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Rushing to get nowhere fast

I was making good time on the road, a half-hour early for an appointment with Dr. Feldman. Dr. Feldman was going to slowly grind down a fractured molar into a nubbin, a ghastly two-hour procedure that replicates, in sound and general comfort level, a swarm of mosquitoes eating your eyeball.

When the red light changed to green and the driver in front of me did not instantly surge ahead, I hit the horn. The damned fool was going to make me less early for my torture.

My point is, I do not need a good reason to be impatient. Impatience is my normal state of mind, applied indiscriminately in all circumstances, beyond all logic. I used to worry about what this said about me as a person, but I don't anymore, because worrying was just a waste of my time.

I hate wasting my time. Unfortunately, I live in a very bad city for someone like me. The streets of Washington are infested with tourists, wide-eyed naïfs in unattractive clothing whose only known modes of walking are the mosey, the saunter and the amble. These are displayed in family-act performances, at least four abreast, broad behinds in synchronous motion on narrow sidewalks. I actually have learned to distinguish among these three gaits, because I spend so much time in frantic, impotent stutter-step behind them. In this category of "slow-walk," the amble is probably the "fastest" but only in the sense that in the category of "moist, crusty sores," chancre is probably the "prettiest."

I am to time what a miser is to money. My editor, Tom the Butcher, whom I will charitably describe as "fiscally prudent" in order to get this sentence into the column, doesn't use Directory Assistance because it is so darned expensive. I don't care about the expense. I won't use Directory Assistance because I cannot stand the weak-battery speed at which the number is surrendered, including handoff to a second operator, then to a computer that lays out options for receiving the listing as a text message, etc.

I want to emphasize that my haste in life is almost always irrational; I am seldom, if ever, late for anything, but I am always in a hurry. In my neighborhood, there is a green traffic light that is infuriatingly programmed to last only 10 seconds, followed by a 60-second red. This means that when you are behind timid drivers turning left, you may well have to wait three cycles before you get through the intersection. For most people, this would be a minor aggravation; to me, it is an unendurable personal affront, as though metropolitan officials asphyxiated me for a minute and made me die, then gave me CPR just so they could strangle me to death again. To avoid this traffic light, I take a four-block detour that involves a hairpin U-turn in the middle of a busy street. It probably takes even longer to get where I am going, and I risk a ticket or an accident every time, but at least I am moving. It's the insipid wait that kills me.

I have given a lot of thought to whether all this should embarrass me. On one hand, impatience is uncool, and fretting about something you cannot control approaches actual insanity. On the other hand, we all have tragically finite lives, and I am boldly and grandly refusing to live mine at a dawdle.

I was fine with that resolution until just the other day, when Tom the Butcher mentioned how much he was enjoying a certain book on tape. He listens to it in the car. It's enriching his life. Fact is, I've never once listened to a book on tape and can't imagine doing it. It would seriously impair my right to righteous indignation. And I have no patience for that.

© 2012 Washington Post Writers Group

Rushing to get nowhere fast 08/04/12 [Last modified: Saturday, August 4, 2012 4:30am]
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