Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 11.07.13
Stanstead, Quebec


Just your routine newspaper column

If I know you (and I think I do), I bet you shower the same way every morning: wash there, wash there, missed a spot there, wash there, especially there.

And when you get out of the shower, you dry yourself in the exact same order: face, head, front, legs, there, especially there, your back, then you wrap the towel around you and pretend you're a Scottish warrior or on your way to a fancy cotillion. Or something like that.

Now that we're all picturing each other naked, let's talk about routines. Routines are those aspects of our lives that we do out of habit, often without thinking, like grooming or voting Liberal.

The word "routine" comes from the Latin "rotini," which means "to eat pasta every single Saturday." The word "routine" is also related to "route," "rote" and "rut" but not "poutine," which should never be a part of your regular diet.

Over time, "routine" has come to imply dullness and predictability. The self-help books warn, for instance, that one's relationship is in decline when the sex becomes routine, yet any longstanding couple would argue that routine sex is better than no sex at all and far easier on the hips.

Routines are comforting. How often after a tragedy do we hear people say that they just want to get back to the routine? Here in Quebec, we not long ago went through a disaster that, after the terrible shock and grieving, had people longing to get their lives back to normal. I'm talking, of course, about the election of Pauline Marois.

We adopt routines because they work or because we can do them without overtaxing our busy brains. For example, each evening when I get the coffeemaker ready for the next morning, I know by heart exactly how long to run the water to fill the carafe. This frees up my brain to think about other things, like how come I always end up making the coffee?

But I'm grateful for that coffee in the morning because there's no better time for routine than when you are only half awake and trying to get the family out the door. Last year, we had two children living at home, one going to high school, the other to elementary school. The morning routine went something like:

  • Wake at 7:00 a.m.

  • Mmmm, coffee.

  • "Abby, time to get moving. James, let's go."

  • More coffee.

  • Make Abby's lunch.

  • Get Abby's breakfast.

  • "James! It's quarter after! Come on!"

  • Forget where I was with Abby's breakfast and lunch.

  • Still more coffee.

  • James eats breakfast.

  • Deb makes James's lunch.

  • Realize we coddle our kids.

  • I shower.


  • James showers.

  • Tell Abby she can't shower because her idea of a quick shower is fifteen minutes while she stands there and sings, leaving us to wonder if she's even cleaning herself at all.

  • Realize that she probably could have showered in the time it took to argue about it.

  • But probably not.

  • Get dressed.

  • Deb showers.

  • Have Abby drink her prescribed nutritional supplement, which we call her "milk" but is more often known as "Abbydrinkyourmilk Abbydrinkyourmilk."

  • Brush teeth.

  • Out the door at 8 a.m.
This year, though, James is off to Cegep, with class times varying day to day, so do I wake him up? Is he taking the car? Do we make him a lunch that he's not going to eat anyway? Abby's at Stanstead College and some days she has morning assembly, some not, and is her uniform here or did she leave it at school?

And she's switched to Abbydrinkyourcooler, and did she drink it yet, and what about lunch -- taking it or at school? And the coffeemaker is new, and I can't get the ratios right to make decent coffee, and it didn't go off this morning, and my day is ruined, and we're late, we're late, WE'RE LATE!

Our after-school and evening routines are likewise in flux, a word we take from the Greeks, who were a far less organized than the Latins.

As you can gather, I'm a fan of routine (and sporrans!). However, I think it's important to be conscious of our routines, maybe shake them up from time to time. Wash there first, for example, or invite someone in to wash there for you, although be warned that if you do this, you will probably be late for work.