Rube Goldberg postcard book cover
Rube Goldberg postcard book cover

Sometimes there’s something you want to say, but you can’t figure out where to start. Or you plan to write–right after you toss in the laundry–right after you check the pockets–and then the coins remind you to pay your bills, and then you spot your overdue library books so you’d better swing by the library. It’s like being caught in a Rube Goldberg invention.

About twenty years ago, our family picked up our favorite term for that from Pat McManus. (He was writing for Outdoor Life but you don’t have to care a pile of scat about hunting and fishing to enjoy his human observations and comedic timing.)

So here’s how Pat explains it. On a farm, you don’t just go out and do a chore: “No, the first thing you do is determine the lengthy sequence of activities necessary even to begin the job. Then you realize that the sequence of preparatory activities is so long you will never get to the intended task. So you go fishing instead.”

Next time you’re “caught in a sequence,” stop and laugh. If you can get yourself untangled and get to the actual work–uh, maybe you shouldn’t let us know. We don’t want to contribute to your sequence.

1 Patrick F. McManus, “Sequences,” The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc. 1989., p.1.