Chris Hawkins asked listeners to his BBC Radio 6 programme to contact him with the things they did the night before to save themselves milliseconds when they got up in the morning. Did people put their clothes ready? Did they set their breakfast cereal ready in its bowl?
Milliseconds seemed a slight underestimate of the time saved by setting things ready, it also underestimated the value of routines in creating a feeling of security.
Working in a busy secondary school through both the first and second lockdowns has demanded wearing a change of clothes every day. Each jacket and trousers worn are put into the wardrobe to hang for at least a week before being taken out to be worn again. Each shirt is put into the washing basket when getting home. The nightly routine of setting out the next day’s clothes has been one to try to stay healthy as well as to save milliseconds.
Lunch is put into a Tupperware box. Two slices of brown bread spread with butter, something more healthy than the chemical alternatives. Two pieces of mature cheddar, the type that has the maturity to crumble when it is cut. A Tunnock’s caramel wafer, maintaining a family tradition from my grandmother’s time of eating a large proportion of the Scottish company’s output.
A Cox’s apple, because no other apple compares with it for taste, except a Russet, and they are almost impossible to find. And three tomatoes, in memory of Bob Mortimer’s mum. It was Bob Mortimer on his fishing programme who talked about his mother going to the shop every day to buy three tomatoes as a way of having routine in her life.
The lunchbox is placed into my grey canvas schoolbag and the bag is placed in the boot of my car. There is no reason why I could not take the bag with me when I leave in the morning, perhaps it is just saving milliseconds.
Clear night skies offer the prospect of sunshine in the morning, and frost and fog overnight. The millisecond saving routine has been supplemented by putting a cover given to me by my aunt onto the windscreen of the car. It takes only a couple of seconds to remove and allows me to see clearly through the front window, if not through the back and sides, which require de-icer spray.
Perhaps the routines are the product of an obsessive-compulsive tendency, but they are reassuring, they are a statement everything is organised, that everything has been done.
Milliseconds? Maybe, but ones that create a feeling that the world is manageable, that everything is under control.