Study Habit

Beneath the yellow glow and increasing, stuffy warmth of the standing halogen lamp, the 6:00 tabloid shows melted into the 7:00 syndicated sitcoms which blurred into the prime-time reruns that faded into the 10:00 showing of Star Trek which dumped me into the 11:00 news with my back sore, my eyes blurry, and my homework for the next day's classes un-started The time and the amount of work I had to do didn't register with my brain immediately Rather, this awareness faded in, like an old television slowly humming to life as its circuits are excited, until finally its screen flashes to its full intensity.

"My homework!", I said, sitting upright with a start Sure enough, there on my bed lay the open-but-undisturbed backpack which I had been using as a pillow for the past 5 hours No wonder my head hurt I shook my aching head to clear it, my thoughts confused by the simultaneous adrenaline rush and lack of blood resulting from my sudden sit-up After a quarter minute of dizziness, my thoughts became sentient again, and I knew what I had to I used the bathroom This relieved one soreness, although my muscles, back, head, and eyes still ached from my 5 hour convalescence I staggered out of the bathroom, across the hall, and back into my bedroom I sat down on the bed and reached for my glass of water It was empty, either from my consumption or from sheer evaporation over the course of 5 hours.

With a sigh, I got up and dragged my stiff legs downstairs, into the kitchen, to get more water A few moments later, as I contemplated the glass of clear fluid and cloudy ice in my hand, I realized that I was hungry With another sigh, I put my glass of water down on the counter, and walked my bare feet across the cold linoleum of the kitchen, through the garage door, and onto the cold and dirty concrete of the garage Shivering, I opened the freezer, and peered into its unlit, frost-laden shelves After a minute of haggling, I finally pulled out a frozen macaroni and cheese from the freezer, then closed the box of cold and walked back into the kitchen, where I clicked open the microwave, inserted the macaroni, and then slammed the microwave shut, sending the macaroni off to its irradiated doom Turning my back to the softly humming microwave, I walked over into the living room, sat down in an easy chair, and turned on the television with a nearby remote.

As the television hummed to life, I felt a vague irritation at the back of my mind, as if I was forgetting something "My homework!" I said, slapping my forehead I lifted myself out of the easy chair, walked back up the stairs, entered my bedroom, hefted my book-heavy backpack onto one shoulder, then labored back down the stairs, walked back to the easy chair, and let the backpack slam onto the ground by the chair's side I sat down in the easy chair and began searching my highly disorganized backpack for the next day's planner Just at that point, the microwave alarm began to beep I got up, opened the microwave, removed the formerly-frozen meal now heated to burning temperatures, closed the microwave, and carried the electronically heated foodstuff back to the easy chair, intending to eat as I worked As I placed the tray on the TV table by the easy chair, I realized that I had forgotten my water Sure enough, a quick glance revealed that the water still waited for me, over on the kitchen counter I got up and walked to the water As I picked it up, I noticed that its ice had melted, leaving my with a full glass of semi-cool water That wasn't acceptable I drank off a few inches of the water, then put in some fresh ice and walked back to the easy chair, fully intending to start to work.

However, as I leaned over to look in my backpack once again, I realized that the two inches of water I had just drank had excited my digestive system's waste removal sub-systems, and I found myself once again feeling the call of nature Once again, I attempted to ignore this new distraction, but the more I tried to ignore it, the more it moved to the forefront of my mind Finally, I could ignore it no longer I got up, walked to the bathroom, and carried through with my promise to my kidneys Then I walked back to the easy chair, sat down, and began searching for the planner again At length, I found it, removed it, and opened it to my entry for the next day As I skimmed the page I was heartened by the brevity of the list of assignments: just a few physics problems and a short story for Creative Writing Nothing that I couldn't do in under an hour Satisfied that I was finally getting going, my mind remembered the food placed on the TV tray at my side I looked over at my water and macaroni and cheese, and was about to eat it when I realized that I had carried over no silverware Placing my planner on the floor, I got up, walked to the kitchen, pulled a knife and fork from a drawer, and a napkin from another drawer, and walked back to the easy chair I sat down, spread the napkin on my lap, and was about to take a bite of food when I remembered that I had not washed my hands after using the bathroom.

