I’m not stretching the truth much when I say that I’ve eaten a banana every morning for the last nine years. I believe in potassium, in vitamin B6, and providing a delicate yellow food for the heart. Sure, there was that one time in Wyoming, in 2005, while driving straight from Minneapolis to Los Angeles, when I couldn’t, for the life of me, find a banana. However, this was a road trip and time was lost on me, evening folded over into morning, an unnoticeable wave. And of course there have been a couple of times when the day got away from me and the banana missed the morning; but I’d venture to say these are only a handful of times and I always found a banana before midnight. What’s the point, you might ask? It’s not necessarily the banana, it’s the safe zone of routine and why we have them, and how many things end up falling into and, at times, out of our routine(s).
Depending on what your current level of “stability” or “instability” in life is, routine plays a role that either eases one into stability or harnesses that which seems unstable. Having recently moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn I find myself utilizing the word “stable” to much greater extent, yet it is not because of the blurred or frenetic elements of Manhattan—of which there are many—nor that Brooklyn is necessarily a better place to find “stability,” it’s that my old routine of grabbing a banana has extended into a multi-textured routine, which includes mixed nuts, orange juice from a straw, and entering a certain car on the F train at the same place so that I know where I can most easily step off come Herald Square.
Much of our routines are enveloped by the way we choose to transport ourselves from A to B, or from home to work, and then within and around our weekends. All of this, of course, is no new phenomenon for thought and everyone has, to some extent, something routine in their lives (note: the following are not my routines): brushing teeth within the time it takes to hum the Star Spangled Banner; letting the French Press steam for exactly three minutes and forty-one seconds before pooling it in a medium cup for your significant other while handing them The New Yorker; a 3:00 p.m. Chivas Regal with the morning papers and Dunhill cigarettes (Hunter S.Thompson); always sprinting the last two blocks of the West Side Highway before peeling off into West 10th st.; folding your sheets meticulously so that the base is entirely even with the ledge line in the wooden wall; etc. The curious element is when routines change and if this is because of how we adjust to new movements—I used to walk to work, now I train—or if we are just a continuance of many unnoticeable routines, some of which are more thoroughly manifested by the exterior component from which we string along our days. There are the more private routines, such as mantras or counting steps in one’s head or insert quiet and mysterious tic.
What compels me to inquire more about the makeup of routines is that I’m slowly adding to mine; also that what we have within our routines are often noted as personal tics. Not only is the orange from a straw action a new addition—I don’t even like straws—but it’s an accompaniment to the banana and I use the straw because I can better consume the juice I poured into “my” cup on the ten minute walk to the train. Some might label this a tic. Since I eat many bananas daily, thus making it often superfluous to purchase anything not ripened, I now get one ripe one almost every morning from Ali, who operates a deli below my abode. Has the move to Brooklyn caused additions to the routine? Am I coveting some secret—no longer the case—mode of actions and interactions that I can savor as the small but meaningful particles of a good, stable life? Are these just tics? Whatever the case, I’m noticing the incorporation of more aspects of routine and am thus excited to see and hear what others' routines are, how they change, if they change, and how routines become communal affectations of domesticity.
When work hours are long and there are always evening events to attend a routine can always keep one balanced. But I’d opt to not relegate either good or bad to routine, as I believe they stem from a sort of reaction toward change or a flannelling of the body of stability and/or instability. The best way to gauge how effective a routine is comes when it’s disrupted, which is often on a vacation, a business trip or by forces outside of one’s own control. Perhaps we could all learn from purposefully cold-turkeying our routines some time, by noting how much this action alters the landscape of our often chaotic weeks. Despite this suggestion, this “perhaps,” I don’t think I’m quite ready to abandon the daily banana. I am, however, ready to further discuss and investigate the root of our routines and how small daily actions can cut the slopes of instability down to a more “stable” development of the day. After all, an anagram for routine is “in route” so it’s comforting to think of routine as a familiar passage toward more unfamiliar places, a bridge, of sorts.