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Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, November 30, 2005

One of the things I think I’ll miss the most about college will be the sheer joy of having your friends run around with you on your mundane errands. So many times, friends have asked me to walk with them to turn in papers or buy a magazine from the bookstore; and that’s totally normal. Our lives are not inundated with so many personal tasks daily so we gladly share each other’s tasks. Also we turn every thing into a chance to be with each other and converse – hence studying groups, cooking parties and errand pairing.

However, I fear we shall see the last of errand pairing when college is over. For example, one day I went with a friend to the salon while she got her hair cut. I had nothing else to do and it was on campus. Yet, if I were living in Chicago and my friend asked me to come to watch her get her hair cut on the other side of town, I would definitely decline.

When you leave a place like Notre Dame, which is extremely communal and sharing, your identity and time use would be most tied with the things you need and want to do. The question is not “How can I spend as much time with others as possible?” but, “How can I spend my time most wisely to maximize my goals?” While we may still strive to wind the hours with companions, the demands of work and rest may keep us from late night grocery runs with our friends.

Yet, there is a distinct beauty of errand pairing. Going to the store or the post office can be so boring. You are in a place surrounded by people, but it is not normal to be talking with them. The loneliness of errand-running probably explains why parents drag their unwitting children to bulk shopping at Target – any companionship is preferred when shopping for 16 packs of paper towels (critiquing the merits of stockpile shopping will follow).

Also, errand loneliness disorder has caused the rise in cell phone usage. In absence of actual people to talk to, people shop and dial, most annoyingly on those hands-free things, bewildering the other shoppers braving the errand-running on their own. When people are looking right at me, talking right at me, and there is no one else around, I usually speak back – to my embarrassment.

Therefore, a friend and I have devised a way to keep errand pairing alive and well. With so many searching for dates on Match.com, Yahoo personals and the like for what Mother Nature intended to occur in bars, parties and coffee shops, why not use the internet to match people who want an errand companion together? This could be the answer for so many dreading going to the farmers market one more time without someone to compare fresh squash with. The website could also list what type of errands you like to do and find an adequate partner for you. If you love going to used record stores, weird alternative spirit stores for tarot cards or street fairs, your errand profile would state that. You could also vary the people you run errands with as well. If you spark in conversation with a fellow bulk shopper, but cannot take him to the record store, set up a second errand friend for the second thing on the list.

I cannot imagine a better way to reduce cell phone costs, get your errands done and meet new people. Yet be advised, this is not dating. People looking for relationships had better keep looking. Errand pairing is about livening up those everyday, boring tasks that could use some inane small talk. It should be a rule – no spewing your guts on an errand; you would not do that anyway with a person you met recently and will never see again. Let us use the errand pairing service for what the Internet is best at: impersonal, short and efficient communication and task completion (anti-technology rant on the way.)

Besides the cell phone usage in stores, there is the whole bucket of worms provided by the iPod. My unease with the iPod probably comes from the fact I do not have one, but it’s crazy how many people are plugged up to those trendy white earphones everywhere. I think there should be a mandate that everyone on headphones should sing what he is listening to. Then public places would be more like a Tower of Babel musical than a silent crowded place.

So maybe taking out an ad for someone to sit with you to get your oil checked is not a great idea. Neither is singing Dolly Parton’s Jolene on the subway – unless you have a killer voice. Yet, never speaking to people in public places sounds pretty ridiculous too.

Kamaria Porter is a senior history major. This piece goes out to everyone writing long papers cram-style, especially Ben Zerante – You can do it! Also, Stephen Smith, the last action hero. Good luck on the 11th. Thanks for the emails and shoot outs, Notre Dame – you’re beautiful.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.