Preparing for puttering


Neil Snarr - Contributing columnist



In a couple of years, I will be on the verge of what people refer to as “senior”, and it recently occurred to me that I need to start thinking and preparing for old age. Of course, there is no assurance that I will reach some ripe old age, but I was once a Boy Scout and “Be Prepared” is part and partial of that organization and it seemed to stick. However, I was not a very successful Boy Scout.

My first thought was to be certain that I know what it means to “putter around” — a phrase with which I have been familiar for a very long time. However, I did not find dictionary.com particularly helpful. Definition number one: “To busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner.” Leisurely and casual – OK; but ineffectual – never.

I might be slow, but I will be effective!

Definition number two: “To move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose.” To move or go in a specified manner is fine, but with ineffective action or little energy or purpose – absolutely not!

Definition number three: “To move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.” To move or to go slow is fine, but with ineffective action or little energy or purpose? I simply can’t believe it!

Who are these people who write such things?

This led me to ask the obvious question: “Who writes or who wrote these books we put so much faith in?”

Of course, I do know that Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary — everyone knows that! Well, wouldn’t you know that not only does dictionary.com define “putering around” foolishly, but OUPblog (Oxford University’s Press’ blog) says that Samuel Johnson, Jr. wrote the first American dictionary.

So much for these “academic questions”; let’s start thinking about intentional, effective puttering.

First, one must clarify about what one is going to putter. I had a neighbor once who simply could not wait to retire and commit himself to insulating his garage. He did insulate his garage, but when that was complete, he was stymied – it had a beginning and an end. Poor thinking!

Pure puttering has no end — it is a continuum, ad infinitum! Gardening is a good choice, but it is seasonal, like painting your house. Though “volunteering” is a good choice, it may not be sufficiently demanding or structured. Don’t give up, after all it is what you have left!

Second, where will your putter place be located? There is one consideration here and nothing can replace it – it must be very close to a bathroom! Substitute toilets are acceptable, but I do not recommend bushes. I think we need not pursue this issue further. You know the saying — location, location, location – think like a realtor!

I realize that this topic will not be understood by young people – those under 70 or so — but it will make sense once they mature.

I may return to this topic sometime in the future, but before closing there is another one of those issues that simply cannot be skirted (that’s a pun): What considerations are relevant with the puttering of your wife or live-in? (Now you see how progressive I really am – I realize that just because you live together doesn’t mean you are married.)

Be smart: Your partner’s puttering pronouncements are none of your business … period.

Neil Snarr is Professor Emeritus of Wilmington College.

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Neil Snarr

Contributing columnist