Time is a fascinating thing. Sometimes minutes can seem like hours, and sometimes the hours seem to melt away.
Authors have lauded or lamented the experience since the beginning of, well, time. James Joyce made its elusive passage a central theme in his epic “Ulysses,” punctuating paragraphs with time stamps instead of periods. Epicurean philosopher Horace wrote the adage “Carpe diem” or “seize the day” about our slippery grip on the subject 23 years before the reckoning of Common Era time. Ironic in hindsight, but then epicure had a different meaning back then.
It was irony and time that occurred to me as I stood before the fey couple.
I looked at the clock: 8:17. Joyce would have been proud.
“What are you doing?” the woman said by way of greeting.
“Are you working?” her partner added.
It’s best not to answer some questions.
“May I get you something?”
“We’ve been waiting here,” she said, pointing to a spot they had just stepped into when I approached them. “And you haven’t been doing anything.”
I did a brief mental summary. I had taken that man’s food order, and then made two drinks for that cute young couple. Then I cleaned up Mr. Mustache’s post-prandial discards, poured the businesswoman a glass of buttery chardonnay and stepped up to the couple as soon as they approached the bar — all within the past four minutes.
“May I get you something?”
“We’ve been waiting,” they said in unison.
“Can I get you something?” I said switching to a word with slightly less social pleasantry.
“Didn’t you see us?”
“We’ve been standing here for 10 minutes,” he chimed in, which was odd considering that 10 actual minutes ago they were in the parking lot on their cellphone trying to make a reservation for the exact time they arrived at the restaurant.
Time might seem subjective, but minutes are not. They are always exactly 60 seconds. Time is funny that way.
I glanced down the bar, noting that this was one minute that was starting to feel like an hour, 60 seconds notwithstanding.
“Would you like something?”
“We’ve been waiting,” she repeated.
“Can I get you something?”
“We’ve been … ”
“I get it.”
“What do you have?” the man said.
“What do you mean?”
“What do you have to drink?”
I looked at the wine list in her hand and the cocktail list in his hand, and I glanced at the giant neon chalkboard with our “wines by the glass” printed on it.
“All of that,” I said pointing.
Just then the hostess arrived to whisk them off to their table.
“What took so long?” he said.
“I am sorry,” the hostess said, looking at me.
“What have you been doing?” the woman asked the hostess.
“We’ve been waiting over here for 10 minutes,” he added, as they began walking away.
As I turned back to the cute couple, who had now been patiently waiting, I glanced at the clock, 8:21. Four long minutes of my life I wished I could have back, which, when time permitted, left me with a few thoughts:.
• Sometimes, to some people, the problem is much more important than the solution.
• Horace’s entire quote reads, “Be wise, strain the wine and since life is brief, prune back far-reaching hopes! Even while we speak, envious time has passed: seize the day, putting as little trust as possible in tomorrow!”
• People overly concerned with their own time are often not concerned at all with the time of others.
• “The patient must learn to live with his neurosis, his (inner) conflict, which no therapy can take away, for if it did, it would take with it the actual wellspring of their life,” Austrian psychoanalyst Otto Rank, a contemporary of Freud’s, once said.
• It might just be time to renew my library card.