A Few More Minutes

“Would you like a few more minutes?” How many times have you heard those words when a waitperson notices what he or she thinks is indecision in your face when she has finished rattling off the specials? I have been asked that question in tony restaurants in River North and in greasy spoons on the west side. “Would you like a few more minutes?”
Often the server is right and if the menu is complex or I am more than usually overwhelmed (or underwhelmed) by the choices, I accept and she leaves the table, often for far longer than is necessary. But sometimes the server is misreading something else in my expression and I am ready to order.
If I am in a particularly mischievous mood the question may elicit a quite different response. “Would you like a few more minutes?” “Yes! Not right now, but there may come a time when I could really use a few more minutes. Can I save them for then?”
Now I suppose when I first played this game, which usually confuses the waitress, I may have almost subconsciously thought of the ultimate end – the time when may I need an angel to sit on the edge of the bed and grant me time to compose myself for the ultimate deadline. But after many years, the response has lost its ability to stir deeper thoughts and theological implications, at least most of the time.

But on another level I realize “a few more minutes” is what I want or need most often in life – even when I am not procrastinating.
So often, every day, even several times a day, I have a plan, a schedule, things to be done, places to go. But unless I am very early and schedule large amounts of time in between events I usually run out of time. One thing runs over into another.
I have a pretty regular routine. I get up, shower, check my email and websites and then head out to the synagogue for the morning minyan. The service is at 7:30 or 7:45 every morning, depending on the day of the week. I get up just before 6:00 and the Temple is just six minutes from the house. But on so many mornings I find myself at the keyboard answering just one more email or checking one more blog or… or…. And then I arrive just moments after the opening prayer. It has gotten to the point that the people at the minyan look up and smile in mock amazement if I arrive a few minutes before the service begins. In response, I sometimes say that I am just really late for the previous day.
It is not that I lose track of time, but that it goes so quickly and I keep thinking there is time for just one more thing. And then I look at the clock and think, “If only I could have a few more minutes.” Just once I would like to arrive at OLLI a few minutes before my first class and not out of breath.
But if my wish were to be granted it would have to be something I could not build into my plans. It would have to be there after the fact, in the moment, when I have already committed to finishing one thing and should already be on to the next. It is then that I need time to open up and free the space and world around me. If it were earlier, the “few more minutes” would find me in the same quandary. No. The extra time can only come when I am already late.
I should really proof read this one more time, but . . . Where is that waitress when I really need her?
Leonard Grossman May 17, 2011

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