Episode 79 – Calendars

Being nomadic and being retired both have something in common with our current COVID19 situation: we often just don’t know what day of the week it is.

Before retiring, I worked for a large school board (over 50,000 students and 120+ schools). For the first 15 years, I was a school secretary in elementary schools. Once our boys were older and I no longer felt that I needed to be home with them during the summer break, I moved into the board’s finance department, training school secretaries to use the board’s financial software, as well as setting up the operating budgets for new schools being built in our county. I ended my career with 5 years as a secondary school business manager.

Scheduling was important in all those roles; making sure other people (my Principal, classes on their field trips) were where they needed to be and school events were tracked to be added to the (paper) newsletter, and later making sure that the hours in my own day were used effectively. I absolutely LOVED my calendar book. It helped me keep track of appointments, of course, but I also kept the books as a way to look back at prior activities. My favourite format was a lightweight paper 8×10 with a thin vinyl protective cover, the 18 month version to allow planning WAY ahead, with each month spanning 2 pages. It fit easily into a shoulder bag or briefcase without adding any significant weight. (Aside: remember briefcases? When I left my school to take on the board office role, my staff got me a gorgeous burgundy leather briefcase/laptop bag as a going away present. I felt so “professional” carrying it. Of course, I needed matching shoes – that’s just me.)

We didn’t use computers – let alone computerized calendars – for our daily activities when I started working in schools in 1989. By the time I retired in 2017, everything was computerized, of course, but most people were still using desktop machines; laptops and smartphones were only issued to administrators or staff who travelled between school sites.

While our boys were still at home, we used a huge calendar chart on the refrigerator, almost the full size of the freezer compartment. I’ll bet you remember those!Everyone was expected to check it, and to add their appointments and activities to the huge squares (the best versions even had lines in the squares). It worked really well.

Once it was just the two of us, an 8×10 book (like the one I used at work) got pride of place on the kitchen counter. It could hold over a year’s worth of travel plans, flight times, restaurant reservations, and reminders about family birthdays and special occasions. I consulted it all the time but…. Ted didn’t. He’s a tech guy, by profession and by preference. He has always been used to tracking appointments on whatever is in his pocket: first a PDA (remember Blackberries?) and eventually his iPhone. He was constantly “encouraging” me to move to a shared electronic calendar, but, even once I started using my iPad/iPhone calendar, I was still double-entering everything in my trusty book and carrying that book everywhere with us. “The book” even got packed in my suitcase when we travelled by plane, and put on the kitchen counter or hall table when we arrived in each new “home”.

Until we returned to Ontario this spring.

Remember, our plan was to be away until May. I had our meandering route home planned, complete with hotel bookings and tourist attractions, all listed in my calendar book. Then, as was the case for everyone this year, things changed rapidly. We changed our route to a faster more direct one, cancelled bookings, made new reservations, and hit the road – all within 48 hours of making the decision to come back to Canada.

My calendar book couldn’t keep up. There was not enough white-out tape to keep things readable!

Our original plan was to do the 36 hour drive home from San Antonio over 8 days at the end of April: drive half of each day and then take in an attraction or two and have a leisurely dinner. The revised plan was for 4 nine-hour days mid March, stopping in Texarkana, Nashville, and Bowling Green, Ohio. As we drove north (I do most of the driving, since I can’t read in the car and Ted can), Ted was keeping an eye on the developing situation at the Canada/US border, and making reservation changes on the fly. Hotels had already begun allowing changes and cancellations with no penalty. Some gas stations en route were no longer open; we were aiming for big truck stops to refuel, use the bathroom, and grab something to eat in the car. As Ted confirmed accommodation and keyed it into the phone, we then almost instantly were able to use the phone connected to our car’s Carplay as our gps. Every change Ted made to his calendar was automatically shared to mine.

Anyway, we made it home in three long days, during which my physical calendar never got unpacked (we barely changed clothes, just rinsed things out in the hotel sink). Working in the car, Ted found us stop-gap accommodation for our 2 week quarantine in an AirBNB (the first time we’ve ever used one) just minutes before we crossed the eerily empty border into Canada on March 21st.

We’ve been back for 2 months now. My calendar book hasn’t been opened. Not that there’s anything to add to the calendar right now! That said, we have had to cancel/reschedule appointments that we had pre-booked for May. All of that has been done on our phones or tablets (the calendar is synchronized on all 4 devices).

I still have to remember to check my electronic calendar each day, which is new – and “different” from simply looking at the counter or fridge – but as we think ahead to when we can travel again, I can see the advantages to having destinations, reservations, and travel arrangements compactly at hand. Since I no longer have a book to glance at multiple times each day, I’m learning to use the reminder alerts on my phone so that I don’t miss appointments. Ted automatically gets the reminders on his synced calendar too, so HE can remind me if I don’t have my phone or tablet in my hand when the alert appears.

We COULD share our calendars with our kids who also have Apple devices. That way, they’d know (post-pandemic restrictions) when in our busy schedules we can fit in some babysitting.

Less paper. More communication. An acknowledgment that we always need a good cell plan wherever we are.

And if we need to be in Belgium on Tuesday, we’ll BOTH have that in our calendars.

3 comments

  1. Very cute blog entry, Rose. I can relate to so much of it, of course. Well, except for the “organized” part – which really doesn’t exist for me any more! And since I am likely to misplace (at least) one of my iThings (at least) once a day, my trusty 8×10, 2-pages per month, spiral agenda still holds pride of place at my table.
    Sometimes, old habits are just too hard to break!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, calendars! I use my IPad one and it notifies me of appointments ( still have a couple here and there), but I look at the fridge one every morning. Paper is still my go to!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I can totally relate to what you’re saying…I continue to prefer my paper calendar, notebooks for travel planning, when that returns one day….an enjoyable read! Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

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