I've picked up some bad habits recently.
Not terrible habits, but you know how it is: One day you drink straight from the milk carton; the next you're up on federal gunrunning charges.
No, I don't drink straight from the milk carton. But if I did, the milk would be chocolate -- specifically, a brand I discovered recently that isn't all that sweet or even all that chocolaty, which is why I like it. It also keeps forever, so I buy more whenever I pass a grocery store's dairy case. My refrigerator looks like I'm running a kindergarten-playground concession stand.
Another thing: I read my phone too much. It's bad enough to realize the phrase "read my phone" makes sense; reading my phone to excess is downright embarrassing. It's true I'm keeping abreast of the news, which these days means I'm trying to keep up with current events and failing, but at some point a person needs to step away, if only to dust the living room and move wet laundry to the dryer.
The truth is, I grow weary of reading a lighted screen. I like books. I like newspapers. So help me, actual printed pages will regain the upper hand in my life as soon as we flounder through the next several news cycles.
Another habit is linked to phone reading: I do entirely too much phone reading in my car. (Not while driving. I'm flawed, not crazy.) I mean I drive somewhere and park, and instead of hopping right out and running my errand, I sit there, reading my phone.
Furthermore, I often glance around the parking lot where I'm reading my phone, and I see other people in their cars, reading their phones. It's a nationwide epidemic, stemming partly from the uneasy feeling that during the 10 minutes it takes to drive somewhere, anything might have developed on the news front. I also suspect most in-car phone readers are cherishing a few minutes of solitude away from the kids, the office, the to-do list.
But what am I escaping from? An empty nest, an amiable husband, an affectionate dog? I don't have to steal moments alone. I've simply fallen into the habit of dawdling.
It's not just phone reading. Only this morning, I returned a pair of nearly due books to the library. I've been so busy (see above) I hadn't read them, though I also have a bad habit of rereading books, so when I say I hadn't read them, I mean I hadn't read them this time.
Anyway, I parked in the library lot, collected the books and then impulsively glanced inside one of them.
That's all it took. For the next half-hour, I read the book in a car that grew warmer and more sweltering with every page.
"This is ridiculous," I told myself, as fellow library patrons came and went around me. I had to make a choice: Either stop reading or suffer heatstroke. This behavior isn't illegal or even unethical, but you can't deny it's kind of weird.
One more thing about reading. (Do you notice all my bad habits are kind of squished together? My sins need more variety.) During a discussion among friends, I mentioned I'm fond of picking up favorite books, opening them at random and dropping in on the books' characters wherever in their stories I happen to find them.
A young woman in the group actually gasped when she heard this. "You what?" she said.
You'd think I'd announced I like to steal and dismember cats.
"Not every book," I said. "Just ones I've been reading all my life, about people who are practically family."
She wasn't sold, but it's true: The characters in Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy books, Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, the seven Narnia books -- these people are relatives. They don't mind if I suddenly show up in the middle.
On the other hand, my judgment apparently is flawed. From now on, I'll read only actual books, starting from page one, and never in the car.
As for my chocolate-milk habit, I'm keeping it. End of discussion.
Write to Margo Bartlett at email@example.com.