After the Fact: E=MC2 and H2O


My ex always accused me of wanting to build my bridges so far ahead that, by the time I arrived, the river would have dried up. That’s true. I do like to know where I’m going, and when and why and who else is going along and where we have to change planes and have reservations been made at a motel? You get the picture. And it may be, is undoubtedly the case, that I’m obsessive about planning. Not that my plans always work out according to the map I’ve drawn. And not that there’s always water in the pool when I take that “leap of faith.”

But still, my way is preferable to the way the Whiz Kid did things. I could get ready, get two kids ready, everything packed and a cooler filled with snacks loaded into the car before ol’ Glad Hand Luke could find his socks. We were chronically late for everything.  If we absolutely, positively HAD to be on time, I’d tell Whiz we had to be there an hour earlier than printed on the invitation. And I’d throw the invitation away before he saw it. I think he caught on when I kept making the kids’ dental appointments at 7 a.m. So long as it didn’t inconvenience him greatly, he didn’t mention it and, since he was a traveling salesman, he mostly wasn’t home to take the kids to the dentist anyway.

It wasn’t what Einstein had in mind, I’m sure, but time is always relative to the task at hand. If you’re reading a really good book, time is never-ending until you get to the last page. If you’re sitting in a meeting where the speaker is using a “Power Point” to illustrate what he’s saying, time is also never-ending. It goes on and on and on until your mind is so numb, there is no way to measure time. Being in the car with the Whiz Kid was something like the “Power Point” meeting. The longer the trip, the more brain cells I felt withering away. The only thing that held me to sanity was the fighting of the two monsters in the back seat. 

Why did it take twice as long to get home from visiting his folks than it did to get there in the first place when it was exactly the other way around for a trip to visit my family? And the week we spent with my family was half as long as the one we spent with his.

We’ve all had jobs that taught us about the relativity of time. Monday through Friday was a month long while the weekend went by faster than the speed of light. And some of us have had jobs where the week simply flew by. You enjoyed the weekend, but were happy when Monday rolled around again. My grandfather had a job like that, and he could barely bring himself to take a vacation. He was a writer. And, in his “spare time,” he read books or newspapers or magazines or the back of the cereal box. He’d been with the same newspaper for so many years that, when he finally retired, they asked him to continue writing the “50 Years Ago” column. He did do research in the “morgue” (where they kept back issues) but some he wrote from memory.

Young people today seldom build bridges farther ahead than the next paycheck. There is an exception: when they’ve been working at the same job for longer than two or three years, they feel “stifled” and have been planning the next move since the day they started. There are a few HR directors who are considering having a revolving door installed in their office.

Whiz has been retired for a while now. He can spend as much time as makes him happy to just doodle around, rearranging the pots and pans in the kitchen (which the daughter-in-law moves back to the original place just as often) or being an engineer on his HO train line, or whatever it is that he does nowadays. If he thinks of me at all, it’s with a sigh of relief that he doesn’t have to be anywhere, at any time, on time and I’m not there to complain.

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