Sunday, April 29, 2012

59 Freakin' Minutes to Yourself

For the first time in months, the planets finally align to bestow an hour of free time upon tired, overworked and overstressed you. The sitter was already at your house watching your youngest while you attended an appointment, and by freak occurrence, it ended early. Now you don't have anywhere to be until it's time to pick up your older children from school.

Merrily contemplate your options as you drive, although you're not sure where you're headed. Of course, you could just head home to relieve the sitter and save an hour's money. Hahaha! You're not hour to yourself is way too rare of a commodity to be wasted at any cost.

So what to do with this blissful 59---er, now 56---minutes to fill? You're drunk with the possibilities! You rule out shopping due to travel time involved. You could take a much-needed nap. Yeah, but where? In the car? And what if you oversleep? You've got it...You'll grab your beverage of choice, a Vanilla Chai Latte, and just enjoy the simple pleasure of reading a novel uninterrupted.

Fortunately, you always keep a book in the car as usually the only chance you get to read a few paragraphs is while sitting in the parking lot waiting for your son to pack up his baseball gear. With this whole...54 minutes in front of you, why, you might even read a whole chapter. Or two. In a ROW.

Head downtown to your local coffee house. Will you bring your book inside? No, this is Me Time. You don't want to share it with crowds. You'd rather sit in a quiet spot at the park on such a beautiful day. Grab your wallet and run in to purchase your latte to-go.

Wow, it appears many people crave a beverage on this same day. Tension prickles the back of your neck. You might waste a good 10 minutes waiting in line. But the latte is an important component of your Me Time game plan. It's supposed to be you, your book and your latte...The long-forgotten and neglected Happy Threesome, together again at last. You will not be denied this.

The machine that steams the milk is now spitting foam at an employee. He makes futile attempts to stop it. Your heart rate increases with each of his painstakingly slow adjustments. He'll probably have to call in a five-man repair crew from Steamed Milk Machine Experts & Co.  You want to scream, "Hurry up! This is my only hour to myself!" But look at that....he fixed it. You and your latte are soon on your way to the park.

You almost can't believe it when you arrive. See, The Fates are not always working against you. Sometimes things do work out. Check your watch. You only have 29 minutes left? Inconceivable! Gulp some latte, scalding your tongue while you scan the park for an available bench.

The first one you find is on the clear opposite end from where you parked. You stomach churns as you hike toward it, knowing you'll now have to allocate extra time to walk back to the car later or you'll be late for school pick-up. But you are NOT going to let aggravation ruin this.  This is your one freakin' hour to your freakin' self and you're going to freakin' enjoy it.

Set your liquid companion down on the warm park bench. Your phone beeps. Ignore! Don't even take it out to see who it is. You refuse to waste even a second of whatever time is left dealing with the phone. That resolve dissipates quickly as you worry it's the school saying one of your kids is sick. Take a look and feel relieved it's just a text from your husband requiring a simple two-word reply. Fight any and all urges to click the Facebook or Twitter icons.

Attempt reading in the bright sunlight. Readjust your angle so the sun is behind your shoulder instead of in your eyes. Turn the page. Wonder if you remembered to put your son's book order form in his backpack. Oh no, is tomorrow the day the social studies poster is due? The one where so far all your son has written is "Our Founding Fa"?

Ugh, now is not the time to be worrying about these things! Ignore wave of guilt. Check your watch again. How are there only 17 minutes left? Yell at yourself to hurry up and read!  Ignore quizzical looks from strangers who heard you.

The sun is hot. It's a brisk early spring day, but the direct sunlight has Caribbean-like heating capabilities. The warm beverage isn't helping. Try to read another paragraph, but you're baking. Speaking of baking, you have no idea what to make for dinner. What do you have in the house that's healthy and quick to prepare? Now there's an oxymoron.

Reread the same paragraph twice in the sweltering sun. You can't stand it. You have to move. As you spring up, some of your now tepid latte splatters onto your jeans. Marvel how the high-quality disposable travel lid failed to do its sole job of keeping the liquid inside the cup. Blot the spill with the crumpled coffee house receipt because in your haste, you forgot to grab a napkin. Tell yourself it's okay, tea doesn't stain much, although you know the opposite to be true. But at least you didn't spill the whole thing, right? RIGHT?

