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It's About Time

By Scott Roeben

If you asked 100 people if they feel like they have all the time they need, about 98 percent would promptly dispense pepper spray into your eyes and call the authorities. The rest would say "no."

We spend a lot of time wondering where all our time has gone. We devote vast amounts of energy to budgeting our time, conserving time, making time and trying to save time. Entire wings of libraries are filled with impressive tomes claiming to contain time saving ideas. I say that if these books really wanted to save us time, they would start by being much thinner books.

Large and powerful American industries have grown up around saving time. There are companies which provide seminars on time management, others teach speed reading and still other companies market something called "time saving devices." There should be a government regulatory agency which monitors whether or not a time saving device actually does save time. There are certainly government regulatory agencies for everything else, including things like "The Department of Jumper Cable Management" and the "Bureau Responsible for Telling the Difference Between Stalagmites and Stalactites." Creating agencies is what our government does best. That, and ribbon-cutting ceremonies. As it turns out, our beloved government is the leading consumer of giant scissors in the world. They never get enough credit for that.

It would be nice if a government agency could slap hefty fines on companies falsely claiming they are saving us time. Like computer companies, for instance. Even when the early computers were as large as your average container ship, there were promises that the computer would eventually become the greatest time saving device in the entire history of Mankind. What time, exactly, did it save? Great, a computer can save some time editing a document with "cut and paste." So what? At the same time, computers provide an infinite number of ways to fritter away time as well. One session of a CD-ROM game like Myst or Seventh Guest can serve to waste all the time you have ever saved by any other means during the course of your lifetime.

The problem with time is that it's a little difficult to understand in concrete terms. It often seems arbitrary and subjective. An hour spent in the arms of a loved one can seem like a fleeting moment. But if you discover that your loved one is a minor, or related to you, you will discover that an identical hour, spent waiting for your verdict, can seem uncomfortably interminable.

Someone once made the analogy that time is like pearls on a string. I never understood that analogy, personally. The only thing I can figure is that we should occasionally try to find out if time is real by rubbing it against our teeth.

I've also heard that time is a continuum. I believe Albert Einstein came up with that one. If you ask me, it is hard for me to take an opinion all that seriously when it comes from someone who never had a good hair day in his life. Einstein was famous for his "Theory of Relativity." I have researched the theory extensively, and must now state that special relativity predicts that moving yardsticks will appear to be shortened in the direction of motion, and that moving objects will appear to be heavier than they would be if they were sitting still and that mass and energy are equivalent. Having read this, I bet that you are now wishing you hadn't wasted time doing so--THUS PROVING MY POINT--whatever that might have been.

Unlike Mr. Einstein, I have formulated some useful ideas--none of them having to do with the speed of light. By the way, a "light year" is a measurement of distance, not time. It is not difficult to imagine a "light year." It represents, roughly, the length of the typical line at Disneyland.

My ideas have to do with saving time, actually. Here they are, gratis:

• Always videotape television programs on the slowest speed. That way when you scan through the commercials, they will go by really fast.

• Avoid going to the doctor for any reason. A physician's waiting room can be a bottomless chasm of time forever lost . It is believed that many of the individuals once thought missing in the Bermuda Triangle are, in fact, merely still waiting to see a radiologist at their local county-run medical facility.

• Jobs take up a lot of time. I recommend people avoid them.

• Get into a rut. Sounds obvious, but it really does keep you from wasting valuable time on things like new experiences, spontaneity or excitement of any kind.

• Two words. "Cliffs Notes." Cliff must have this stuff down pat by now.

• Alienate friends and relatives whenever you can. People can consume a lot of your time, so it is recommended that you become a pariah as soon as possible. You can get the people in your life to desert you by: a) committing some terrible or embarrassing crime, or b) by being born again. Either way, you will soon find yourself with lots of free time on your hands.

• You can save a great deal of time by never using the word "honorificabilitudinitatibus" in a sentence. Shakespeare used it in Love's Labour Lost, but I recommend against it unless you have a highly-trained paramedic nearby.

• We spend one third of our lives asleep. If you need more time, try waking up at a decent hour, lard ass.

• Lube jobs, schmube jobs. They're overrated and waste lots of your valuable time. I for one have never changed the oil in my car and it has never given me the slightest problem, with the exception of the times I actually tried to use it.

• Get rid of your cat if you have one. Fifty-seven million Americans own cats. Lots of time is wasted with trips to the vet, cleaning the kitty litter...not to mention all that time expended speaking that embarrassing baby-talk. Time killers, all of them. Get rid of the aloof little critters. I would say the same thing about dogs, but they are an actual pet.

• Abstain from sex. That's right. While sex is pleasurable, it is a huge waste of time to spend eight to ten hours at a time having sex. Then again, I can only speak for myself. If, however, you can't abstain completely, you can at least speed the process up somewhat. For example, the desert rat known as Shaw's Jird has been observed copulating 224 times in a two hour period. An unfortunate side effect is that while the Jird has lots of free time left over, most of that time is squandered going about the desert boasting.

• Perhaps the best time saver? Don't even consider driving in Southern California. It takes little more than a bundle of thread on the shoulder of a Southern California freeway to bring traffic to a complete halt. Once traffic stops, you can expect to sit in your car for a period of time comparable to the Precambrian Era, give or take an epoch.

These simple tips are just the beginning. You are probably starting to see where you might be able to find an additional minute here or an hour there in your own life. It will add up, trust me.

On the other hand, if you were using speed reading to peruse this, you are probably still spending time trying to decipher something akin to: "Pepper spray stalactite pearl yardsticks chasm, lard ass."

I'd go over this again, but I really don't have a minute to spare.


Scott Roeben, 2000. All rights reserved.