Archived Opinion

In my dreams, I am organized and efficient

I am a great admirer of efficient people. In my enthusiasm for them I sometimes mistake myself for one of those types. I wrongly imagine I’m a getting-it-done kind of person who never goes upstairs or downstairs with empty hands; I like to believe that I’m always carrying an item in one direction or another, returning said items to their proper, pre-assigned places. The items remain until needed and always — without exception — are put back after use.

That’s a very nice goal, and sometimes I am quite diligent, for a time, at putting tools away. During those neat periods I’m prone to walk about muttering, for others’ edification: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” I get very indignant when Someone Else leaves tools Like They Always Do carelessly strewn in the yard, and they get rained on — as happened a month or so ago to the Dutch hoe. Then I generally remember it was actually me who last used the tool in question. That time I forgot the hoe after trying, unsuccessfully, to hack to death the Jerusalem artichokes along the back of the garden (an aside: they are in the sunflower family, which means they are allopathic. And that means Jerusalem artichokes inhibit other nearby plants from growing, as has occurred along the entire end of the vegetable plot).

Returning to efficiency, or lack there of: let me get busy at work, or interested in a book, or fascinated by pigs or geese or ducks or a new vegetable or anything new at all, and I’m virtually useless at accomplishing anything else. I’m instantly paralyzed by my new interest, this sudden grand passion, from attending to mundane tasks such as putting away tools, or listening when I’m spoken to, or getting tasks done that need doing.

A one-track mind really doesn’t cover it.

A friend with a background in psychology recently informed me, I hope jokingly, that I suffer not at all from attention deficit disorder; but rather, from a previously undiscovered-to-medical-science syndrome: attention rigidity disorder.

If I’m interested in pigs, then I read about and talk about and dream about pigs. The same thing if it’s geese, or ducks, or I don’t know — pick something preposterous, like working a fulltime job and having 87 farm animals to care for … Oh, heck, that’s not preposterous, that was the actual count last winter before some were sold.

Related Items

Another illustrative example: Boo the billy goat earlier this week got his fat head stuck through a fence trying to lick and nibble one of the does. He’s in full and stinky rut, but the does aren’t yet interested in his Don Juan self. They do seem to enjoy passing by his pen out of reach but near enough to drive him bonkers.

So here was Boo at morning feeding time, his head through the fence, trapped.

“Can you please get him out?” I asked my friend, my being dressed for work and not wanting a repeat of a recent experience in which I thoroughly offended the delicate sensibilities of my coworkers by getting his odor all over my clothes and hands.

Yes, I was told, don’t worry about Boo.

But to make a long, uninteresting story simply short and uninteresting, Boo’s head stayed wedged through the fence, despite vigorous efforts to free him. At moments like these, one must reach for the bolt cutters to cut the idiot billy free.

The bolt cutters are kept on a shelf in the barn. The bolt cutters have a place, just like the efficiency experts urge — but they were not, of course, in their correct place when actually needed.

This sent me into a full-blown snit. I was already late for work.

There are two pairs of bolt cutters on the farm, one assigned to stay at the top of the mountain, the other down below at the barn.

“Where,” I asked angrily, “are the bolt cutters this time?”

They couldn’t be found.

I slammed into the pickup truck to drive back to the house and find a pair. Meanwhile, Boo jerked his head back through to the correct side of the fence, shortcutting my trip. (See, I told you it was an uninteresting story. I have a lot like that, because my life is not nearly as fascinating on a weekly basis as it might appear from this column, culled as it is for the exciting highlights only).

How much easier, how wonderful it would be, if tools could be found where you expect to find them, when you most need them.

I stayed in my righteous snit for about 10 minutes. Then it dawned on me that I might have used the bolt cutters one day not long ago when one of the kids got her head stuck. I perhaps tossed them carelessly in the back of my car when done, taking them up to the house with intentions of bringing them back the next trip down the mountain to put them on the shelf in the barn where they belong.  

Oops, again — so much for efficiency.

(Quintin Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

Smokey Mountain News Logo
Go to top
Payment Information


At our inception 20 years ago, we chose to be different. Unlike other news organizations, we made the decision to provide in-depth, regional reporting free to anyone who wanted access to it. We don’t plan to change that model. Support from our readers will help us maintain and strengthen the editorial independence that is crucial to our mission to help make Western North Carolina a better place to call home. If you are able, please support The Smoky Mountain News.

The Smoky Mountain News is a wholly private corporation. Reader contributions support the journalistic mission of SMN to remain independent. Your support of SMN does not constitute a charitable donation. If you have a question about contributing to SMN, please contact us.