I AM READY. I am ready for 1977. I have a black leatherette appointment book, a desk calendar for the office, a desk calendar for my home, a calendar for the kitchen wall where each day is a box, and a large appointment book issued by a large corporation which contains, among other things, maps of the world and information on how to use the phones in countries I will never visit.
I don't know whom I'm fooling.I do pretty much the same thing evey year at this time, thinking that if I can find the perfect appointment book I can bring some order to my life. I will wake up early, do my exercises, have a healthy breakfast, take the bus instead of the car, work at a measured pace, record what I've done every 15 minutes and end the day with a full page - documentation that I have accomplished something.
I think this feeling goes back to grade school when I went out to buy school supplies. I had the notion then that notebooks could make all the difference - that by buying the right ones I could markedly improve my grades. There was something about those new notebooks that promised a fresh start, the chance to begin the years in an organized fashion. It was important to choose the right one and I used to spend hours deciding whether this year was going to be a looseleaf year or a spiral year. Color was important, too. Some years a blueish looseleaf cover was in, other years it was black. I never found out who decided these things. I only know I always chose the wrong color.
Somewhat the same thing happens each year with calendars and appointment books. I resolve to use them, stopping sooner or later because I hardly ever have anything to write in them. Whole weeks ago by without an appointment and looking through my book now I see only that on Jan. 13 I have to do a radio show. My book does not say where I have to do the radio show or whom with.
I have the notion that this is not the case with other people - especially journalists. We are supposed to be at the center of things, making diary entries like, "Lunched with Churchill. He was critical of DeGaulle again. What a bore." I have started to read Eric Sevareid's book, "Not so Wild a Dream," and it made me depressed right at the start. There he was having a nightcap with William L. Shirer or living in Spain at the same time his friend Robert Ardrey was writing African Genesis.
This is the way it's supposed to be. This is not the way it is with me. Instead, my diary entries for yesterday would say, "8:15 woke up. 8:30, woke up again. 8:45 to 9:15. Picked up Alice, Elizabeth and another Elizabeth and drove them to school along with Alex. 9:15, told teacher that Alex would be going to a friend's house after school. 9:15 to 9:30, drove to work and had near collision with Diamond Cab. 9:32, dropped off two pair of slacks and three shirt at cleaners. Asked for one-day special and mending of seat of pants. No starch for shirts. The rest of the day was downhill after that. This is not the stuff of history.
I once sent away for one of those appointment books in which you write down what you will be doing, what you should be doing, what you have done and how you did at it. After a while, I started to lie to my appointment book, filling in things I wish I had done. I did the same thing once when I was asked to participate in a television survey and I wrote in programs I thought I should have watched. I think I personally kept Omnibus of the air past its time.
The ultimate for me, though, was when I was offered the free use of a telephone answering service for a month. At the time, I had just moved to a one-room apartment from a bigger place, taking my two color phones and their long-lines with me because they were mine forever. I placed both phones on a little table and hooked up the answering service. I placed an appointment book next to the phones and considered myself in business, although for the life of me I could not tell you what the business was.
At the beginning, I used to hurry home breathless and call my service. There were almost never any messages. After a while, it became downright embarrassing to call. One time the operator said, "No messages again, Mr. Cohen." That did it. I started to call myself, leaving messages that smacked of significance - "He knows what it's about." Then I would call and ask for my messages, acting excited as if I was about to close a business deal. At the end of the month, I canceled the service. I was running out of phony names.
I thought this was all great fun until years later when I covered an investigation in which the evidence consisted of a man's appointment book. He had kept detailed records of whom he had met and when and just exactly what had transpired at the meetings. The Internal Revenue Service found this all very interesting and I resolved there and then to record as little as possible.
Let the IRS make what it can out of "picked up shirts."