Time is a flirt, the little bitch. Time says, “I’ll always be here for you.” And you come to believe it, and get used to it, and then suddenly you really need Time, and then Time is nowhere to be found. You panic, you scramble, and somehow you learn to cope without it. Then there’s a knock at the door, and it’s Time with a bottle of wine and some sweet talk, and all you can remember are the good days.
It’s fall, and fall is procrastination season. For one thing, school has started. School is where we encounter our first deadlines and decide how we will fight their power. Will we finish the assignments early and thereby defuse the tension? Prudent, but bo-ring. Procrastinators such as myself prefer to live on the edge, racing toward deadlines with steely nerve in a temporal game of chicken to see who will flinch at the last second. Sometimes due dates get extended, and we get a sense of relief the Prudentarians will never enjoy, but more commonly we find ourselves paying the price with an all-nighter. Though we may be criticized for our sub-standard work, we can hold our heads high and say, “Sure, but considering I did a two week project in one night, not too shabby!” It may not be the best way to get our money’s worth out of an expensive education, but it gives us time to focus on other important fall things, like … the holidays!
As it turns out, the holiday season is just another series of opportunities to put things off. Before the end of the year the more afflicted among us will have slapped together a Halloween costume an hour before the party (“I’m a pot head, get it? Pot? On head?”), brought chips as a “potato side dish” to Thanksgiving, and purchased presents for the little ones at the big truck stop on route to the family homestead. After New Year, we can finally relax and send out our holiday cards. From 2009.
If your reading this column is itself a means of frittering away your day, that’s nothing compared to the procrastination that went into writing it. I enjoy writing, and yet I’m always slow to get started and looking for excuses to get out of my chair once I start. It’s a mystery to me. On the up side, my house is freaking spotless right now, because that’s one of my stalling techniques. I’ll also play ukulele, garden, cook, and call old friends. Right now I have a powerful urge to clean my keyboard with a Q-tip. But it’s nearly dawn and I just might finish in time if I can ignore my number one time suck nemesis: the boob tube.
Nothing in my life has vampired energy, creativity, and inspiration from my soul like TV. I used to sit and channel surf for an hour making sure nothing good was on (maybe a Star Trek TNG rerun I missed?), and then had to start the cycle again because it was a new hour. TV made my brain passive and dull and tired. The commercials made me depressed about how stupid advertisers take us to be. Yet I could not turn away, because 5 percent of TV is good and I didn’t want to miss it. Typical addict thinking.
Rather than develop some discipline, I got rid of the TV. I felt better but didn’t know if people considered me smug or stupid when I said I didn’t know who Urkel was. This was a pretty good era, productive and social. Sometime in the 90’s I got all evangelical and started up a little business called Final Fix Television Exterminators, where for a fee my team would go to your house and literally kill your television. There were different packages, ranging from “Goodbye Old Pal,” where we would surgically and peacefully snip out crucial electronics, to “Free At Last,” where we put on goggles, said a few words, and rammed the picture tube with a big iron bar. For an extra fee we’d bury it in a shallow grave or mount it on a spear in your yard “as a warning to other life-leeching appliances.”
We won that battle against passive entertainment, but not the war. My own computer, the very thing I use to write with, is now packed with creativity kryptonite. I no longer need to channel surf to find something I may like; it’s “on demand.” It’s hard to kill just part of your laptop, though I’ve considered having a friend install parental controls that limit my access to Facebook, Hulu and Netflix. And while they’re at it, solitaire. It cracks me up that we now have these amazingly sophisticated computers at our fingertips (“Brain the size of a planet …”), and mostly we use them for solitaire. (I work in a big office building, and I see a lot of computer screens as I walk around. Take it from me, solitaire is king. It even outlived Tetris.)
Yes, I do realize all this falls under the category of “luxury problems.” From the point of view of the billions of humans on earth who don’t enjoy my level of health, wealth and safety, I may as well be bitching about how I can’t get the helicopter on my yacht started. I’ll have to learn to be happy with who I am, even if I’m only operating at 27 percent capacity. After all, procrastinators rarely turn out to become homicidal dictators or criminal masterminds, they … my God, are you still reading this? Don’t you have anything important to do?