Today's Topic:
Delays

My friend Rob and I were leaving Barnes & Noble after our writers group meeting, when he spotted a Scrabble game sitting on a table. He pointed out that it included a timer. "That's a good idea," he said and went on to explain how it used to drive his ex crazy when he took forever to make a move while playing the game. Chess presents a similar problem for both Rob and I. One time it took me so long to make a chess move that a line of ants formed up and down the length of my body to get to some crumbs I had accidentally left in my moustache. Exaggeration? Maybe. But those ants can form a line pretty quickly once they find some food.

"Hey," I said to Rob, "that would be a good topic for your blog. You could talk about how long it takes you to do things and then drag it out for a long time just to make the point."

He didn't think it was such a good idea.

I disagreed.

Not only does it take people a long time to do certain things, but people also have different ideas about how long it should take to do certain things. For example, some people think that you should wait several weeks after ending a relationship to start up a new one, while other people think that about twenty minutes is good. And then there are those who think even that's too long and who prefer to have their relationships overlap so there's no "alone" time in-between. Hey, I'm not judging. It's just an observation.

Here's another "time expectation" on which people differ. Some individuals assume that when they ask you a question, you should answer right away. Apparently, it has never occurred to them that maybe some of us actually like to think before answering. You've heard of thinking, right? It's this thing you do in your head where you consider the options and their consequences. There have been a number of times when I've been on the phone and a person has asked me a question and it has taken me longer than usual to respond. The silence seems to freak people out. "Hello? Hello?" they say. "Are you there? What happened? Where are you? For God's sake, speak to me!"

"Give me a minute to think," I'll answer. Since when did life become a game show where you have to shout out the answer before the buzzer goes off?

To deal with this problem, I have taken to thinking out loud, just so the person I'm talking to doesn't panic. For example, at work, someone may come up to me and say, "I'm processing an RMA where the customer is returning product within the thirty day money back period, but they're cancelling the order because they meant to order something else. I have a choice of entering this in the system as 'incorrect product ordered' or 'thirty day money back.' Which one should I use?"

"That's a good question," I'll answer. "I'm sure that I know what the answer is, but I'm really a lot more concerned about whether I'm going to get a chocolate shake with the roast beef sandwich I'm having for lunch or if I should settle on a Coke. By the way, the outfit you're wearing today looks terrible. What did you ask me again?"

See, this is called thinking. And it takes up a lot of time.

But I jest. I also digest, but that's usually after lunch.

The point is that there seems to be a conception that the smarter you are, the quicker you'll answer a question. But often the opposite is true, because the smarter you are, the more options and consequences you have to consider before you can arrive at a conclusion. So, it is like a game of Scrabble - there's a lot to evaluate, a lot of pieces to move around. The tiles on the rack say "Mr. Idea," but they could also spell "I dream," "I'm dear," "mad ire," or "admire." My first thought might be that I want to use "admire," because it's the longest legitimate word. But then again, maybe I should use "mad," or "ire," because I want to save some vowels for my next word, and I don't want to put tiles in a position that will give the next person the chance to get a triple word score. Don't even get me started on chess.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I'm out of space. Sorry! You'll have to wait. Oh, and, by the way, use "incorrect product ordered." It's a lot more specific.