When my sons were small I loved reading the book Caps for Sale with them. The story, about a peddlar whose inventory of caps is stolen by some mischievous monkeys while he naps under a tree, is a wonderful bit of silliness that’s fun to read out loud.
But it also has a great message about the futility of “best laid plans” and trying to “get all your ducks in a row.” It’s a message that bears repeating for people like me, who torture themselves with unrealistic expectations and the resulting frustration of realizing you can’t control as much as you’d like.
The weary peddlar wasn’t having a great day. No one wanted to buy his caps. He was hungry but he didn’t have any money to buy food. So he walked into the countryside, found a big, shady tree and decided to rest for a bit.
First, he checked the caps that were stacked high on top of his head: “…his own checked cap, then the gray caps, then the brown caps, then the blue caps, then the red caps on the very top.” (My fellow control freaks will note the color-coordinated inventory system, the systematic procedures and the fulfillment of duty before giving oneself a break.)
But he did eventually fall asleep. And as he slept, all of his caps (except his own checked cap) were stolen by a band of monkeys. When he woke up and saw them in the branches above him, each monkey wearing one of his caps, he asked to get them back. When nothing happened, he demanded, shook his hands and stamped his feet. The monkeys didn’t relinquish the caps.
Finally, in sheer exasperation, he threw his own cap to the ground, begrudgingly accepting the fact that he couldn’t control the outcome. And guess what? The monkeys mimicked his action. All the caps rained down at the peddlar’s feet.
Sometimes no matter how hard you try to be organized, on top of things, prepared and prescient, you have to give in to forces you can’t control.
We had a crazy day at work today. With April issue deadlines looming and Camp Fair happening this Saturday, we were all wearing too many caps. We were rushing and distracted. Some of us were tired; some were battling colds and flu.
That’s always when things don’t go right. Our Internet connection was exasperatingly sluggish. A backup toner cartridge for the color printer exploded, spreading yellow fairy dust everywhere and blocking our efforts to print materials we need to have on Saturday. While I was juggling payroll and HTML code I managed to send out an eLetter with an incorrect link to our Mother’s Day Cover Mom contest. (Here’s the correct link.)
Operations Director Debbie Davis, who’s wearing more caps than anyone these days as she also coordinates Camp Fair, finally came to me at 7:30pm and said, “I think it’s time to call it a day.”
So we threw our many caps on the ground, laughed about our frustrating day and headed home.