TIME WELL SPENTBy DAVE KIFFER
September 20, 2016
Okay fine. Now, I won't get that image out of my head anytime soon.
I guess it never occurred to me to do much cogitating in the shower. I always like to soap up, rinse off and get out.
Maybe it's after a lifetime in Ketchikan where you spend most of your life getting dripped on and you'd prefer not to be any wetter, any longer, than you have to.
Anyway, all I ever do in the shower is notice that my toes are perversely curved and I do not have six pack abs, unless that six pack is Coca Cola.
I do not, repeat, do not spend much time thinking.
And then there are all those weird beauty marks that might be something bad if you're not careful, according to all those issues of Dermatology Today. Is that blemish just a blemish or it is something worse? And really, when do freckles EVER amount to anything good?
The other day, someone - who does not know me very well - made a vague joke about freckles.
"I mean," she went on, when I didn't react. "You red heads always have freckles, right?"
And we also ALL have red-hair-trigger tempers, I thought about snapping back.
Yes, a lot of red heads - or should I use the cloying term that annoys me to no end, GINGERS??? - have freckles.
Speaking of gingers, I would so like to start to start calling brunettes "peppers" and blondes "tumerics." Unfortunately, they wouldn't get it.
But I digress.
Freckles are something that every "gingerhead" lives with to some degree or another. And all of us have the same thought: Maybe if I stay out long enough in the sun, the freckles will all grow together and I will be the first redhead in history with an actual tan, rather than a third degree sunburn.
Anyhoo, my acquaintance spent some time extolling the time he spends thinking in the shower. Good for him. I hope he cures cancer someday.
Or at least the cancer that red heads sometimes get when their freckles morph into nasty blotches of skin death as they get older.
Which, of course, leads me to ponder: Where do I do MY best pondering?
I'd like to think that it happens while sleeping.
After all, I spend a third of my life asleep and I would no doubt come up with some great stuff in that many hours. I do remember once waking from a sound sleep with a "rhyme for orange." I immediately wrote it down in my pristinely incomprehensible handwriting, which I could not read the next morning, or any morning.
I can only begin to imagine the great thoughts I would have if I could have them when I sleep.
Then again, anything would be an improvement over my current nighttime nocturnal menu which seems to consist of dreams dealing with either losing something, forgetting something or standing naked in a shower of confetti on New York's Fifth Avenue.
Instead, it is more likely my best thinking comes while standing in line. I can't tell you how often I have pondered the meaning of life while standing in line at the DMV. I'm pretty sure that's where the theory of relativity came to Einstein. In line at the Department of Horse Drawn Vehicles in Bern, Switzerland.
I know for a fact that I have also come up with groundbreaking insight while standing in lines. Unfortunately, I usually forget what it is as soon as I reach the front and am told that I have been in standing in the wrong line for the past half an hour.
But I can state clearly that the idea for this whole column came to me while I was standing in line at a local grocery store. So there.
Ever notice that you can lose a lot of weight standing in line at local grocery stores? The hours tick by and you just get hungrier and hungrier as the check stand clerk spills his or her life story to the person in front of them.
Don't get me wrong, I like a brief social interaction as much as the next guy. But seriously, does anyone answer "How ya doing" in more excruciating detail than a check stand clerk at a grocery store? I think not.
But I digress. Once again.
Well, I suspect one would lose weight at the grocery store if one didn't proceed to fill up their cart with all those impulse snacky bits that start beckoning to you as you listen to the clerk recite his or her lifetime story to each of the nine people standing in front of you in the express line.
Unfortunately when that starts happening, I stop thinking big thoughts. I start thinking of ways to speed up the process and get out of that line quickly enough to have the check out clerk's most recent medical procedure NOT permanently imprinted into my mental storage space (along with all 15 choruses of "We had joy, we had fun, we had 'Seasons in the Sun' ").
Yes, I realize that by trying to speed up the process I could be short-circuiting my brain's efforts to cure cancer (or at least solve Bellman's Lost in a Forest Problem). Still it is a categorical imperative that when in a supermarket check out line, I must seek out the quickest egress.
This leads me to sureptitiously scan the other lines and try to determine which, if any, is potentially quicker. This generally only transfers me to a different line which immediately bogs down. I have been known to switch lines three or four times in less than a minute, ultimately delaying my egress by 20 minutes or more. There is a reason why I don't play the roulette wheel in Vegas.
Fortunately, the great gray lady of journalism, the New York Times, recently took a break from the great issues of the day to consider if there are strategies to shortening the time one stands in line at supermarkets.
Here are some of strategies they came up with.
1. Get behind a shopper who has a full cart.
Of course, we all do the opposite. If you see someone who has an overflowing cart, you immediately skip over to stand behind someone who has three or four things in a handbasket. But the Times says that there are certain things, such as paying and waiting for your receipt, that simply take time and that standing behind several people paying for small purchases inevitably takes longer than standing behind one person buying half the store. Okay, this makes sense. But the Times has never enjoyed the pleasure of standing behind someone with a "boat order" have they? Waiting while two or three carts are emptied and then put in boxes is indeed one of Dante's Circles of Hell. Especially since that gives the clerk time to cover their life story two or three times.
2. Go left for faster service.
The Times says that since most people are right handed they will naturally veer toward the right when faced by multiple options. Ha, ha, ha. Multiple options. That's a good one. How often to you visit one of Ketchikan's larger retailers and discover there is a single - or maybe two - checkstands open at the busiest time of the day? That would be every time, for me.
3. Look for female checkers
Wow, that sounds pretty sexist. But the Times says that female checkers are more efficient, more inclined to just check you through as promptly as possible. See the above discussion about life stories. It is my observation that neither male nor female checkers are more likely to answer "how ya doing" in an efficient manner.
4. Study the customers ahead and what they are buying
The idea is that if someone buys multiple numbers of items, those can be scanned quicker. This one makes a bit of sense, unless the person ahead of you is buying multi items of junk food or inebriants. Guaranteed when it comes time to pay, they will have a lot of trouble deploying either their wallet or their credit card. Because, well because they are brain dead dolts.
5. Choose a line that leads to several cashiers.
Ha, ha, that's another good one. See number 2 above!
6. Beware of lines with obstructions.
Well, duh. I often find that other people are seriously obstructing my ability to get out of the store promptly. Don't they realize that my time is valuable? Don't they understand that I could be spending my time in a better manner/ What is it with these people?
So there you have it. You have just spent a significant amount of time reading this column. You could, instead, have cured cancer. Or you could have resolved the question over why we dream (six years worth of time in our lives). Or you could have spent the time with disadvantaged immeasurably improving the world around us.
But instead you spent it with me.
In a ceaseless circuitous cogitation.
Better known as a really long line.
Dave Kiffer ©2016
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