by Andy Capp
I’m no Einstein, but I do have my own theory on time that I’d like to share with you now. No, it’s not the Relative Time theory that I’ve mentioned before, although I’m certain that I can still prove that time does go by slower when relatives come to visit. This theory, like the hairs I harvest daily from my ears, has come with age. In fact, it has everything to do with age. It seems that the older I get, the faster time goes by.
I was 5 years old that holiday season, and the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas were an agonizing eternity of package watching. As if to throw gasoline on the Yule log of present fever that was burning in my brain, my Mother had gotten all of her shopping done early, and had every present nicely wrapped and stacked under the tree. There they lay, second by second, minute by minute, hour after unbearable hour, mocking me. Since my Mother had assured me that touching would lead to a stocking full of coal, I was forced to sit and gaze and imagine what treasures were hidden under that shiny wrap—wrap that glittered under the twinkling lights of the tree, as if to hypnotize me into sneaking a tear in one little corner. Yeah, I would solve the mystery with one little rip. Sure, and then I’d sneak some tape over it and nobody would notice… except the big guy in the red suit. So, I sat for hours that were years under that tree, my nose just barely touching the largest gift with my name on it, my hope that the cat might come along and decide to sharpen its claws on one side of the wrapping. Every day between the holidays I would get to cross off the day before on the calendar, and every day I would go to my Mother several times, wondering if it was time to cross off another date. Truly, those days dragged on as fast as Grandma’s fruitcake would disappear on Christmas day. The holidays last year? Thanks-giving, Christ… what?! It’s July already?!
For a while I just thought I needed new glasses, but it turns out that it’s been time all along, going by in a blur. Which is why I’m starting to hate the word deadline even more than I used to. It used to mean that it was time to forsake the little things like lunch and my child’s first steps to hammer a project together when it was needed (usually yesterday). Now it’s taking on more sinister overtones. Minutes have become seconds, hours are minutes, days are hours, weeks are seven hours long. I don’t even hate Mondays any more, because I know it will be Thursday by noon. Now deadline is just another name for foot race, and as I gasp towards the finish line each day, the clock’s got a hell of a lead going.
Maybe we’ve given time too much power with the words we choose when we have a task at hand. Doesn’t deadline sound a little too negative, as though you are damned whether you finish on time or not? ASAP feels like the name of some incredibly secret international agency, bent on world ruination by caffeine overdose. Even the words “Time Management” imply that Time is an unruly beast that must be tamed, without so much as a second out of line, before it overtakes us and inflicts its evil, such as making your car payment late.
Because I really do believe in the power of words, I’ve been looking for replacements that trip time as it tries to pass. I used to carry one of those big note pads with “To-do List” printed on it. The list kept getting bigger and more imposing, until To-do meant NOW, for everything… time wins. I finally got fed up and threw out the old pad, jumped on the computer, and created a whole new sheet titled, “Andy’s Ta-dah List.” Same concept, same projects to finish, but something about making it fun has put a sharp rock in Time’s cross-trainers. Now when I look at the list, I see goals that I want to complete, and the coming feeling of accomplishment when I do finish, rather than an endless document of work that I HAVE to get done… or else!
I know that it’s one of those goofy little ideas that’s easy to dismiss, after all, a septic tank by any other name still stinks, right? Perhaps, but in an industry filled with imaginative dreamers, why can’t a few re-chosen words make a difference in the way we work, the way we take the lead from Time? It’s hard enough to create when conditions are perfect; overwhelming workloads and time constraints make it damn near impossible… unless we can keep our sense of humor, and remember that above all else, this creative stuff IS supposed to be fun.
Call an ASAP “Some Sap,” turn your “Deadlines” into “Head Lice.” Have fun giving Time shin splints and see how much more effective AND creative you can be. For my part, time nearly took the checkered flag this week, but after begging for another day of Head Lice, this column saw print. Ta-Dah!!!