Only 6 minutes left before you have to head for the kids' school. Half-walk, half-hobble due to the discomfort caused by your now soggy pant leg sticking to your thigh and seek shade under a nearby tree. Easy yourself down into in a pretzel-like position. Open your book again. Without the sun, the stain on your jeans feels cooler and wetter. Stretch your legs out in front of you, wincing at how any movement acerbates the problem. Attempt to read while simultaneously holding the fabric away from your skin. Get up. Get up and give a swift kick to the tree trunk, although you know nothing was its fault. Mumble an apology.

Arrive at the school pick-up line late and more stressed out than had you not had 59 freakin' minutes to yourself.

Actual Amount of Me Time: 59 minutes
Real Feel: 4 minute blur 
Amount of Vanilla Chai Latte Enjoyed:  1 oz. 
Number of Times Tree Trunk Had Been Kicked Previously:  2754
Chance You Will Get Another Hour to Yourself Anytime Soon:  0

If you had a precious uninterrupted hour to yourself, how would you spend it? How often do you manage to get time for yourself?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time Idioms: Subtext Revealed

You've probably often heard these time-related idioms, but are you aware of their hidden subtext? 
Here's what people are REALLY trying to convey: 

Friday, April 20, 2012

Phone Frustration

You can't wait to call your friend to tell her something ridiculous just happened. It's the best kind of ridiculous, something only she could appreciate, something to make you both laugh while it would most likely make others just shake their heads in bewilderment. You whip out your cell phone, but it makes the Three Chirps of Doom to indicate impending loss of power. You'd forgotten to close the Twitter feed window again, so it's both drained the battery and wasted a sizable chunk of your overpriced data plan.

You'll have to plug it in, not only to recharge, but to find your friend's phone number because you can only remember maybe one phone number and you think it might be yours, but can't be sure without looking at the contacts screen.

Open the kitchen drawer where your family has amassed more charger cords than the Verizon and Apple Corporations combined. The cords are entangled in knots. Not to worry. You're quite the untangling expert after logging countless hours on your young daughter's hair while she screams at you in the bathroom each morning.  Too bad you can't use her detangler spray here.

Consider donating this knot to your local bank to prevent thieves from accessing safes. Normally you'd work on it longer, but you really want to call your friend while details of your hilarious incident are still fresh in your mind. Locate and connect your charger to your phone. Leave the remaining clump of cords attached, dangling in mid-air over the toaster.

It's when you finally plug the ball of chargers into the outlet that you realize how short the cord really is. There will be no multi-tasking while you talk. You'll have to remain tethered to the kitchen wall as if it's 1963.  But what you have to say is worth it, so press Send on your friend's photo she still has not forgiven you for taking till this day. She thinks it makes her look like a deranged muppet.

Scowl when you get your friend's voice mail. Leave a request to call you back, but don't divulge why.  You don't want to give anything away, although you're starting to feel less excited about what you were going to tell her anyway.

The minute you go upstairs, you hear your phone's familiar classic TV sitcom-themed ringtone. Race down three steps at a time and nearly kill yourself tripping over your husband's sneakers strewn about in the front hall. You don't want to have to play Voice Mail Tag with your friend. Panic that the sitcom ringtone is already nearing the end, where the group has somehow formed a family and the maid's picture is about to pop-up in the center square.

"Hello?!?!" you gasp. It's not your friend, and no, you would not be interested in upgrading your data plan for just $10 more per month. Ugh, why didn't you check who it was before you picked up? Hit the End button as hard as you can, but it doesn't pack quite the same punch as the satisfaction of slamming down a land line phone receiver. It's something 1963 still has over today. That and the stylish Mad Men dresses.

Message your husband to pick up milk on the way home from work. Auto-correct changes it to read "Pinch up mice." Try not to swear.

