Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Past Deadline: Cats - You Do the Math

What? I've written 700 columns in my day? Get. Out. And here is #700 in the Tuesday, March 31/09 issue of The Perth Courier.

Cats: You do the math

This is my 700th column. [Cue trumpets!]

I don’t like to think about it too much because it makes me feel a bit old when I do the math. Did you know that 700 columns, at a rate of about 50 per year, works out to roughly 14 years of weekly missives? Each column is about 700 words long. That’s some 490,000 words.

Now. If a westbound train leaves New York at a rate of 80 miles and hour and an eastbound train leaves Chicago at a rate of 140 miles an hour, then what is the air-speed velocity of an unladen European swallow?

More importantly, can you imagine if I had $1 for each of those 490,000 words? I probably would have squandered it on chocolate by now. Or expensive cat food.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the spectacular segue into what is really the topic of this, the glorious Column Number 700: my cats. (You didn’t really think I could spend a whole column talking about math, did you? Well, I probably could, but I won’t.)

One day last week Boychild wandered into the room where I was (surprise!) working on the computer and said, “Mom, when the cats die, can we get a dog?”

Please understand, I love my cats most of the time, but when I’m surrounded by dirty dishes, laundry, clutter and toys the cats are One More Thing That Makes Messes. For instance, I find the almost-daily upchuck of ye olde hairballs to be particularly tiresome. The cat-hair tumbleweed has lost its charm, too.

It took me longer to stifle a fit of laughter than it did to answer the question. “Go ask your father,” I said. (Another classic line from childhood.) So he did. He wandered into the next room where Groom-boy was busily plotting how he is going to Save the Planet from Certain Doom in Seven Easy Steps. Or he might have been reading the newspaper – I’m not sure.

Anyway, Boychild repeats the question and I hear Groom-boy prattling on in a very responsible, parental way about how dogs are a lot of work and they need to be walked and groomed and fed and how Boychild and his sister would have to pitch in and help a lot more and so on. You know, he answered in a classic political way – by not really answering the question – which worked well in this case. Boychild wandered off and dogs were not discussed again.

Well, actually, Groom-boy and I discussed the topic later in the kitchen. It was getting closer to feeding time, so Buster, the Extraordinarily Noisy and Sometimes Unfriendly Cat, was yowling and MacGregor, the Rather Enormous Tabby (who is not, surprisingly, the diabetic one), was clickety clacking across the linoleum meowing in his pathetic “I’m starving!” peepy way.

“You know, you can all be replaced,” I muttered as I gathered up food dishes. “Boychild wants a dog, so y’all better watch your step.”

This has been quite a little “after the kids go to bed” joke between Groom-boy and I, who have nothing better to do in the evening than mock cats and news anchors. (Clearly it’s time for a new hobby.)

Then, the other night, poor old Boychild called me into his room after he had gone to bed and had a cuddle with MacGregor. “I don’t want MacGregor to die,” he told me sadly.

So I, in my sure-footed (ha!) parental way, told him MacGregor, who is 13, still has lots of years to live.

“Well, how many?” Boychild asked.

Again with the math! “Well, um, I don’t know,” I babbled as my brain groped around for something solid on this topic. “He’s probably got a good five years or so to go.”

Boychild did the math and determined he’d be 12 when MacGregor is 18. “Well, that’s a long time!” he said cheerily.

Five years sure seems like forever when you’re a kid, doesn’t it? Similarly, 14 years of writing this column has been a blink. Okay, maybe two blinks. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and be extra nice to my cats so they’ll stick around a while.


meno said...

It's the meanest cats that live the longest. It's a scientific fact, even if i made it up.

Steph said...

Meno, I think that may be true for people, too! ;)