Big Dummy’s Revelation

Monday morning.

I’m in my 8 AM composition class sitting behind a raised computer desk talking about systems. Here’s the thing — on this day I made a great cup of tea in my 21 ounce stainless steel travel mug. Before leaving the house I let steep one bag of decaf English Breakfast and one regular bag of Irish Breakfast with a “spot” of whole milk.

Two things occurred to me as I made this tea. First, I love whole milk and thankfully we don’t regularly keep it in the fridge because who needs all that fat on a regular basis. Second, I wondered how the English Breakfast and the Irish Breakfast would get along. They seemed to get along rather well, but I imagine the Irish Breakfast, being caffeinated, was less subdued and more energetic that his English counterpart. Regardless, I was really looking forward to this mug of tea.

Unfortunately, the mug I bought at the beginning of the school year — to replace one that I lost at the end of last year — boasts the ability to keep beverages hot for 6 hours. I’ve never tested it for the full 6 hours but I can verify that the mug will keep hot drinks un-drinkably hot for at least 2-3 hours.

Forgetting this fact, I took a swig while sitting in traffic atop the crest of the Newport Bridge on the way to campus. “Holy, f*@k,” was my instant response to burning several layers from tongue. In retaliation I left the beverage isolated in the car’s cup holder as its punishment for the rest of my commute.

After spewing expletives at the abject failure of my long term memory to recall the last time I did this to myself, I vowed to ignore the travel mug. I shunned it. The mug for its part seemed nonplussed by this. Stoically it sat in the cup holder. “Screw you,” it replied. “You drop me, you leave me behind all the time and never ask me what I’d like to hold. Anyway, that’s what you get big dummy.”

Arriving to class the first thing I did was remove the lid so my tea would cool. Even now I can hear the mug sinisterly chuckling, “Yea, that’s a good idea; take the top off of travel mug filled to the brim.”

Now, I am of Italian descent. Having a conversation for an Italian is an aerobic form of exercise, not because we tend to talk a lot but we like to wave our hands all over the place as if it punctuates whatever we’re saying with some dynamic import.

See where this is headed?

When my travel mug spewed tea forth in a wide plum, thanks to my animated hand gestures, everything seemed to move in slow motion as the beverage flooded the depths of my backpack. That’s right — the stainless steel mug clanged to the desk and the ensuing flow of liquid poured over the edge of the raised computer podium like a milky waterfall forming a pool in my opened backpack.

“I’ll get paper towels,” a student in the front row said as he sprung from his seat and out the classroom door. I dismissed the rest of the students — how do you circle the wagon and bounce back from such a distracting mess?

Here’s the thing. I had to go home, empty the backpack and then return to campus. As I emptied the thankfully dry contents and fanned out the woefully drenched contents I needed to get out of the house. Which means I needed to find something to carry my things. In that moment all that presented itself was the laptop bag I sometimes cart my laptop in.

The bag is thin light and tiny so I grabbed two pens, a few papers I needed and dashed out. Two hours into my day I realized that I carry way more than is necessary.

Do I really need six pens, three pencils and a highlighter? Do I really need the tiny sketch pad and two different size cubes of Post-It Notes? Do I really need that extra book that I have no time to actually read?

The Victim as it dries out days later

Half of what was in the drenched back pack seems to fill the “Just In Case” category. You know, the back up. Seems when I look at it objectively, there is never been an actual “just in case” moment.

I also noticed that carrying less threw me off — I kept looking around and patting myself down thinking I was missing something, or that I left something behind. An illusion, a false worry.

This got me thinking…

Ok what else am I lugging around hour to hour, day to day, week to week that really could be set aside? How might I  lighten this load?

Frankly, there’e probably more stuff that can be jettisoned; more than I like to admit. This is likely true for everyone.

For now I’ll carry the lesson of the lighter load with a modest step and keep my eyes out for other “bags” whose measured and weighted contents are long overdue for review, reflection and eventual repudiation.




  1. Yikes. I definitely felt relief when I started just carrying my wallet and phone in my purse instead of tons of other things. I am not a makeup person so I don’t need all those bits and pieces. I do try to keep a pen and paper just incase brilliance strikes me.

  2. I stick to pockets. If it doesn’t fit it doesn’t go. I think that has something more to do with laziness than deep esoteric meaning of keeping things light. I keep a few diapers in the glove compartment and we are ready to go.

    I hate to feel weighed down. When traveling the baggage clerks always chuckle about the ridiculously small size and weight of my suitcase for myself and two daughters anywhere we go. My tote has my basics, a book, an ipad (for my four year old), and my journal.

    There are drawbacks. I often find myself ill prepared for events. A voyage on our sail boat without pen and paper. A picnic without a blanket. And the ever so often misplaced Drivers License and Debit card in those other pair of jeans!!! EEEEeekkk…so perhaps being prepared isn’t all bad…You’d much rather feel prepared than empty handed.

    • Maybe we can get you to strike a balance between your pockets and a purse the size of a suitcase. Like you every time I might switch things up a credit card goes missing or money disappears. My wife and I recalled the other day that a set of keys to a car we no longer own went missing shortly after we bought the car. To this day we have no clue where they went. Another great unsolved mystery. Thanks as always.

  3. I cleaned out my work bag the other day and couldn’t believe the things I found in there. I lightened my load and didn’t miss a thing. Sounds like your tea spill was a blessing in disguise!