Fifteen minutes later, your friend calls you back. She's in the car, so the connection makes her sound like she's gargling rocks. No, make that gargling rocks while doing somersaults through a wind tunnel. Tell her you missed what she just said. She can't understand you either. Say it louder, as if that will help, although the problem isn't volume, it's the 3G or 4G or whatever G your network has that's clearly not up to the task.  Maybe phone companies should stop worrying about the G's and start adding some V's for vocal clarity. Even 1V would be an improvement.

Try to work yourself back up into the same excited-to-share frenzy. You've only cemented three bricks in the foundation of your story when you hear a familiar click. Your friend cheerfully tells you it's her other line, and she has to take the call.

Curse the invention of call-waiting. Deem it so rude. Wonder who or what was so earth-shattering that she had to interrupt you mid-sentence.  You were just getting to the good part!  Of course, you've done the same exact thing she just did many times....only in your case, it was actually important to pick up the other call. Ish. It's amazing enough your little human Phone Call Interrupters haven't barged into the kitchen demanding attention yet, and now you have to deal with call-waiting.

Study the floor tiles and notice how one line of grout has some kind of stain you'll have to address. Try to figure out how the mini lamp shades on the chandelier got so crooked. Say a silent prayer there are no spiders living in the cobweb you just noticed above the corner cabinet. WHAT is being discussed on the other line that would require you to hold for so long?

Forget your phone is plugged in and attempt to reach your glass of water, which results in yanking the entire cord orb from the outlet. Cram the plug back in and verify you had gained enough battery life to keep you connected. Worry your friend has forgotten you're there. Vow the next time she asks you to hold, you'll offer to hang up instead.

When your friend returns to the line, you're sure even she can tell you're feigning enthusiasm as you share your tale. Sum up quickly and receive a polite chuckle from her, at best. 

Total Time Dealing with Phone: 35 minutes
Amount of Time Spent Actually Conversing:  4 minutes 
Real Feel:  1 hour
Who was your friend talking to on the other line? Not sure, but you will always remain suspicious of her new $10 data plan upgrade. 

TALK TO ME: We've become so dependent on our cell phones way beyond using them for verbal conversations. What frustrates you about your phone?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Which Takes Longer: Paying Bills or 2nd Grade Math Worksheet?

You're about to sit down to pay this month's bills when your second grader announces he needs help with his math homework. Smile. It's both your chance to show your child that you do, in fact, have two brain cells that still function and to procrastinate the drudgery of paying bills a while longer.

Granted, math is not exactly your forte. To this day you remain puzzled about the time you got the section on Imaginary Numbers wrong on your high school mid-term. You'd tried to argue that you had, in fact, imagined all the correct answers. Fortunately, you've yet to have a real life experience where it was imperative to figure out the derivatives of an x or a y, nor any of their mystery letter friends.

Your first task is to find your child's homework.  He knows he had it a minute ago when he came to ask for help, but he can no longer locate it. Retrace his steps, searching the usual places like the kitchen floor, the bathroom, the video game controller drawer and the dog's mouth with no luck. Ask to see your child's backpack.  Maybe he put the math sheet away by mistake. Although you don't seriously believe that's possible, you need someplace else to look.

Begin by unfolding paper after paper. Recoil at the quantity of unidentifiable objects you uncover. Tell your child this is why he can never find anything.  More digging reveals three $4-per-pen dry-erase markers with no caps. Among the goldfish cracker crumbs, find the envelope with the field trip permission slip and your accompanying check that was due last week. Email the child's teacher to apologize and inquire whether your child can still be included. Refrain from adding sarcastic comments about the excessive amount of homework given.

Eureka. Your child finds his math homework mixed in with the newspaper on the table. Ask him to read the directions aloud.  Two-thirds into it, he drops his pencil on the floor.  While he retrieves it, take the paper and read the directions yourself because the language used in this math series is extremely vague. It forbids the simple "carrying" or "borrowing" methods you use. Instead, he must illustrate some kind of step-by-step partial sums and differences algorithm under each problem. You're unsure why this is necessary since it takes five times as long. Your only guess is for sport.

