James Lileks
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According to a new study, people visit exactly 25 places over and over again. According to another study, lazy newspaper columnists bloviate about any “study” regardless of the methodology or source, but that’s not important right now.

Exactly 25 places? Yes: If you add a new one, an old one drops off your routine.

How do we get up to 25? Beats me. I can account for 15 or so if one of the “places I go to” includes the mailbox. Let’s run down my list, and see if I need more places.

1. Target, because we need shampoo and pasta sauce, and, “Oh, look: Here’s a 97-inch TV, as long as I’m here.”

2. The bargain grocery store so I can save a little money but have to push a cart with a wheel that shimmies like a chihuahua that spent an hour in a paint shaker.

3. The upscale grocery store so I can tell the cashier, “You know, BOGO isn’t right. Buy one, get one? That’s any commercial transaction. You mean buy one, get one free. BOGOF.” “Paper or plastic, sir?”

4. The neighborhood store, which is convenient but not cheap. Hey, it’s 11:45 p.m., and I need four pounds of medium-granulated non-GMO paprika. “This way, sir; I’ll call our loan officer.”

5. The large chain hardware store. where I go for mulch every weekend with such regularity that I often end up walking into the locked gate in October when the garden center has closed. “I need mulch.” “Sir, the time for mulch is over.” “It’s Saturday! I need mulch.” “Is there anyone I can call, sir?” “Call my wife. She says we need mulch.”

6. The other big-box store, because they sell peanuts for a dollar less than the grocery store. They’re a loss leader, intended to get you in to buy a toilet. But I never buy one. I figure that if I ever need a toilet, it’s possible the grocery store will carry them.

7. The neighborhood hardware store, where I go for two screws to complete a project and then go back because one screw fell in the grass and I couldn’t find it. So I buy three more, two of which go in a tiny drawer full of screws no one will ever use.

8. The shabby gas station whose windshield-washer containers have been dry since February and the pumps ask for your ZIP code because you probably stole that card.

9. The fancy gas station that has a TV screen that plays ads so you end up feeling like you spent $28.34 to learn about this new thing called “Coca-Cola.”

10. The chain gas station that has a Redbox, except someone backed into it and it has a huge dent in the side, so everyone limps in the movies. “Jurassic Park” is only 45 minutes long because no one can run away from the dinosaurs.

11. The vet, where the dog is undergoing treatment. He was a rescue dog from the Deep South and has every tick and worm known to veterinary science. I wouldn’t be surprised if the vet said he had “earworm,” which would explain why he kept howling a catchy commercial jingle.

12. Work, obviously. The manic crackle of a newsroom! Wisecracking gal reporters with their snappy patter, cynical men in hats, the clatter of the typewriters, the cigarette haze, the clink of the bottles when the bottom drawer is rolled out, the shouts of “copy boy!” and “Linotype adolescent!” and “Holy murgatroyd, stop the presses, they busted Boss Sinclair’s crap game!”

None of this happens in my office, but I watch a lot of old movies on Netflix while I’m there.

13. The chain coffee shop that has completely burrowed into the national consciousness, become synonymous with expensive complicated sugary coffee drinks, spent untold sums on carefully designed interiors, lives on your phone in an app that tallies up your rewards and could disappear tomorrow and no one would care. Oh, they closed? Well, let’s get coffee at that other place.”

14. Church, of course, because I know one of the pastors reads this. Loved that sermon on the, uh, the goodness!

15. Parking lot of Daughter’s job. She almost has her license and drives to work. I sit in the passenger seat and say things like, “Try to take the next turn on four wheels” or “Light’s about to go yellow, punch it!” and “A bus is heading right for us, go up on the lawn there. Signal your turn!”

16. The post office, because I had to mail a whalebone corset to the telegraph factory.

17. The spiritous beverages store, which has a clever rewards program; it totals up your purchases, gives you 10 points for every $100 you spend and then reduces the balance by half. If you complain, they say, “Well, that’s what you tell your doctor when he asks how much you drink.”

That’s it? Oh, and:

18-24. Various fast-food chains.

25. The mailbox. Whew! To be honest, I could get up to 26 if I mentioned places I didn’t like to admit I visited. Like my neighbor’s mailbox! Ha-ha; kidding. I don’t go there anymore. His mail is as dull as mine.

james.lileks@startribune.com • 612-673-7858 • Twitter: @Lileks • facebook.com/james.lileks