Now that I’m retired, I have lots of time to ponder the mundanities of life.

For example, why am I maniacal about picking up after my dog, Jack Bauer, while I’m not the least bit concerned that my nightstand is cluttered with dusty piles of books, many of which I’ve already read, and others I’ve no intention of ever opening?

And why do I leave the dregs at the bottom of a jar of jelly, peanut butter, salsa and countless other products? I could easily finish what little is left, but instead I always return it to the shelf or refrigerator, and wait for my wife, Betty, to comment, “you’ve left your signature again,” and leave it for her to deal with.

I’m often wandering the aisles of a grocery store when these thoughts occur to me, usually during a late-morning stroll when I run into a lot of other retirees doing the same thing. I found myself in the baking aisle recently, looking at the label on the back of a Cajun seasoning bottle, wondering what “calcium carbonate” is.

On the way to the gym the other morning, a drive that takes about 4 minutes, I wasn’t content to enjoy one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs playing on the radio. I interrupted a great Jimmy Page guitar solo to focus my attention on this musing: why can’t my fellow gym patrons return the barbells to their proper resting places? The 30-pound barbell shouldn’t be in the 70-pound slot. I know some kindergarten teachers who would not be pleased.

Back at the grocery store, I had kitty litter on my mind. There are brilliant chemists back in the litter lab today coming up with, as I write these words, yet another new fragrance to mask the smell of the business little Fluffy leaves behind. So why can’t the geniuses in the marketing department place the barcode on the top of the 25-pound box, instead of on the back in a bottom corner? I have too many important things to think about, like how many cheese balls can fit in one of those enormous plastic containers? But no, I have to risk a hernia and reposition that box of litter so the 17-year-old check-out girl doesn’t have to dislocate her hip to scan it.

During the 5-minute drive home, I processed another imponderable. When paying for groceries with a debit or credit card, a prompt appears at the end of the transaction. It asks, basically, if it’s “OK” with you if you pay the total amount owed. What if I stabbed the “no” option with that little plastic projectile? What if I told that 17-year-old cashier, “Nope, I’m a deep thinker. I’ve concluded that $47.39 is definitely not OK with me. I want my groceries for free, because I deserve it?”

Five minutes later, now safe at home in the bathroom, I was wondering what would happen if I did, just for laughs, select the nope-I-ain’t-paying option. But after discovering I’d been wandering up and down the aisles of a grocery store — in deep thought — with my gym shorts on backwards, I decided there is such a thing as thinking too much. 

John Edmondson writes from Londonderry.

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