High Priority

New days. How do they begin? With a list.


Who doesn’t keep a list? To-dos never end. We all have them, whether written, mental or compelled by others. It’s a way of life. Otherwise, how do we measure progress?

The thoughts behind this missive begin when I find myself behind a large panel truck creeping along for miles in slow traffic. It’s amazing what one can see advertised on the rear of panel trucks. This one was painted in bold blue letters. Part of it read, ‘High Priority….’

So here I am, heading into where the action happens, my office. I drive with a long list of the day’s issues to focus on. It’s wadded up in my shirt pocket. Where lists are concerned, I tend to think about the day’s objectives in a positive way, not in a forced labor way. I like to think of them as ‘opportunities,’ gifts to unwrap from the serendipity gods, gifts brimming with fortune and some fame if not directions for pure survival.

I keep looking at this truck, contemplating the writing that stares back at me with a pair of huge eyeballs that look more like socket wrenches that ocular eyepieces. Normally I wouldn’t be paying a bit of attention to such visual distractions, but this truck is sending me a message. God’s messages come in many ways.

Lists begin to dominate my mind. I wonder when the need for them began. Maybe it started with grocery lists a long time ago. Now grocery lists are musts. How many times have I walked into the grocery store without a list, hungry as a ravenous wild dog? It’s too late to try to summon up why I’m there. I’m just there, there to purchase something. What? Memory loss is common in grocery stores.

I wander down aisles, filling the buggy with this and that, trying to remember why I’m here. Stuff overflows from my cart. I hope to have succeeded in buying at least something I actually need. The cashier looks at me, shakes her head, knowing I’m a shopper without a list.

But those were the old days. Now I make a list. The cost of living has chiseled a big hole in the once-thought impregnable vault of my budget. Its contents are being siphoned faster than I can type. Women are brighter. They make lists. But not men. Woman prioritize things, high priority or low priority. Men wing it, their bellies their leader.

Women know the store’s layout, where things are. Their lists begin when they walk through the door. No wasted motion, no impulse acquisitions. No superfluous junk, just what’s on the list, sprinkled with conversation among the aisles. It takes women hours to shop.

Now listen to me. It’s not the smartest thing to do, living without a list. You will give the Fates the upper hand. They delight in throwing socket wrenches into your carefully crafted but unwritten plans.

That said, still there’s a sense of romance, a sort of freedom, in living life with the Fates, especially if fantasy is in your nature. It’s a ‘just show up and see what happens’ existence. Exciting, yes, if you enjoy sometimes getting lucky or being blindsided by things you thought only happened to your neighbors. You never know which.

Before the digital age I compiled long, legal-sized sheets full of notes. Ink on paper. There’s a feeling of empowerment when you cross ‘em off. At the top of my lists were the words, “Break up your fallow ground and sow not among thorns,” a quote from the Prophet Jeremiah, a fellow who knew Somebody who also kept lists, very long lists. It’s meant for folks who need daily goading. Innate laziness seeps unseen into mankind’s best intentions.

Of course, such lists overreach the ability to accomplish. Nothing was ever prioritized, just random chaotic thoughts of things to do. Sometimes we mistake panic for inspiration. As one once said, “So much spaghetti on the wall.”

      But there’s no question that lists can help the feeble minded remember what to do. And lately I have taken a cue from women shoppers by assigning priority to the tasks on the lists. Life is too precious for extraneous efforts and needless trips.

Finally, I turn into my office driveway, still thinking about why the message from the panel truck grabbed my attention. What could it mean? Just then my cell phone rings. It’s my house calling.   “Did you forget to call them? It’s still not working.”

I look at my list. Somewhere down near the bottom of it was the reminder. But the call jolted my memory. God, who is always in first place, was shoved aside, being replaced by the urgent priority at hand.


Listen, messages are everywhere, even on panel trucks. It read: High Priority Plumbing Services.

What’s at the top of your list today?


Bud Hearn

February 10, 2020