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Signs Of Life

Columns by Pamela Majteles

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Go Figure

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Posted by pam on January 14, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Originally publishedMay 16, 2008

Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group – East Bay.

Certain things just don’t add up. For instance, I can’t figure why some days, I end up with only 20 minutes to do something, when I started out with 8 hours.

If you do the math, 8 hours is 480 minutes or 28,800 seconds. It’s also a full night of sleep and the approximate driving time from the Bay Area to Tijuana, Mexico. In that amount of time, daily goals should be easy to accomplish.

Looking at my goals recently, I had no problem planning my day. One column to write, two errands to run and three kids to drive — it was as easy as 1, 2, 3. With 8 hours before me, I just divvied it up. It would take 15 minutes to drop the kids at school and 15 minutes to pick them up in the afternoon. My errands to the grocery store and dry cleaner wouldn’t take more than 90 minutes. That would leave me with 6 hours to write my column.

Like an airplane taking off in clear skies, it was a smooth departure as my kids and I headed for school. With no schedule delays, we were off to a good start. It was only when we arrived at school that my daughter remembered it was “pajama day”. Without pajamas, she was feeling distraught. Pushing her out of the car, I promised to return with pajamas. After making the roundtrip to fetch pajamas, I chalked up an additional 30 minutes. But, that still left me with an ample 5 hours and 30 minutes to write following my errands.

That’s the way it looked anyway, before the errands. I can’t say why grocery shopping took longer than usual. Perhaps it was my fruitless search for a ripe melon or the forgetful shopper in front of me in the checkout lane (both the cashier and I waited as she remembered what she forgot).

When I arrived next at the dry cleaner, I had a sign it wouldn’t go as planned. It was a handwritten sign that read “Back in 10 minutes” taped on the door. Not knowing when it was put there, I optimistically decided to wait. When the dry cleaner showed up 20 minutes later, it was clear I had waited too long.

By the time I sat down at my computer, I had spent 90 minutes more on errands than planned. I was left with just 4 hours to write my column. Knowing that I’ve done more with less, I put my head down and got to work.

It wasn’t long before my mother called with the latest family news (32 minutes). Then, a neighbor came knocking to ask me to keep an eye on her house while she was on vacation (15 minutes). There were two e-mails I couldn’t ignore (12 minutes). One of my kid’s teachers called (25 minutes). The Federal Express driver needed a signature (2.5 minutes). A fellow school volunteer called to coordinate activities (23 minutes).

Somewhere along the way, I lost track of time. Before I knew it, I had 20 minutes to go before it was time to pick-up my kids. In the end, I made very little progress.

Too often, I find that time in the day gets away from me. When I try to figure out where it goes, I can account for some, but not all of it. What I have determined is that the little things in daily life add up to a lot of time. But, it also occurs to me that in the big picture, little things can be important, like chatting with my mother or helping a neighbor.

Still, I’d really like to know where 8 hours of a day go. 15 minutes here, 30 minutes there – I can never quite get the numbers to add up. Go figure.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 License.

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