Mere seconds after you begin showing your child what to do, he has to go to the bathroom.  When he returns, draw a problem on scrap paper so he can observe how you solve it.  He drops his pencil on the floor again. Watch him launch into gymnastic contortions you didn't know he was capable of performing to retrieve it. He balances on one knee and arches sideways to try to reach it. He flops his stomach down onto the seat of the chair while flailing his arms, blindly groping at the floor underneath.  Tell him to stop fooling around.  He has no sooner put the pencil down than it rolls back off the table.  He crawls under the chair to get it, peering out from between the rungs as if they're windows on a fort. Offer to superglue the pencil to the table.

Prattle on and on with your how-to explanation of partial sums and differences algorithms. Ask him if he understands.

"What?" He stares blankly.

He'd been doodling an elaborate spaceship battle scene on his eraser. He asks if he can play Wii when he's done. Point out how he could've been done 15 minutes ago had he buckled down and gotten started. He says he would have, if you'd stopped talking so he could concentrate.

Your child solves approximately three math problems before he launches into a This-Is-So-Stupid, Why-Do-I-Have-to-Do-This? tirade. Do not, at any point, let on that you agree with him on any level. Do not admit that you, too, think it's ridiculous that after solving the math problems, he must cut out examples of dollar amounts from newspaper ads and glue them to a separate piece of paper. Instead, tell him how important math is! Stress how vitally useful it is in daily life! Why, you yourself will be using it later tonight to pay bills!

After midnight, when you finally do pay the bills, simply plug each amount owed into the bank's website. Let the magical genie who lives inside your computer do all the math for you. 

Actual Time Spent on 2nd Grade Math Worksheet:  52 minutes
Real Feel: 4 hours
Time Spent Paying Month's Worth of Bills:  13 minutes 
Number of Times Kid's Pencil Fell on Floor:  7 
Odds child will remember to hand in both the homework AND and the trip permission slip tomorrow:  1 in 4

What do you think of the new math curriculum that's so different from the way we learned it? On an average daily basis, how much time does your child's homework take?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Trapped at Traffic Light

You approach an intersection and face the difficult choice of either hitting the brakes or plowing full speed ahead. Admonish the drivers in front of you for going so slow.  If only they had accelerated, you could've floored it and made it through just as the light turned red. Now you're going to be late because nobody knows how to drive except you.

Beep repeatedly. You're too angry to care about the threatening looks you're getting from the burly, tattooed guy in the SUV. It just makes you honk louder. Stop abruptly when you notice the frazzled mom in the minivan spinning her head around a full 360 degrees and flinging what you believe to be Cheerios.

Attempt to unclench your jaw and exhale, alternately releasing and gripping the steering wheel. It just had to be one of those lights where you have to wait for all the left turn-only traffic to proceed before your lane can move.

Look at the time on the dashboard clock. Then look at the time on your if the two will be different. Hope the two will be different.  Pray some sudden freak occurrence has erroneously set the dashboard clock an hour ahead and you actually have eons of time left.

Actually, the two are slightly different, but only because you'd set your watch five minutes ahead as a clever device to prevent yourself from running late. Of course, this gimmick fails every time, thanks to your first grade teacher, who taught you how to subtract five from any given number.  This learned skill is also responsible for your bad habit of subtracting five minutes from clocks that are not as cleverly set ahead, thus making you even later.

Wonder if Mrs. Mazur is still teaching. Wonder if she still wears the blue polyester dress and gray sensible shoes. Do not think about how she wore that dress a good 30 years ago and was probably already in her 70's then. Wish for a clock on which you could just as easily adjust years by subtracting intervals of five.

This light is taking forever to change. Why today, of all days, are you getting all the red lights?

Start preparing what you'll say to explain your tardiness. You certainly can't go with the truth, which is you started out late to begin with because it always takes you longer than you thought to get ready. That, and there was a really good episode on HGTV: You just had to see which of the three suburban homes the couple relocating from the big city would choose. Obviously, none of these things could be helped. It's not your fault. You want to blame it on a black hole in the universe that warps time, but some stupid blog on the internet said no one will buy it.

