Grasping time


The following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try to give all of the material posted on this site.

I always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more than 50,000 words by the end of November.

Thank you.

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This is going to be a slippery slope for me to climb… and so it is important for me to begin with a very important announcement.

If you want anything done by Bobby or Terry, the person to have on your side is Terry.

I can procrastinate about procrastinating. For hours. Without a problem. If there is a deadline involved, I am absolutely sure to meet it… and with equal certainty I can say that I am quite unlikely to deliver results much earlier than that deadline.

Terry on the other hand gets things done. Simple as that. When she decides to begin working on a project, she gets frustrated that she hadn’t finished at least two days before she began.

And as such, you might be surprised when I tell you that she has no concept of time. And this creates some very strange disagreements between us.

I will begin with an example.

A typical drive for the two of us might be anything from thirty to forty-five minutes. And by that, I mean that where we are located, if we decide to go out to the big city -- meaning anything from visiting our parents to getting to friends… leaving our immediate neighborhood to get to a restaurant we haven’t been to in a while… going to a movie theater -- in any direction we go, the drive takes about thirty to forty-five minutes. Minimum.

I have… on multiple occasions… been standing next to Terry on a particular day. And on that day, we need to run an errand. And she will suggest getting lunch and maybe seeing a movie while we’re out running that errand. And somehow, she feels that even though it is noon as she suggests all this, we can get back to our house by 3pm.

Three hours.

The round trip drive alone is one of those three hours.

And she is suggesting getting lunch, running an errand and seeing a movie in the other two.

Eithout knowing what time the movies are playing.

And then she gets a bit upset when you look at her strangely while asking if there will be time to finish all that.

Let’s go back to the opening of this essay.

If you want anything done… ask Terry. Do not ask me. My talent is avoiding the work altogether.

The other day we had decided to clean out the garage. It was, as you might imagine, a project I had managed to make long, long, long overdue.

In my mind, I wanted to take the cardboard boxes and stack them in a corner. You know… half-ass the effort by taking at least half of the work involved and somehow stalling it for a later time. Terry, on the other hand, was cutting up the boxes and properly placing them with our recycling. She wanted the job done, done right, and done once.

As the project continued, we decided to stop for lunch, and sat down outside to eat. While there, she was looking over the front yard. She decided the grass needed to be cut. She had also decided there was plenty of time to cut it once we finished the garage.


Where I drew the line though was around 3pm, when she wanted to start taking down the shutters and paint them.

I’m probably not doing either of us any favors with this essay, and so be it. The reality is that you need to experience the situation first-hand to truly understand it. The thing is… I think I finally figured it out… and I blame television for the problem.

Like many of you (I would imagine), Terry and I seldom watch television shows when they are actually broadcast. Instead, we’ll record several weeks’ worth of a show’s episodes, and then spend a couple of hours one afternoon or evening catching up. Or, we’ll watch the show a day or two later. The big thing is… we almost never end up watching the commercials.

Because of this, a one-hour television show is over in, let’s say, about forty-five minutes. (Terry watches American Idol too… and in that situation, fast-forwarding through commercials means a one-hour show is over in forty-two seconds.)

Do you see where I’m headed? I have a funny feeling that because she can clear out an hour of a television show in less than three-quarters of an hour of viewing time, she may very well have this clock ticking in her head during other projects.

Forget the shutters… the garage… the example of travel time not being included.

We had some wood to cut and stack recently.

I am told a cord of wood is roughly 8-feet by 4-feet by 4-feet. That roughly concept being tied to how the wood is cut and actually stacked.

My guess is that we ended up with at least three cords of wood. At least. And that was only what we cut and stacked (along with the help of Justin… who had picked just the right time to be visiting).

So one day we were unloading crafts from an event, while repackaging them to get ready for the next event. And when the boxes and tables had been moved, and it came time for the delicate work… which means I keep my hands out of the way… I wandered into the back yard and started stacking some wood. You know… making myself useful until Terry needed me back on the main project.

After perhaps thirty minutes, Terry came in the back yard and we worked out a system to help each other out in the process of moving and stacking the wood. At one point, while waiting for me to arrive with the wheelbarrow, she pointed to the deck. She mentioned that we should use the nice day to get the furniture put away.

My face gave away my feelings on the project.

Ok… stay with me…

The furniture on the deck normally gets put in the shed for the winter. The shed is also where I keep the longest of our ladders, which I was going to need to clean out the gutters. And since the furniture would all be stacked in front of the ladders… yeah… in order to put the furniture away, I would also need to clean out the gutters.

When Terry views things, working on one project normally results with the development of a list of additional projects… most of which she wants to begin (and finish) that day.

When I view things, working on one project means focusing on a single project, getting it done, and pacing yourself since it is possible you might have to work straight through to get it done and not take a nap.

(Back to the packaging of crafts, stacking of wood, consideration of furniture, and resulting view of the gutters…)

Originally I had wanted to clean out the gutters next week. There were still some leaves on the trees… though admittedly, not all that many and few on branches near the house.

Now regardless of my stomping my feet or rolling my eyes, I eventually did what I more or less always do when Terry and I have a debate about things such as this. On a day committed to organizing the boxes from the craft fairs and stacking some wood, I grabbed the ladder to begin cleaning the gutters.

And when, somehow, I managed to have the gutters cleaned and the furniture put away… after finishing stacking the wood… in time to help Terry load the boxes for the next craft fair before the light of day had left us that afternoon, she smiled. And said: “See? Doesn’t it feel good to have it done?”

And it did. At the time, it always does.

But this guy named Murphy has some thoughts on the subject. And generally his thoughts tend to lead down a path where I would love to say “I told you so”… and my enjoyment of life means I had damn well better not.

The next day I got up for work. In the early morning sun, and crisp fall air, I walked through the mist created by my own breath toward the car. And looking up, I noticed it had been windy overnight. I say I noticed it because… sure… there were leaves in the gutters.

I wish I could claim some understanding of all this that allowed me to use my realization to better organize myself (or Terry). I wish I could get myself more proactive… maybe put as much work into getting things done as I do in making sense of putting things off.

I neither have that understanding or that level of motivation.

What I can tell you is that every so often… just once in a very rare while… we do run out of time on a project. And while she is absolutely right… it does feel good to have the project done… secretly, there’s a small bit of unspoken “I told you so” that feels nice too. (And those husbands with ever-expanding honey-do lists will know that unspoken feeling well.)

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