Daily Prompt: Dizzy Foresight

One of my favorite expressions, one that I used to use frequently but no longer do, is, “This is X-number of minutes I am never getting back.” I would say this after experiencing something incredibly boring and frustrating, like waiting on line only to discover that I was waiting on the wrong line the entire time, or when I was in a traffic jam in which I learned that the hold-up was people gawking at an accident which by itself would not have created the traffic jam.

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt for September 6 asks, “You’ve been granted the power to predict the future! The catch—each time you use your power, it costs you one day (as in, you’ll live one day less). How would you use this power, if at all?” There are many possible responses. “No,” seems to feature prominently in most of the replies published so far.

Can you hold this thought for a second? Good. A couple things are bothering me. First, there is one typo in the question and one grammatical error. It asks, “How would you use this power, it at all?” Not “if.” I corrected it in my retyping of the question, above. (Check it out here for yourself.)

And then there is this: “You’ll live one day less.” This should say, “fewer.” One day fewer. “Less” is for things that can not be counted, like time, as in, “We spent less time at the shore this summer than last year.” “Fewer” is what we use when you are counting things, as in, “I was given this so-called ‘power to predict the future’ in a speculative writing exercise, and now I will live one fewer day on this green planet we call Earth.”

Here is a refresher course.

I love Jarrett Heather‘s lyric video, especially the legs and feet on the punctuation marks dancing to the rhythm.

(Back to my rant, already in progress.)

The worst, the most empty and useless, four-word sequence in the English language is, “You should have done …” It is hindsight, something no one likes to be accused of using, masquerading as foresight, something everyone likes to be credited with possessing (see the question above). “You should have driven this route instead of the one with the traffic accident-gawking crowd that no one knew was going to show up.” It is really a way of saying, “I knew better.” Those three words are more honest and would be welcomed if they were said more often, but more honest punches might be thrown more frequently as a result.

Each traffic jam that I could foresee and thus avoid in my future would be worth losing several days at the end, because in traffic jams, I am Marcello Mastroianni at the beginning of Fellini’s “8 1/2”:

Simply possessing a low tolerance point for boredom, ennui, la noia, is no reason to desire future sight, however. Again, I have heard myself say, while speaking through hindsight, that minutes just now spent attending to one of life’s boring chores or bad movies (“that’s 90 minutes of my life I can’t get back”) is time lost to me forever. I realize that this is merely me casting the mean gaze of life’s many “You should have dones” on myself. And it is as useless as when some annoying not-so-good-doer offers unsolicited advice, ex post facto. (Someone ahead of me on line at the bank once told me I should have come in earlier or later, and not at prime time, which is when we were both on line. If he had been behind me, this would have made annoying good sense—for him—as it might have encouraged me to leave and move him up one. But in front of me?)

This realization is why I no longer find myself saying, “That’s X-number of minutes I will never get back” any more, as tempting as I find the sarcasm. Annoying and boring moments, tense moments of delay, torturous moments of anticipation in waiting rooms, these are a part of life and I can escape them here and now or choose to be bored. (I will not tell any child of mine that “only boring people are bored.”) Why hurry myself to the end (i.e. lose a day) just to avoid them?

There is a possible loophole to the future sight question, it seems to me. What if I use this fantastic power to predict the future to help me to foresee the day that I will be losing, according to the curse? Then I won’t be losing it. Or, following pure (il)logic, if I hold off using this power until the last day, then I can not ever have a last day since I will lose it, according to the curse, and thus it is always already today and I will live forever.



  1. Leigh W. Smith · September 6, 2014

    This exactly, Mark. And, is it a garden-variety “day” I’d be losing or a spectacular day (i.e., a child graduates, a child grows up and becomes a parent, I get to see a new country or the first person on Mars, the day I win the Pulitzer, etc.). I kid, I kid, but, really, what is the quality of the day, not the quantity? There’s a great short story I think that touches on this sort of idea, but it deals with the hour rather than the day. “Paladin of the Lost Hour,” by Harlan Ellison. I think it was made into a new Twilight Zone episode, and was a Hugo Award winner. Have you read it? It’s here (http://harlanellison.com/iwrite/paladin.htm) if you’d like to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. wscottling · September 6, 2014

    Actually, when you think about it, one less day in an unknown number of days is correct… I mean no one knows, exactly, how many days they have left in their life, right? So it’s an uncountable number. However, if there’s a specific number of days, say you had eight days to do something and then you take one away, then that would be fewer days than before…


    Liked by 1 person

  3. joatmon14 · September 6, 2014

    Too many possible loopholes for me….:)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. grieflessons · September 6, 2014

    Writers often misuse the words less and fewer. The word less should be used for a single item (e.g., less time). Fewer should be used when there is more than one item (e.g., fewer mice).

    Read more at http://www.grammar-monster.com/lessons/singular_fewer_less.htm#M96GHQevoGUQJESE.99

    In short, they are not incorrect in their usage of the word “less” since day is singular…Judy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LRose · July 3, 2015

    The typo is still there.


    • Mark Aldrich · July 3, 2015

      It sure is! Power to the people; this aggression will not stand, man! (Attempted Big Lebowski quote.)

      This was not the first prompt I did, but close to it. It is the first time my response (it was more of a reply than a response) was pre-loaded.

      I love seeing comments from you.

      Liked by 1 person

      • LRose · July 3, 2015

        This one (or maybe one other, I forget) marked the beginning of my departure from WPDP.
        I might be the only person of our generation (I’m a wee bit older than you, but not by much) that has not seen The Big Lebowski. I must mend the error of my ways.
        Hope you guys have a great 4th holiday!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Empty Foresight | The Gad About Town

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