A Little Patience, Please

4 Jan

by Roger White

The wife and girls are out shopping, looking for steals and deals, so I’m on my own for Saturday lunch. So I’m grinding my teeth, trying hard to occupy myself while my Amy’s Black Bean Burrito in a Mild Mexican Sauce rides the microwave carousel around and around. And around. It is agony. Electronically humming, Mild-Mexican-Sauce-smelling agony. The last forty-five seconds are always the hardest. I rearrange the apples in the fruit bowl; I use my big toe to nudge a crumb of morning biscuit under the stove; I take to counting the pictures of our two daughters on the fridge. I find I am vaguely disturbed by the fact that we have 11 photos of Lindsey and only 10 of Jamie. What does this mean? Are we failing as parents? Will the girls notice this? Will Jamie have issues? Will she need counseling, Ritalin, religion? Will Linz begin showing untoward traits of entitlement? Are we creating a diva?

Ding! Whew. Rescued from my thoughts, I juggle my scalding hot Amy’s burrito down to the den, where again I am forced to wait until my food cools down to temperatures somewhere near those found on the surface of Mercury. It is while poking test holes in my burrito’s steaming flanks it dawns on me that I have lost all sense of patience.

For example, when I was a kid, the one do-it-yourself meal involving an electrical appliance that I knew how to make was the chicken pot pie. Remove pot pie from freezer, read pot pie instructions on pot pie box, turn on oven, poke holes in pot pie, cram pot pie in oven, watch half-hour TV program whilst pot pie does its thing, take pot pie out of oven while my mom screams about burning the house down with pot pie. Now, this was before every kitchen had a microwave, mind you. This was before Lady GaGa and meat dresses. (By the way, did you know that one of the original patents for the microwave oven concept—Patent #2,147,689 for those keeping score at home—was filed in 1937? Of course, this contraption was approximately the size of Ethel Merman and gobbled massive amounts of electricity. In fact, the invention of the microwave oven, and its possible military applications, was one of the secret reasons President Roosevelt commissioned the construction of the Hoover Dam. It needed that much power. I think I’m right on this. See WikiLeaks.)

But I digress. My point is that I was perfectly content as a lad to wait a half-hour or more for that first yummy taste of chicken and peas and crust and that strange gravy-like substance I could never quite identify. Nowadays, sitting around for anything over a minute while the microwave chernobyls my food is pure torture.

And it has become thus for just about every aspect of life as we know it. News, television, movies, travel, correspondence, rumors, gossip, scandal, politics, war—you name it. Everything today is instantaneous, or it’s passé. In the old days, for instance, Walter Cronkite gave us the news once a day with supper. Now we are fed news on every topic (with heavy side dishes of opinion) at every hour on dozens of channels—news that 30 years ago surely wouldn’t qualify as news. Did we really need to know that Britney Spears was seen shopping at a Hollywood Wal-Mart, for instance?

Life is no longer at a walking pace, you see. We wake up out of breath. Look at today’s movies, if you can. There is no room in films, it seems, for silent moments, for pacing, for thoughtful conjecture. Everything must be happening all the time. Directors are schooled these days to ensure that forty-five seconds do not elapse onscreen without (a) an explosion, (b) a torrid sex scene, (c) a severed body part, or (d) someone making a joke about bodily functions. If Hitchcock’s Psycho were released today, critics would pan it for being too slow, too soft, too sentimental. “Come on, what’s with all the driving and internal monologue? And the shower scene? Get real! Let’s see some skin. And some dismemberment, while you’re at it! Lame!”

I could also hold forth on the volume in today’s picture shows (as in, CAN YOU TURN IT DOWN A LITTLE??!), but I won’t. Not germane. And it makes me look old, dag nab it. Where’s my spittoon?

And, of course, personal communication now travels at the speed of thought, as well. With cell phones and i-this and u-that, waiting until the dinner table to tell your spouse how your day went is a thing of the past. You can deliver a blow-by-blow as your day evolves around you. Which means that you now have nothing to talk about at dinnertime. Which means you can immediately shove that steaming hot burrito into your face, which means you just seared all the skin off the roof of your mouth. And then you can tweet your pain to all your followers. I miss Uncle Walter.

[Published in the Oak Hill Gazette, December 15, 2010]

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5 Responses to “A Little Patience, Please”

  1. coffeeyogurt January 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    What is it about chicken pot pie memories? I was just having a conversation with someone about this. Comfort food nation. I’m adding you to my blogroll.

    • oldspouse January 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

      cool! what’s a blogroll? is it tastier than a danish?

      • coffeeyogurt January 4, 2011 at 2:36 am #

        Blogroll is a list of blogs that I like to follow, visit, read, whatever. And no, not tastier than a danish.

  2. Jenn @ Juggling Life January 4, 2011 at 2:58 am #

    It is ridiculous that microwave popcorn seems to take too long.

    I believe Sofia Coppola’s new movie, “Somewhere” has pacing that’s the antithesis of an explosion every minute.

    • oldspouse January 4, 2011 at 3:11 am #

      I’m joking, Jenn. It’s a joke. ya see.

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