One of my favorite expressions, one that I used to employ 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.
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. “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 particular 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 tell people with my outdoors voice, (but 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 now lost to me forever. I realize that this is merely me casting the mean gaze of life’s many “You should have dones” on the last three people I should: me, myself, moi. 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 my bank once told me I should have come in earlier or later, and not at prime time, which is when we were both standing there, on line. If he had been behind me, this would have made annoyingly good sense—for him—as it might have encouraged me to leave and allow him to move up one spot. But the person was 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, and I do find sarcasm tempting. 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 I can 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?
But what if I could tell myself in the here and now when those boring “not going to get these minutes back” are coming up? Hmm. (That’s the sound of thinking.) Hmmmm. Perhaps if I could hone my powers of sarcasm for good instead of ill and use that spidey sense to predict imminent boredom? Then … it … wouldn’t … be … boring. Aha!
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Re-written from 2015.
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