Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Time and Motion Study.

Let’s play a game. I will relate an anecdote from my life, and you will spot the moment of head-shaking stupidity.

Daughter and I flew in the door after school and gymnastics. Daughter had her lunchbox and homework; I had everything else: gym bag, library books, bag of groceries, my purse, a resoled pair of shoes and possibly a tame crow sitting on my head. In a word, I was laden. Upon passing through the front door, Daughter started the traditional Puccini aria Either Feed Me Dinner This Second or I Shall Die of Starvation, But Not Before Whining For Ten Minutes and Covertly Opening Yet Another Bag of Goldfish Crackers. The dog and cat flung themselves at my limbs in an attempt to get me to make them dinner or be their dinner.

I moved more quickly towards the kitchen, dropping bags in places which had some relation to where they should end up. The gym bag got flung towards the laundry room, the library books and shoes got pitched towards our bedroom and the purse went into the office. I was still holding my keys from opening the door, and in my haste I put them down someplace. Even at the time, I stared at the keys for a second and thought “Oh, there is no way I am going to remember putting my keys there”; even at my most frenetic, I knew this was a horrible choice.

But did I take an extra ten seconds to pick up the keys and place them in my purse? No, readers, I did not. I hurled myself into the kitchen and fed the dog, the cat and the child. Several times during the evening, I thought: You know, I really should find the keys now and put them in my purse, so I won’t have to root around for them tomorrow morning. But since that would have taken thirty valuable seconds, I chose to spend my time more fruitfully; that is, seeing if any new Hermes Birkin bags were for sale on EBay. At an average cost of $8,000, I won’t be purchasing one this evening, but it’s nice to know that if I woke up tomorrow morning and found $150,000.00 in the pocket of my khakis, I’d have prepared enough to think “Hooray! Bidding on the anthracite 35cm Birkin with the palladium hardware doesn’t close for two hours!”

That’s what I’m all about these days, planning ahead.

The next morning was somewhat stressful, what with me caroming around the house frantically trying to remember the strange place I had dropped my keys (as it turned out, between the stove and the wall, being courted by an amorous spider). I estimate that in saving myself, at most, forty-five seconds yesterday, I lost twenty minutes this morning. This is why if you ever get a flyer for my weekend seminar at the airport Marriott on time management, you can give it a miss.

It’s not merely that I refuse to do the simple thing now to avoid the complicated thing later; I get so stubborn about it. At least three times within the past month I have been rushing off to someplace new, have gotten two blocks from the house and only then realized that I’ve forgotten the directions:

REASONABLE QUINN: Shoot, I left the directions at home.

OTHER QUINN: We’re not going back, we’ve gone too far.

RQ: I can still see the house in the rear-voice mirror.


RQ: Uh, this isn’t a getaway car. We can just make a left here, then a quick left…see, there’s a hole in oncoming traffic and we could make the left now…

OQ: I don’t need directions; I remember where we’re going. It’s…Palm Street. 413 Palm…Court. Palmer Court.

RQ attempts to swing car around.

OQ: IF YOU GO BACK TO THE HOUSE, I WILL LET NEITHER ONE OF US OUT OF THIS CAR…Court Street? Yes, Court Street. 41 Court Street, in the city of Palms.

I missed that party. All of my personalities missed it with me.

You want another example of efficiency in action? How about when the restaurant hostess promises us a table in ten minutes, and fifteen minutes pass and there is no table available and the hostess is no longer catching our eye and I’m starting to sway from hunger but I won’t go to another restaurant because I have already committed fifteen minutes to this wait?

RQ: Consort doesn’t care where you two eat. You’re starting to sweat and kick people from famine. Daughter’s babysitter has pocketed an additional $2.50 while you two stand in a crowded hallway. Please just go across the street to the other place.

OQ: Oh no, sister. I didn’t just scarf down a packet of Equal and a pilfered cocktail onion so the couple behind us could skip ahead in line. There are three tables in there which should open up at any mo…I cannot believe it! The jerk at the window table just ordered Amaretto. He’s wearing shorts, who orders an after-dinner drink while wearing shorts? YOU SELFISH FREAK, GO BUY PANTS! THEN DRINK YOUR DESSERT!

RQ: If you won’t let us leave, then please eat that maraschino cherry then go read the fire inspection certificate again.

But if you really want to experience time slipping away from you in a fantastically unforgiving way, might I suggest Verizon? Three years ago, I got a perfectly good mobile phone. Two years ago, things started wearing out, so I would trudge in and get parts replaced, usually for free. One year ago, I went in to get something replaced and the salesman acted as if I had brought in a 1953 Studebaker and was insisting on having an electric-hybrid engine installed:

QUINN: Hi, I need a new battery, please.

Salesman looks dubiously at the blameless phone.

SALESMAN: Are you sure that’s ours?


SALESMAN: I’ve never seen one like that since I’ve been working here.

QUINN: How long has that been?

SALESMAN: A week on Saturday.

It’s never quick and it’s rarely fun, but I refuse to get rid of a perfectly good phone just because it makes a nineteen year-old salesman squirm to imagine a world before Blue Tooth. So I went to a Verizon store last week and saw that the service line was about seven people long. This is not surprising. If you were to break in to the Verizon store in the middle of the night, there would be seven people waiting on line. The question, of course, is always are these short-problem people or long-problem people?

The woman hopping from foot to foot, anxiously checking her watch repeatedly and sighing was clearly in a rush, which boded well. The man behind her was carrying a bag with what appeared to be the parts of several phones and a thick, battered manila file which read “Verizon 2002-5”, which boded unbelievably badly. I decided to do another errand and come back after the guy with the archive was gone.

But then I dithered. It’s not as if I would never find people on line; I was always going to be dealing with a group of people ahead of me with telephonic trauma. Maybe when I came back, the next group would have longer problems than this group. Maybe someone in the world has an older phone than I do.

Maybe this was as good as it gets.

This was simply too horrible a thought. As if shot from a cannon, I flung myself from the clutches of Verizon and raced home. If an asteroid was hurtling Earthward, I would hate to think I spent my last hour waiting for a fleshy man in a Members Only jacket to relive three years’ of his phone bills. Not me.

No, I decided to take the bull by the horns. With only a box of rubber bands, some duct tape, tinfoil, hot glue and my unlimited access to Consort’s well-appointed workshop, I fixed the phone myself. That’s right. The battery no longer flops off when I open the phone. Sure, it looks like something Daughter might have made in art class – assuming I’d let her attend art class with a high fever -- but the phone works, and I saved myself what might have been thirty minutes of standing on line.

And it only took me three nights.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Verizon story reminds me of an anecdote Douglas Adams told at a book reading, about a bird that spends all day adding and subtracting bits of plant matter to a mound covering its eggs, so the decomposition and layering provide just the right level of warmth - all that work, just to avoid the simpler process of actually sitting on the eggs. Adams told the anecdote as an example from nature of his own tendency to spend an entire day programming his computer to do in two keystrokes what would ordinarily take five. Quinn, you keep good company.

12:25 PM  
Blogger torontopearl said...

Keys get misplaced quite frequently in our home--I can't find mine deep in my purse; hubby can't find his because I've put some paper atop them.

Solution: Little baskets that are magnetized and attach to a metal door. Don't know about your front door, Quinn, but ours is metal, so these baskets are perfect. (They're actually sold in stores that sell office goods; these baskets are meant for school lockers)

Hubby's basket is atop mine; we put our many sets of keys as well as our cell phones in them and know exactly where to look for them now...they're staring at us as we go to open the door.

8:14 PM  

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