Each morning for breakfast, I gulp down oatmeal. That’s not by choice, since I prefer bacon and eggs. But my doctor says I should eat oatmeal. Every morning. And so I do.

There are two kinds of oatmeal: instant and not-so-instant.

The instant kind is easy to make: Dump a package or two in a bowl, pour in boiling water, mix and have at it. It tastes OK.

The other kind, the not-so-instant oatmeal, takes some work. You can’t just dump hot water on it and dig in.

Instead, you have to boil water on a stove, pour in the oatmeal and cook it for a few minutes. Or, pour water on the oatmeal and cook it in a microwave.

The problem arises in the attention needed to do this seemingly simple task: A millisecond too long in the microwave, and you’ve created a volcanic eruption that excites the kids but is a mess to clean up. A millisecond too long on the stove, and you’ve got a boiling cauldron dripping into the burners and making a big mess.

As far as oatmeal goes, the not-so-instant tastes better, much better. But I eat the quick-to-make stuff every morning because it’s easier. I’m still doing what I’m supposed to; I just don’t enjoy it as much as I could.

Now I know you probably aren’t on the edge of your seat at this point in the column, stunned by the revelation that I’m a lazy breakfast cook who willingly sacrifices quality for convenience.

I’m hopeful, though, there is a lesson here for this election season and others to come.

The instant-oatmeal way to handle voting in an election is to watch a few minutes of TV, ask a couple of friends who they’re voting for, and then start coloring in boxes on your ballot.

True, you’re following doctor’s orders and exercising your civic responsibility; it’s just not all that satisfying.

The not-so-instant electoral path is to spend some time reading newspaper articles about the candidates and visiting their Web sites, attending a neighborhood event or two with the candidates sparring to see how they sound in person, making time to ask friends not whom they’re voting for but why, maybe even volunteering to help a candidate you really believe in.

True, this way takes time, and we run the risk of the occasional cauldron boiling over. But the not-so-instant way is a whole lot closer to bacon and eggs.


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