Monday, September 19, 2016

Putting my life on auto-pirate

Ahoy there, mateys! And happy international Talk Like a Pirate Day!

I'm not very good at talking like a pirate (tarnation!), but I do love to celebrate this day anyway.  So last Friday, I got out my Pirate Dinner Box for an early celebration, and began decorating the house.  (More on the box later -- actually, the box is the point of this post).  

Jolly Roger flag, pirate table cloth with a parrot and a wooden sword.
Just getting started with decorating.
The Pirate Dinner has become an annual tradition -- much beloved -- in my family. This year's scallywags included a wee pirate and a landlubber friend, in addition to the usual motley crew.  

As usual, we feasted on giant turkey legs, pickles, limes (to prevent scurvy), and oyster crackers, and we glugged down bottles o' root beer in lieu of rum.  We sang rousing choruses of "What'll Ye do with a Drunken Sailor?", and we had the much-anticipated treasure hunt, with separate color-coded sets of clues for each treasure hunter.  We listened to a hearty rendition of "For I am a Pirate King" (because:  Gilbert and Sullivan, that's why!).

All of these festivities are per usual.  But we had a few innovations this year.  We added in a round of Pirate Jokes that I'd printed out and distributed at the table (everyone got three jokes to tell).  My favorite is, "What does a Pirate say on her 80th birthday?  Aye, matey!"  (Say it aloud to let it sink in -- Aye, matey!  Hilarious).  We were also joined this year by a scurvy dog, who very much enjoyed the attention but wouldn't hold still for a photo.
A fuzzy scurvy dog

All of this was fabulously fun, as it is every year.  But this all comes in the midst of my jumping feet-first back into full-time teaching while swimming through oceans of committee work.  How do I find time to pull off something so convoluted as a Pirate Dinner?

The answer is, I put as much of the Pirate Dinner as I can on auto-pirate.  (Er, I mean "auto-pilot".)  Enter, the Pirate Box.  

In the same way that organizational gurus will tell you to pre-pack your toiletries kit right as you return from your last trip, I believe the easiest time for me to do something is right after I've done it.  I have a running bag, for example, that contains a complete running outfit.  When I wake up at 5:30, I grab the bag, take it into the living room, and get dressed there where I won't disturb my sleeping husband.   I refill the bag as soon as I get back from that day's run, and then forget it until a few days later when I run again.  

And so, with the Pirate Dinner Box.  As soon as the Pirate dinner was over, I made notes to myself about what to change for next year (the turkey jerky was a failed experiment), printed out a new set of treasure hunt clues, pirate jokes (rewriting a bit for more gender inclusiveness), washed tablecloths etc, and then re-packed it all.  I hadn't realized until I started writing this post just how much we've accumulated to go into the Pirate Box:

  • treasure bags
  • treasure hunt clues, sorted by location for hiding them
  • pirate jokes
  • Jolly Rancher flag
  • pirate table cloth and 8 pirate napkins
  • pirate bandanas (use as extra napkins?)
  • bling (cocktail swords, eye patches, pirate shot glasses)
  • a pair of stuffed parrots
  • assorted costumery
  • poster with words to "What'll Ye do with a Drunken Sailor?"
  • wooden sword and plastic dagger

The box is now stowed away down in the basement (or in Davey Jone's Locker?), buried pirate treasure that I'll dig out next September. We've got our next year's fun on auto-pirate, ready for the next round of swashbuckling, booty-hunting, grog-swigging adventures.

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