Friday, May 30, 2008

Johnny Depp, Timeaholics and 3.3 seconds

I flew from Allentown to Phoenix this morning, which has made this a very long Friday; I left Allentown at 6:45 AM and landed here at 10:15 AM, and gained an extra three hours somewhere in the middle. I wish all Fridays were this long; that would definitely reduce my into-Shabbos stress load. (Of course, I'll be asleep by the time we hit HaMotzi tonight, but that's another story...)

In any case: I am not a good traveler; I'm far too impatient. I can feel the time slipping away. Sure, I bring sefarim on the plane and write notes for derashos and shiurim. (Today I worked on a class on "women's haircovering" in flight, continually shifting the papers beneath my elbow so that fellow passengers wouldn't take their few glimpses of the text as confirmation of the medievalism of Orthodox Jews...) But it's not the same; I lose a lot of time setting up to work, and the environment doesn't lend itself to real learning anyway.

So as I sat there agonizing over the lost time, I was reminded for the umpteenth time of a line from twenty-something years ago, from the only time I ever watched the television show "21 Jump Street."

There was a murder in a convenience store, and in the heat of the moment Johnny Depp's character failed to prevent it. The event took 3.3 seconds, according to the store video, and Depp spent the entire show watching the store video and obsessing over his inaction, and thinking of the great many things you could do in 3.3 seconds. I remember something about how you could take the toppings off a pizza in 3.3 seconds. In the past 3.3 seconds I found this quote:

Hoffs: How many times have you seen this?

Hanson: 122 times, but I don't watch the whole tape. I watch 3.3 seconds. 3.3 seconds that slipped through my fingers. 3.3 seconds where I could've done a thousand different things, but I didn't move. Do you know how many things you can do in 3.3 seconds? You can take off your shoes, pop a beer and shoot someone in 3.3 seconds.

Hoffs: Come on, Hanson.

Hanson: You can hold your finger down on the remote control and pass 17 stations in 3.3 seconds. You can open a can of tuna fish, shuffle and bridge a deck of cards, or twist the tops off six bottles of ginger ale in 3.3 seconds.

Hoffs: Hanson, please!

Hanson: You can ring a doorbell 22 times, lock and unlock a deadbolt four times, or sing the entire alphabet in 3.3 seconds.

That line has stayed with me over the years, and every time I am in a situation where I'm wasting time, it comes to the forefront of my mind, unbidden. I can't stand wasting time, the feeling that my life is receding from me while I do something foolish. Turning on the television and then "waking up" an hour later to realize that much time has gone by is just unthinkable.

I've been told I'm a workaholic, but that's not it. I'm a timeaholic. It doesn't have to be work - I can be reading a novel or playing with my kids, too - but it does have to be a real use of time, something that doesn't feel like a waste.

I expect that one day, when the day comes for me to report in שמים, I'll ask the מלאך המות for just 3.3 more seconds to finish doing whatever it is I'm working on. And I expect most people will do the same.


  1. If you're going to ask for more time why settle for 3.3 seconds.

  2. Do you realize how much more time I could ask for in 3.3 seconds?

  3. My goodness. I remember that episode. It was fairly disturbing, largely to me because as a young teenager I hated the thought of someone as cute as Johnny Depp being, you know, upset. :)

    Have you considered whether your abhorrence of free time is really an aversion to silence and contemplation? Just sayin...

  4. I love silence and contemplation. The only problem is I get strange ideas when left to my own thoughts, and then I start entire time-consuming projects on that basis.

    My latest: As I was coming in for a landing in Phoenix I looked out over the desert and wondered why there are deserts. This led me to learn about Hadley Cells, rain shadows, cold ocean currents and continentality. Then I wondered what could be done to eliminate deserts, such as the Negev, and what the effect would be on other areas due to the change in airflow and humidity. So now I'm contemplating writing a sci-fi thriller about a scientist who comes up with a way to disrupt the Hadley Cell that generates the Negev... The world is better off, I think, when I have less time for silence and contemplation (per Sanhedrin 71b, of course).

  5. lol - that's exactly what I mean. That's not silence and contemplation, that's a mind that doesn't know how to be silent.

    I have the same problem. :)

  6. Do you realize how much more time I could ask for in 3.3 seconds?

    I do, but based upon years of negotiating I have learned to always to start higher.

    Ask for an additional meah vesrim and when you are told no you turn around and offer to settle ten percent of you original offer. That works out to be a pretty good deal. ;)

  7. Why settle for 120?

    Why not.

  8. Jack -

    I have been planning to post on exactly that point for a while; perhaps after Shavuos.