What the Fast Food Nation Gets Right

(adapted from a journal entry dated 7 March 2013)

The people who complain something takes too long to microwave are on to something. Really, they are. Something I think we’ve forgotten about in our busy world. They seem to be the only people who recognize the power of a single minute. When we wait for food to reheat, we’re aware of just how long 60 seconds can be in a way we aren’t most of the time.

Flickr Creative Commons. Image by Corie Howell

Flickr Creative Commons. Image by Corie Howell

I learned from the classy, reputable source of Rent, the musical, that there are 525,600 minutes in a year. When I heard that, it seemed too small of a number. Surely there are more minutes in a year than that. People making just over $100,000 a year get paid 20 cents a minute – every single minute of the year. They get $12 an hour for every single hour.

But I digress. What I mean is that I think we too often allow ourselves the privilege of “just a minute.” “I’ll be there in a minute.” “Just a minute, dear.” we say it all the time. Granted, we rarely mean a full 60 seconds. We usually mean much more or less. But what about the times we do mean one whole minute? Blitz games on Facebook. Checking the score. Sixty seconds on Pinterest at a time.

When I was in college, I calculated the number of Bejeweled Blitz games I played on Facebook and the total came to something like 35 hours. Hardcore gamers informed me that was nothing in terms of hours logged playing a game. But to me it was. That was 35 hours over the course of a year that I spent saying “Just a minute” and matching gems. Thirty-five hours of homework breaks, or delaying making dinner, or turning in late to bed. Thirty-five hours spent when I considered each instance a minuscule, insignificant amount of time.

Today I made dinner. As I cooked, I realized something. In the six minutes my chicken spent defrosting, I swept the kitchen floor and cleaned the counters. I had to melt butter, and first I ran the microwave for one minute. During that minute, I cleaned up all the dishes I’d used to make dinner. During a second minute in the microwave, I ripped off a paper towel to dry my wet counters. Then the butter only needed 40 more seconds. I debated staying to wait – after all, it was only 40 seconds – but I went outside, grabbed my new boots that had been drying off from waterproofing, put them away, and made it back to the microwave with time to spare.

So, yes, it’s just a minute. I could’ve watched the butter melt, or played Bejeweled Blitz, or checked my email. But those sixty seconds are useful. I type about 120 words per minute. If I waste 10 minutes when I’m meant to be writing, I could be wasting as much as 1,200 words. As I’m trying harder (and failing plenty) at living in the moment, being present, and choosing relationship, I think it’s really important for me to remember that those little sneaks to check my email add up, and take away value and valuable time from what I meant to do.

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