Who Has Time for Patience?

Patience is a virtue. So is bravery, fidelity, and putting the cap back on the toothpaste tube, especially if you're a man. But patience is in a category all its own, for unlike other virtues, our patience has run out. Gone are the days of leisurely strolls, lingering dinners, and curling up with a good book. Nowadays we run for exercise, bypass any restaurant without a drive-through window, and listen to the Cliff Notes Booklets-On-Tape of "Monica's Story" because the full-length version is just too damned long. And boring.Face it, we just don't have time for patience anymore. That's why Christmas merchandise is out before the Halloween costumes are pulled off the shelves, Santa Claus arrives before Veteran's Day, and come to think of it, last year's Christmas decorations never did come down, they just weren't turned on again until Yom Kippur. It's not just holidays that bring out a lack of patience, it's politics too. The presidential election is a year and a half away and we already have more candidates than Larry King has suspenders. The media, which has a bottomless amount of time and space to fill, can't wait until someone announces their candidacy, so they spend months conjecturing about whether the person will run or not. The potential candidates, fearful of being labeled as more patient than the media, have taken to issuing press releases announcing upcoming press conferences at which they'll announce whether they'll be announcing the announcement of their candidacy or not. There is bona fide scientific proof that we're losing patience faster than ever. Way back in 1905 -- which would be 1972 were people as impatient back then as they are now -- Albert Einstein postulated his special theory of relativity. Among other things, it predicted that moving clocks appear to run slower than stationary ones. That's why the more impatient we become -- and the faster we move and do things -- the slower our watches seem to go. This causes us to think we're not getting anywhere, which in turn causes us to lose patience, go faster, and, well, I think you can see where all this will ultimately lead. That's right, we'll end up with 27 hours a day and 8 days a week, which means not only were the Beatles the best band in history with a drummer named Ringo, they were actually the Nostradamuses of their day. Or maybe that's Nostradami. I'd look it up in the dictionary but I don't have time right now.Either way, we should be happy that there are still people with patience. Ken Starr has patience. Bob Saget's wife has patience. And anyone who's ever listened to one of President Clinton's speeches has lots of patience. But Donna Graybeal of Billerica, Massachusetts probably has more patience than anyone. A couple of years ago, over a period of six months, her telephone rang every 90 minutes like clockwork. Actually it rang like a telephone, but the point is she got somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,920 phone calls over a six-month period.Lest you think Donna just has a lot of friends and we shouldn't be praising her, keep in mind that each of those 2,920 times she answered the phone there was no one on the line, not even an aluminum siding salesman. It turned out there was an empty oil tank in a basement in Maryland that had a direct dialer to let the oil company know it was empty. The family had stopped using the tank, Donna had gotten the oil company's old phone number, and why she waited six months to call the phone company is a closely guarded secret known only by her and her Prozac prescription.This could be a harbinger of the beginning of a major trial of our patience, since there's talk now about putting out appliances with computers built into them that are connected to the Internet. That's right, Sun Microsystems is pushing a technology that would, according to them, let your washing machine order soap when you're running low, your car notify your microwave that you're almost home so it can start warming up the gourmet burritos, and your wallet automatically have more condoms delivered because the old ones are dry-rotted. All in the name of saving time, of course.In case you're not sure whether you've lost your patience yet, here's a little test you can take. Answer the following questions:1. Does it bother you that Minute Rice takes five minutes to cook?2. Did you think the Postal Service's move to peel-and-stick stamps was a time-saving one until it dawned on you that you still have to peel the backing off?3. Do adjectives get on your nerves because they clutter up sentences, making them take too long to read?4. Have you ever wished Reader's Digest would put out a condensed version of the Utne Reader?5. Did you skip to the last question in this quiz because you "just didn't have much time and wanted to find out how it ends? "If you answered "Yes" to any of these questions then you probably have a patience problem. Next week I'll be announcing when it is I'll be making the announcement telling you what you can do to cure this problem. Until then, be patient.

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