Yesterday, I got an email from my beloved alma mater, the University of Wisconsin. Subject line: “Hurry, while there’s still time.” I thought to myself, “Well, if there’s still time, why do I have to hurry?” Maybe the better statement would be
Relax. There’s still time.
We get near constant messages that we don’t do enough, that we need to pick up the pace. Go the speed limit, I just dare you—you’ll be taking your life into your own hands.
I don’t accept this mindset. Or I should say, to the extent I find myself able, I attempt to reject this mindset. I choose unlikely moments to luxuriate in having plenty of time. I come to a truly complete stop at a stop sign and breathe in and out before I start back up. (I know, it’s practically un-American!) I let someone go ahead of me in line at the grocery store. When a harried restaurant server apologizes that my meal is taking a long time, I say, “That’s ok. I’m in no hurry.”
I must confess my own shortcomings, however. If not, the Professor might point out that I am often in a hurry, because I wasn’t in a hurry. I have a way of dawdling until I’m almost late. My ex once said, “Are you listening to yourself?” after I had uttered the sentence, “Hurry up so we don’t have to rush.”
Last Saturday, the Professor and I toured the Georgetown Steam Plant in Seattle. It’s an electricity-generating facility that was built in 1906. I’m interested too, but the Professor especially likes what she calls “industrial tourism.” We’ve done the county waste treatment facility tour. We’ve been to the Hanford nuclear facility. We’ve done three electricity plants, the last two (believe it or not) in the past six weeks! The other was the Museu da Electricidade in Lisbon.
The reason I bring it up is that the plant was designed by Frank Gilbreth, best known for his time and motion studies. These studies broke down tasks into minute movements, then attempted to discover the most efficient way possible to perform those tasks by using the fewest movements and standardizing each worker’s performance of them. To many, though, his method’s greatest accomplishment was, rather than efficiency, the grinding down of workers in body and spirit, and the creation of a great deal of stress and injury caused by repetitive motion.
Which brings us to Doris Day, 1957. The Pajama Game was a movie adaptation of a popular Broadway play of the same name. We performed the show when I was a junior in high school. One of the songs, “Racing with the Clock,” is about this very topic—only much more entertaining than the studies themselves. (Also, I’m relatively certain that adding choreography to a task cuts down on efficiency considerably.)
So breathe, relax, refuse to hurry, and opt not to race with the clock. But first, hurry—watch this clip! Only 1:41, less than two minutes. I’m sure you have time.