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I was in Clearwater Beach, Florida, the morning of the 31st, listening to coffee drip, looking out the picture window at a parking lot, and saw a squirrel sitting on top of a telephone pole at eye level fifteen feet away, looking at me. On the beach, men with metal detectors searched for lost diamond rings and gold ingots. The squirrel had no good reason to be on top of a pole and I had no reason to be in Florida and the men on the beach kept moving along and not finding anything, we were all just spending time, and eventually the squirrel went racing along a cable to a nearby roof and I flew back home and I assume the men found something else to do, maybe watch football and drink Harvey Wallbangers.

Time flies by, the planet is spinning faster, it’s 11 a.m. and then suddenly it’s 3:30, so I try to eliminate wasted time such as the hours I spend rustling around for postage stamps and meanwhile getting engrossed in a stack of rejection letters from editors, time that if I saved it I could spend it on nobler things, such as writing less about myself and more about social responsibility. But first I have to clean out my email box, which is laden every morning with notes like “The reason I’m running for county attorney in Rome, Georgia is …” and I, who don’t live anywhere near Georgia nor do I wish to, must unsubscribe from that mailing list, which requires four separate steps and in the time it takes to do it, I see that four more fundraising emails have appeared, all written by programmers and sent to hundreds of thousands on mailing lists bought by campaigns and it’s like being attacked by a cloud of deer flies.

I hate wasting time, now that people my age are dying like flies. I DESPISE French cuffs, the trouble of locating cufflinks and dinking around trying to finagle them into four tiny apertures in the cuffs. I prefer black T-shirts.

I hate wasting time. (Did I already say this?) And I am avoiding certain people who tend to interrupt a conversation with learned monologues and if I were to mention the usefulness of Play-Doh in making temporary repairs around the house, they might offer a lecture on Plato and his influence on Christianity by way of Augustine and while this is impressive, it kills the conversation dead.

I have a few loquacious friends among my many monosyllabic ones and I know their phone numbers and sometimes I let their calls go to voice mail where they can talk to the machine if they like. I am also avoiding people who are prone to dragging into the conversation Him Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned Here, whom they have been abhorring for years now, which is their perfect right, of course, but torrents of abhorrence don’t make for a pleasant evening among friends.

My mother took time-saving shortcuts. In her late eighties, she stopped ironing handkerchiefs and sheets and pillowcases. “You’re asleep when you lie in them,” she explained, “so what’s wrong with wrinkles?” Instead of whomping up big dinners, she ordered appetizer trays from the deli. Good enough.

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Some time wastage is unavoidable, such as unintentional nondimensional dementia in which physical objects float through space and the screwdriver you had in the kitchen winds up in your sock drawer and your grilled cheese sandwich departs the microwave and goes into a bookshelf atop a dictionary, but this is how I get my daily exercise, walking from room to room tracking things down.

And now irony strikes: you’ve wasted five or six minutes reading my complaints and what usefulness does this offer to you, dear reader? None. Those minutes are gone, never to return, precious time you might’ve spent thinking about the pandemic or the man with the hair. So let me fill this remaining minute with a helpful suggestion or two.

  • You can save time you’d spend looking for things by renouncing materialism.
  • Pens, paper, postage, meds, matches, Kleenex, car keys, datebook, deodorant, Band-Aids, billfold, keep them in the vegetable drawer of the fridge.
  • Don’t go to Florida and if you live in Florida, leave as soon as possible. It is a state whose major industry is time demolition. Move to the far north where you’ll be busy maintaining life. Survival is its own reason for existence. Nobility can come later.

Garrison Keillor
Prairie Home Productions