On my own

Right from the start, I want to make it clear that I do know how to make hamburgers and French fries.

On a scale where “even I can do it” is considered the definition of a simple job, burgers and fries are at the easy end of that scale. Just put the burgers on the grill and toss the fries in hot oil (well, not literally, unless you like grease burns).

When everything is done, put the burger on a bun, load up everything with ketchup and enjoy.

Nothing to it.

Except this time, the oven was involved. I hardly ever use the oven, so most of its buttons and what order to push them in are foreign to me.

Plus, I had to time everything just right. It actually kind of reminded me of my first job at the diner, where if I didn’t make the food in just the right order, something was going to get cold.

So all this explains why I needed directions to make hamburgers and French fries.

3. When the oven has reached 425 degrees (about 10 minutes), put the baking sheet in the oven.

4. Set the timer for four (4) minutes. (TIMER ON/OFF -> 4 -> START)

5. Immediately put the grill on one of the front burners and turn on the burner to preheat.

Suzi recently started having to stay late one night a week at work, meaning the choice was waiting for her to cook a really late dinner after she got home — both inconvenient and not especially fair — or making it once I got a text that she was on the way.

Easy decision. Hence the burgers and fries, and the directions.

Before that, though, I have a couple hours to myself. The time actually goes by fairly quickly, since there’s usually something for work I have to take care of — I could be better with boundaries, but I also leave earlier because of my commute.

On the days I work at home, I’m so locked into what I’m doing that other than the quiet, it doesn’t register as much that I’m alone all day.

The tricky part is when it’s just me for more than a couple hours and I don’t have something else to keep my mind occupied. After a while, it feels like the walls are closing in.

7. Put the burgers on the grill and set the timer for three (3) minutes. (TIMER ON/OFF -> 3 -> START)

8. When the timer goes off a second time, hit TIMER ON/OFF.

It didn’t used to be that way, since I lived by myself from the time I graduated college until Suzi and I moved in together about nine months before we got married.

After six roommates in four years of college — and everything that goes along with it — I vowed I wasn’t going to live with someone else until I planned on marrying her, and that’s what happened.

I’m sure there were times being alone got to me, but looking back, it feels like I just … lived. I guess I was just used to it. I’d watch TV, hang out with friends, mess around on the computer, read. Plus my parents lived close, so I saw them a lot.

And I’d feed myself. It was basic single-guy-who-can’t-really-cook stuff — pasta and various simple chicken dishes, with lots of rice or instant mashed potatoes.

Strangely enough, I don’t think I made myself burgers and fries all that often.

11. Put the buns in the toaster oven with insides facing down. (Watch to be sure they don’t burn.)

The text came from Suzi.

She was leaving her office, and would be home in 32 minutes. Dinner took 20.

I followed the directions carefully, making sure I did each step right on time … if only because the beeping would get annoying if I didn’t react to the oven soon enough.

And even though I had a slight hiccup with the buns — I didn’t turn on the toaster oven when I thought I had — not only was everything ready at just the right time, I was putting it on plates as Suzi’s car pulled in the driveway.

Success.

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