A brief debate waged inside my mind On one side were the forces of brevity, urging me to save my precious time by just going ahead and eating, after all I had used the bathroom quite a few minutes ago, and surely no bacteria from my digestive system could survive the outside that long, and besides, it's my own digestive juices, even if it gets re-imbibed, it's nothing I've never handled before On the other side were the forces of habits-ingrained-in-my-mind, urging me to go and wash my hands because, well, c'mon, YYYYYEEEUUUCCHH-Think-about-what-you're-doing-if-you-don't-wash-those-hands! The side of ingrained habits won I put down my knife and fork, picked up the napkin and put it on the TV table, and walked into the bathroom to wash my hands As I put my hands in the hot water, I realized how cold I was The warm, soapy water splashing across my skin was like a electric blanket lain across an arctic refugee The rest of me felt like a field of tundra by comparison And after I dried my hands, they became even colder than the rest of me, as the remaining water on them lost its heat and evaporated As I walked out of the bathroom, I also became painfully aware of my bare feet, my toes feeling numb and icy as they padded across the floor I decided that I couldn't work while I was this cold I walked over to the thermostat and turned it up 5 degrees, then walked up the stairs to my bedroom and picked up a pair of socks and a small blanket I carried these supplies downstairs and sat down in the easy chair to employ them But, as I pulled the socks on my feet, I felt colder than ever The socks, already cold, were leaching heat from my feet, rather than insulating my feet from the cold Struck with sudden inspiration, I stood up, walked over to the two lamps on the wall, and put one sock over the exposed light-bulb of each lamp The room was slightly dimmer, but my socks would soon be warmer Satisfied, I walked back over to the easy chair, sat down, and wrapped the blanket around my feet, to cover them until the socks were warmed.

Finally peacefully settled, I placed the napkin on my lap again and began eating my macaroni and cheese It was by now lukewarm, but acceptable When I finished, I stood up and carried my eating supplies back into the kitchen, to place them on the counter On my way back to the easy chair, I happened to glance at the clock on the wall It was 11:48! Somehow, another fifty minutes had slipped through my grasp, despite my efforts to complete my homework I gritted my teeth and redoubled my efforts to complete the next day's assignments.

But first, I had to put on my socks I walked over to the two lamps on the wall and pulled off the socks Sure enough, they were toasty warm I placed one on each foot, and padded back to the easy chair, where I pulled the blanket up over my lap I removed the physics book and a few sheets of blank paper from my backpack and began to work on the physics problems However, after the first few problems, my mind began to go fuzzy, and my eyes started to go dim The heat from the thermostat, along with the comfiness of the blanket and the toasted socks, was making me drowsy I put my work paper in my physics book, placed the book on the TV table, removed my blanket, and walked to the thermostat, which I turned back down to its original setting, 5 degrees colder Then I walked back to the easy chair, sat down, removed my socks, and put them and the blanket on the floor I began working on my physics problems again, without much success, for I was still drowsy, and now I was also cold I pressed on, anyhow, determined to make my will power to work supreme over my body's desire to sleep.

The next thing I remember, I was drifting back to wakefulness, summoned back from my unwilling sleep by my excretory system's third demand for exercise I blinked groggily, closed my mouth, now dry from sleeping with it open, and looked at the clock It was now 3:12 If I hadn't already been upright, leaning against the easy chair's back, I would have sat up with a start Frantically, I began searching for my physics book I found it where it had fallen on the floor to the side of the chair, its cover open and its pages bent out of shape from its fall As I got up out of the chair to pick up the book, I realized how bad I felt Somehow, the three hours I had just spent unconscious in an easy chair had left me even more sore than my five hours conscious lying on my side on my bed with a backpack for my pillow And somehow, those three hours of rest made me need to use the bathroom even more than my five hours of wakeful inactivity I picked up the physics book and my papers, placed them on the easy chair, and walked into the bathroom, where I was blinded by the glare of the bright bathroom lights Once nature's call was answered, I stumbled back to the easy chair, picked up my homework, sat down, and started on the problems once more However, I couldn't help but notice just how cold my feet were, as I tried to concentrate on my work If my feet had been ice before, they were at absolute zero now I tried to ignore it, and centered my mind on the vector problems at hand, but whenever I crossed my legs absentmindedly, and one frigid foot would contact the other, the problem re-entered my mind with a shiver Finally, I decided to do something about it I lifted my feet onto the easy chair, and sat Indian-style, with my feet pressed between the undersides of my legs and the cushions of the easy-chair Slowly, they came back to life, and I could work on my physics undisturbed, except for the occasional itch.

Finally, at 3:34, I finished my physics homework I placed it in my backpack, and was about to go upstairs to get another three hours of sleep Then I remembered the short story, and my Creative Writing teacher's instructions: at least 1500 words long, and about someone making a big mistake Well, it seemed to make sense when I started writing, and I'm sure not going to go back and write it again, both because I don't have time, and because the sunrise coming in through the window behind me is casting too much glare on the computer screen for me to type easily It's a beautiful sunrise It looks like it's going to be a beautiful day.

1998