Check your phone. Open the window. Close it immediately upon seeing a giant bug flying towards you. Scream and flail at your narrow, death-defying escape from this vile insect, causing you to drop your phone between the seat and the console. Lunge forward to retrieve it. Bang your head on the dashboard....not just because people beep at you as the light turns green, but because you're that clumsy and manage to bang your head in almost any object-retrieving scenario.

Actual Time Spent at Red Traffic Light: 1 minute, 20 seconds
Real Feel: half hour
Who Is Really at Fault for the Tardiness: obviously, everyone but you, duh
No, Seriously, Who Is Really to Blame: okay, fine....a black hole in the universe where the time got warped

How do you deal with getting stuck in traffic? Are you the person who always arrives late....or early? If late, what causes the delay most often? If routinely early, what's your secret?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Not-So-Super Supermarket Trip

As usual, the supermarket has opened a whopping five registers for the 40 customers currently lined up, and you have no idea which one will be the quickest ticket out of there. Lament this is the same retailer that prided itself on the remodel that established 25 cash register lanes. Picture how much more efficiently the store would run if you were in charge.

You know better than to try to gauge which line will move most rapidly by which has carts half-empty versus full. It's all about cashier productivity. You also want to avoid cashiers who think they're the Coupon Police and spend an inordinate amount of time double-checking that brand names and quantities purchased are exactly as per terms of offer.

Go with the cashier who seems to be scanning items competently without chit-chat. Witness how quickly she has moved on to the next customer already by the time you step into her line. Looks like you chose correctly. Another thing she does at warp speed:  turn off her light to announce she'll be closing after the person in front of you.

Slink over to the next lane. Hope this cashier will wrap up her conversation with another cashier three aisles away soon. You and everyone within a five-lane radius now know more than you ever needed to about what they were drinking at Jake's party last weekend and how Samantha told Ryan there was no way he was 'hitting that' until he shapes up because she was NOT putting up with it, nuh-uh, no way.

Struggle to balance all of the items in your arms as you watch the cashier text between sales. Maybe you should've gotten a cart or basket.  You had only planned to pick up a few things. You hadn't known they'd be offering a two-for-one sale on Mallomars.

No one is behind you, so decide to quickly go grab a basket from the discarded ones wedged underneath the register counter. Explain your intentions to the people in front of you as you struggle to work your way forward.  Make yourself oblivious to all looks of annoyance. Because your hands are full, use your foot to attempt to free a basket from its entanglement with the other handles, resulting in a jarring tumble of baskets. This further annoys the people on your line, not one of whom will offer you assistance.

When you return to the rear with your newly-filled basket, the line has grown by two more people. Glance up at the clock. You've already been in the store a half hour longer than you planned. You still aren't even close enough to the register to roll your eyes at the tabloid headlines or admire the candy bars. The store has crammed so much merchandise into the displays near the registers, carts barely fit through the lane. You've never understood why stores think this strategy will be an effective way to trick people into last-minute impulse buys.

It suddenly dawns on you that you've forgotten the one item which was the sole impetus for this impromptu shopping excursion. Ask the person behind you to save your place in line while you run to get milk. Park your little basket on the floor for insurance.

Slip on an applesauce spill in Aisle 9. Act nonchalant while regaining your balance and composure near the feminine hygiene products. When you finally reach the dairy aisle, bump into someone you haven't seen in years. Discuss where everyone is working now, speculate whatever happened to so-and-so, and admire her smartphone photo gallery featuring her children, pets and last year's trip to Disney.

Race back to your line with a tub of ice cream, two bottles of salad dressing (on sale!) and a box of tampons. The woman saving your spot says she thought you went to get milk. Tell her she must have heard you wrong. Toss a Snickers bar and magazine into your basket.

How Long You Thought This Shopping Trip Would Take:  10 minutes, tops
Actual Time:  47 minutes
Real Feel:  35 minutes
Amount of Unnecessary Items Purchased Impulsively:  8
Final Score: Shoprite  8
                      You         -1 (milk)

What frustrates you at the supermarket? What do you think causes the most delays in getting out of there quickly? Do you frequently buy more items than you originally went into the store to get?

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