An Overabudance of Diligence

Make text smaller Make text larger

is being hyper conscientious worth the effort?

by lorraine duffy merkl

oops, i did it again-i stood in line for shakespeare in the park, this time to see a fabulous performance of the winter's tale.

i've attended this free outdoor event since 1980, using the same m.o. every time: get there at dawn to camp out. and every year i end up about 200 people back by the big rock. hence, i always end up in virtually the same seats, which are in the section that could be deemed "the nose bleeds." there were years i felt like they saw me coming and whipped out the same old seats just to mess with me. this year, due to an alternate side of the street parking matter that i had to deal with, i broke tradition and arrived "late" at 9 a.m.

my position was parallel to the north of the great lawn, just before the line turns off the path and veers uphill towards the west side. farther back than usual, but for the first time ever i got to sit on a park bench. (i've always had bench envy of those who did not have to bring or rent a beach chair similar to the one i usually squirm in.)

as i sat for four hours, instead of my usual six or seven, i found that life at the back of the line is pretty much the same as it is closer up, except with a smidge more anxiety regarding whether i'd make the cut for tickets. that lack of smug assurance that seats would be scored actually added to the cachet and excitement of waiting.

not only that, but the tickets i did get were two of the best my husband and i have ever had: middle section right on the aisle. my over-diligence in years past, that without fail reaped tickets but nothing more in way of perks for my early morning arrival, has made me question if being hyper conscientious-which goes way beyond the ticket line-is really worth the effort?

i'm always the first mom to hand in the permission slip and money for the class trip, even though the child of the last mom to pony up still gets to go on the outing. i pay my bills when i get them, even though coned doesn't turn the lights off if you're only a little overdue; also american express gives you 10 days grace after the "pay by this date" stamp. oh, and my last doctor's visit ended with a need for a blood test. i arranged it for the same day it was requested, figuring the sooner i did it the sooner the md would get the results. they reached him within a couple of days, except it really didn't matter since he had left for vacation.

of course, i've passed the need to get things done now on to my children. during the school year i start asking if homework is done before they've finished their after-school snack and, most recently, by insisting that they crack open their summer reading books before summer had even begun.

clearly, there is a fine line between being a good do-bee and manic candidate of ocd (obsessive compulsive doer)-and i've crossed it.

perhaps procuring shakespeare in the park tickets even though i showed up at least three hours after the "first responders" is the universe's wake-up call for me to calm down. not easy to do in nyc. good thing i'm heading off to montauk.


lorraine duffy merkl's debut novel fat chick, from the vineyard press, is available at and

Make text smaller Make text larger




Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Neighborhood Newsletters