Routines, routines | BusinessMirror


TWO characters caught in monotonous lives open Christopher Durang’s biting comedy, titled Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, the 2013 Tony Award winner for Best Play that Repertory Philippines staged early this year to kickoff their 50th anniversary.

The play begins with the single, 50-something Sonia performing her daily routine where she offers morning coffee to his same-aged, reticent, gay stepbrother, Vanya, at the backyard of their farmhouse in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.

“I brought you coffee, dearest Vanya,” Sonia says, but with much less enthusiasm than you probably read it with. “I have some,” Vanya responds, deadpan.

The retort shakes Sonia. “Oh. But I bring you coffee every morning.”

That’s one.

Vanya reasons out he already has his, but he knows fully well how much Sonia values pattern, order, sequences. He gives up the argument and switches cups with Sonia to diffuse her tension. Now relaxed, she takes a seat beside Vanya.

The two silently enjoy their coffee, gazing at the pond across the house. “Has the blue heron been at the pond yet this morning?” Sonia asks.

That’s two.

Durang establishes the impression of repetitiveness—and a plain, old boring life along with it—on Vanya and Sonia with countless mornings of that scene. Every day with those two are caffeine and birds, nothing more.

Outside that fictional encounter, routines persist in the world. But how do you view it? Are you with those who see regimens as constrictors that limit, or those who see it as formula to success?

Both sides make compelling cases, but to ponder on whether routines are good or bad is the wrong way to go about it. The right question regarding habits is this: Does it own you, or do you own it?

You see, most people operate like clockwork, but not all have their own reasons. Some just go with the flow, repeating things over and over and over again without real purpose.  Same time to eat, same show to watch, same things to do.

Meanwhile, there are those who consciously follow a routine because they have a goal in mind. You know how every year they interview the bar exam topnotcher, and how every year he or she says, “I do nothing but study, eat and sleep”?

Again, does it own you, or do you own it?


MY earliest encounter with routines was early in the millennium as a kid watching my family’s favorite basketball team, the New Jersey Nets. Point guard Jason Kidd was their star back then, and I remember wondering about his free-throw routine.

Most players would walk a few steps on the way to the charity stripe, take a deep breath, dribble the ball three times and hoist it up. Kidd, however, had his own way. He would usually walk to the free-throw line, bend his knees, take a quick swipe of his behind, blow a kiss to the basket with the same hand, dribble once and then shoot.

Free-throw rituals can, indeed, get crazy, but these serve the same purpose of conditioning the players’ mind and muscles to replicate the same, exact movements that go with shooting the ball through the hoop.

Sometimes, routines are less about creating success than replicating it.


TOWARD the end of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Vanya and Sonia broke from the grayness of everything and found a new lease on life.

Having made amends with their sibling Hollywood actress Masha after an eventful weekend homecoming, Vanya considered getting a job to end their dependence on Masha.

The play closes with the three siblings sharing a light moment at the farmhouse. Sonia suggests that they wait for the blue heron. Vanya reminds her that it usually comes in the morning, but Sonia is insistent.

“I think it’ll come late afternoon today. To celebrate,” Sonia says, referring to their renewed ties and views on life—free to try new things, liberated from the shackles of routine.


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