What My Medieval Calendar Taught Me at a Modern Airport

“It is a very primitive almost medieval arrangement, but I have found it to be very flexible.”

I was sitting in the airport with plenty of time on my hands. Unlike those around me, I did not have an electronic device to entertain me. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to bring the book I was reading. And so I took out my calendar to see what needed to be done or scheduled.

As I was busy with my calendar, I was surprised by the man sitting next to me who suddenly exclaimed: “Hey, that’s a pretty nice calendar you have there!”

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My “calendar,” I should explain, is a three-ringed notebook with lined pages. I divide the pages by manually drawing vertical lines to separate the days of the week. Inside these divisions are notes of the things I need to do, boxes with agendas for meetings or just reminders that keep me on schedule. It is a very primitive almost medieval arrangement, but I have found it to be very flexible. It developed organically and allows all sorts of changes to accommodate what I need to do.

The man who had just praised my calendar was someone approaching sixty in casual business attire that gave the impression of being a professional or executive. That he would compliment my calendar was the last thing I would have expected from him.

I asked him why he liked my calendar and he replied: “Because I have one just like it. I thought I was the only one that has something like yours. Now I am happy to see that there are others like me.”

I was also surprised since I had thought the same thing, that I was the only one to do something so different. I was under the mistaken impression that anyone wanting to be part of the real world had to have some fancy scheduling program or app.

But this man obviously was part of the real world. He later explained to me that he was a fashion designer in New York City. He also had a large farm in Missouri that he had inherited and managed and thus frequently visited. He was a very busy man who had a very busy schedule…and a very primitive calendar.

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We started talking shop. I explained a few of my secrets and showed him some pages with my past weeks’ schedules. He chimed in with a few tips on how he did things. We both were commenting on how technology does not solve all scheduling problems, and sometimes even makes things worse. Much more important than the devices and programs are the scheduling habits that you develop. You don’t need to follow all the latest high-tech fads and gadgets. Sometimes all that is needed is a bit of common sense to find the system that works best for you.

At a certain point in the conversation, I decided to up the ante and see how far I might go with this train of thought.

I pulled out my ancient Samsung flip-phone that looked so twentieth century. He immediately took out his outdated and dilapidated Blackberry that he assured me was cutting-edge primitive without any bells or whistles. We both agreed that so many of the new devices can be very superfluous and time-consuming. It is easier to get by using what you truly need.

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I learned two lessons from the airport conversation. The first was that not everybody follows all the latest fads. There are many like my friend who do not go along with the frenetic intemperance of buying every gadget or app that appears on the market. They use the technology they need even if it might seem outdated. They believe that we should not serve technology, but technology should serve us. I learned that we should not be afraid to resist the trends that often dictate how we should act.

The second lesson was that organic solutions that we develop ourselves are often the best ones. They stand out and are so refreshing in a world where everything is so artificially organized and pre-planned. I am sure there are many like my friend at the airport who develop imaginative solutions that would delight and surprise us. I am certain we can find examples of these organic solutions everywhere if we just take the time and trouble to look. Indeed, this is something I would like to study more in depth. I think I will put it on my “medieval” calendar.