Doing time 


Dewar's Scotch Whiskey used to have an ad campaign called Dewar's Profiles, with brief bios of people who were doers who drank Dewar's, people who did things like climb Mount Rushmore and camp on a presidential nostril, or run large corporations surrounded by quailing underlings -- in other words, things people couldn't do if they drank a lot of scotch. The ads taught us that just because you get tanked up on whiskey doesn't mean you can't make something of yourself besides a spectacle. They also made alcoholism no excuse for failure, since these people probably were doing snootfuls of Dewar's while performing colonoscopies and trapeze acts, and you drink all the time, so where's your success? In the mail?

Years ago when my friend Paige and I put out a 'zine we wanted to do profiles like these, but we didn't know any doers. We knew a lot of talkers. So we did the Would-Doers Profiles, about people who would do big things ... if only.

Everyone knows a lot of Would-Doers, especially around New Year's resolution time. Call them "gonna's" for short -- gonna do this, gonna do that, gonna make all kinds of plans that will vanish in a gust of disinterest. A "gonna" is that pile of olive-colored luggage and odd glasses that you're "gonna" dump in a garage sale, but which has gathered a layer of dust that passes for gray icing. It's that house you bought that's not so much a fixer-upper as a knocker-downer, since you have never fixed an inch of it. It's that person you're "gonna" ask out, but by the time you get up the courage they've begun hormone therapy for their sex-change operation. We all have a million things we're gonna do someday -- a day which, fortunately, is not clearly marked on the calendar.

Bound and determined

But there comes a point when you realize that you or the person speaking is not actually gonna do a thing about the subject at hand, and their aspirational stuttering is threatening to give you an aneurysm.

There's no time like New Year's to get butch about this. Gonnas need time limits, which I'm more than happy to offer. If you say you're gonna do something, you should have X amount of time to do it. If you haven't done it by then, you have to shut up about it. You can still think about it or actually even do it one day, but you can never speak of it again. Feel free to dispute these limits by stating your grievance on paper, putting it in an envelope, addressing it to me and leaving it sit on the desk.

Home-improvement projects: You say you're gonna refurbish an item you bought at a garage sale; time's up when cobweb appears on the item. You say you're gonna stop buying junk at garage sales; time's up when you break a leg tripping over crap and can't go to any more garage sales. You say you're gonna do yard work; time's up when neighborhood kids to start racing by your overgrown property because "a witch lives there." You say you're gonna clean out the fridge; time's up when neighbors who can't stand the smell call the police, suspecting a corpse.

Work-improvement projects: You say you're gonna improve your attitude; time's up on the day the employee cafeteria starts stocking Jaegermeister. You say you're gonna stop being such an ass-kisser; time's up when someone says, "You're not an ass-kisser! You're just, like, a really positive person. I totally mean that!" You say you're gonna stop using company equipment to make lewd Xeroxes; time's up when it's part of your job description. You say you're gonna pursue a career you enjoy; time's up yesterday.

Make correct change

Self-improvement projects: You say you're gonna lose weight; time's up when your dog uses you for shade. You say you're gonna stop drinking to excess; time's up when you garnish the water in the toilet with some olives speared with a plastic sword. You say you're gonna start working out; time's up when you cough up what appears to be mummy dust.

Miscellaneous: You say you're gonna widen your social circle; time's up when you hope spiders will stay on the ceiling long enough to watch a movie with you. You say you're gonna improve a relationship; time's up when the TV breaks down. You say you're gonna start a relationship; time's up when you brush elbows with a stranger and describe it later as a "date." You say you're gonna stop being so neurotic; time's up the day people stop conspiring against you. You say you're gonna stop feeding your shallow material lifestyle and address deep spiritual longings; time's up the day spiritual merchandise improves and logos get snappier. You say you're gonna go to the dentist; time's up the day you can pick out the notes for "Moonlight Sonata" on your smile.

OK, now that we all have some time limits, things should either get done or get quieter, which will be an improvement either way. Now, go have a successful 2001. I'm gonna.


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