Long before cell phones, moms had 'yell phones'
As I get older, I look at a deadline as I would if someone screamed as I was walking down a dark alley. It certainly gets me moving, but it's mighty hard on my nerves.
Of course, deadlines and I have always been uneasy allies. I learned early on in school that a deadline is a brick wall that every procrastinator eventually runs into.
I learned this lesson early on when it came to homework. Actually, each homework assignment carried a double deadline - one at home and one in school.
My family's evening meal was more of an afternoon meal since it was served around 4 p.m. This meant that if I didn't do my homework when I got home from school to change from school clothes into play clothes, I had that hanging over me.
I would slip out after drying the dishes (or before if I could manage it) and run around the neighborhood until around 7 p.m. when my mother would call my brothers and me via yell phone.
For those of you who have lived more years in the 21st century than in the 20th, "yell phone" is not a typo of "cell phone." Mom would stand on the front or back porch and yell out my name or that of my brothers.
There was no such option as call waiting. If we heard her calling us, we'd better be in before she started yelling out our first, last and middle names or we were in trouble.
My brothers and sister were more conscientious students than I, so they would have already done their homework and they could settle in for some ice cream, chips and TV.
I got the snacks, but I was exiled to the kitchen table to do the math problems, learn the spelling words or use a flour-and-water paste to glue cutout states to a map of the U.S.
(I was less than accurate with the paste, so I generally wound up with most of the Midwestern states stuck to my forearm.)
Despite my parents' vigilance in making sure that I met daily home deadlines, I would tempt fate by delaying doing more involved reports or projects until the night before the work was due.
It seemed Miss Frumpwaggle and my other elementary school teachers deliberately set the deadline for such work for Monday mornings. Miss Frumpwaggle once told the class that she did that so that we would have the whole weekend to finish what we were supposed to be working on for the previous two weeks. Even if I had been doing what I was supposed to, I would have still fallen victim to the weekend deadline delusion.
Once the dismissal bell rang on Friday afternoon, I resorted to a play-now-pay-later system. I figured I deserved some rest and recreation after a "hard" week at school, so I planned on doing the work Saturday morning.
After Saturday morning cartoons, afternoon sports and games and evening TV watching capped by "The Lawrence Welk Show," the work was pushed back to Sunday morning.
With the exception of Mass in lieu of morning cartoons, Sunday was pretty much the same until an hour or so before 8:30 p.m. bedtime. That's when I finally got to work.
This meant either a late night or early morning. Even then, there were days when the ink on my report was drying on my way to school.
Obviously, I didn't learn from those early deadline dilemmas. In high school, I cut it even closer when it came to homework and special assignments.
My school day was similar to a very badly dubbed foreign movie in which the actors' lips were far out of synch with the English dubbing. I got my work done for each subject, but only while I was in a class for another subject.
I lucked out, since I usually had a non-homework class such as health in first period. While everyone else was learning a broken humerus bone is nothing to laugh at, I was doing my algebra homework for second period.
In algebra class, I would do the U.S. history homework due third period. The rest of my day followed suit with me beating the deadline for one class by doing the homework in the previous class.
Of course, this system was of no help when it came to doing 10-page research papers for English class in my senior year.
I would spend most of the night before the deadline hunting and pecking on an old Royal manual typewriter, trying to sort through my notes and praying periodically for the intercession of St. Jude, patron saint of hopeless causes.
What would be the perfect choice for a guy who constantly dodged deadlines in getting work done? Yes, that's right. I learned how to be a writer for a daily newspaper.
Finishing work just before the deadline arrived was something that I had spent my years in school perfecting, so having 10 minutes to type up a 350-word story on a breaking news event seemed like plenty of time.
However, I don't like to push deadlines elsewhere in life. That's not because I'm a recovering procrastinator. It's just that type of pressure is too hard on my nerves. It's much less stressful to get things done ahead of time.
I would like to elaborate on this, but my wife just called upstairs to say our evening meal is ready.
And Jo Ann used my first, last and middle names. That's one deadline I wouldn't dare miss.
(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes "Walt's Way" for each Sunday edition.)