pages. Simple.

As I entered the front door of a large national retailer, I first looked to the right. Why is that? I always tend to look right before looking left, could be that I normally find what I am looking for on the right. My daughter says that I look at everything through a political kaleidoscope. She decided this one-day because I refused to buy a particular brand of ice cream because the company founders were to the liberal tree huggers. But I digress.

As I was saying, first I looked to the right, and then to the left. I found no signs to point me in the direction of notebooks, stationary or anything close. Now it is important to note here, that had my wife been with me she would have insisted that we stop someone and ask directions. Fortunately, my wife was with my daughter, probably eating ice cream made by tree huggers, and I was free to follow my instincts and head down the “right” path.

I walked past cotton balls and cold cream, antacids, and wart removers, along with all manner of tablets and pills with promises of weight loss and mental clarity. I probably should have taken advantage of the offers, since I would probably benefit from both weight loss and mental clarity.

But instead, I continued, past wonderful Christmas items such as toasters and vacuums cleaners. I finally reached end of the aisle, so I headed back to the middle of the store where I began the search. As I neared the demarcation line, separating right from left, (or is it left from right?); I decided to venture into the left side of the store. After only a few steps, I found only clothing, jewelry, and such things—you know, all image and no substance. Ok, no need to go too far left because what I was looking for simply would not be among the fluff.

I made my way back to the center; it took about three seconds, because I did not wander too far left. As I arrived at the center I began to move toward the middle of the store, along the separation of right from left. I passed items such as blankets and pillows, dishes and cookware, and other items that people who are the heart of America use everyday to feed their kids and keep them warm.

I ventured on and soon found the electronics section—you know entertainment—movies, music and cyberspace, the middle-class diversion from reality. After a few moments, ok, maybe it was more than a few, I tore myself away from the hottest music video, by today’s hottest female vocalist—the same one no one will remember in six months, and continued my trek.

Suddenly, there it was! The aisle containing paper, pencils, and spiral notebooks. Just as I suspected in the beginning—it was on the right side. Ok, grab one and go—but which one? I wanted a conservative cover (duh) with a basic color and about one hundred pages, not that I had that much to write, it is just better to be safe than sorry. Safety is important to people who hang out on the right.

The first notebook that I picked up must have been one of a kind, unique in the world of spiral notebooks, because I could not find the slot on the shelf where it belonged. Without finding the proper place on the shelf I had no way of knowing how much the notebook cost. It had a conservative cover, kind of a battleship gray, but it had this non-traditional spiral. There was a spiral on the top third of the left side and a spiral on the bottom third, but no spiral in the middle (there’s that middle thing again). It was a bit different, and I could not find a price so I decided to pass and put it back—but where? I look around again and still could not find where the notebook belonged. I then remembered my mother’s words, the words she used to say after she tripped over my toys, “Why can’t you put things back in where you find them?” So, I put it back—in the wrong spot.

I picked up another notebook, less conservative and with fewer pages, but with a traditional spiral. Not quite what I wanted, so back it went too. There was another one that caught my eye, but it was so bright it was hard to miss. It had bright neon colors and a plastic cover. This one was a bit too trendy for me, and if I bought it, I was sure that my daughter would latch on to it and I would need another spiral notebook. Finding nothing else, I went back to the first notebook that I looked at—you know the homeless one. It really wasn’t that bad and it was technically homeless, so off to the register I headed.

As I neared the register with the shortest line (unfortunately the shortest line often still takes the longest time) I realized the store must be having an incredible sale on paper towels and facial tissue, because there was an eighty-year-old man in front of me with a shopping cart over flowing with paper towels and facial tissue. Either paper products were this guys secret to a long and happy life, or this was the mother of all sales.

Once he finished, I paid for my homeless spiral notebook with the conservative cover and non-traditional spiral. A short while later I was in the food court of a shopping mall, writing notes in my new spiral notebook. After about two pages I discovered there was a good reason for the non-traditional spiral—the middle gap area made the notebook more comfortable to hold.

It occurred to me that once again Aristotle was correct. It is better to take the middle road and not venture too far toward the extremes. But in the end, I still found what I was looking for on the right, even if only slightly right of center.

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About Me

An English diarist and naval administrator. I served as administrator of the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament. I had no maritime experience, but I rose to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and King James II through patronage, diligence, and my talent for administration.


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