The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

Got a tip? Have something you need to tell us? Contact us

Loading Recent Classifieds...

If time is money, am I a thief?

As a member of our great, market-driven, consumer society, I realize there are certain messages that will always retain their urgency and obstinacy, one of the most important being: Time is money.

This, along with “There is no justice,” is one of those lessons that we are expected to have learned on the playground in fifth grade, but seem never to have internalized sufficiently, as we spend our lives not only railing at injustice, but blindly squandering other people’s time.

By “other people’s time,” I mean the time spent ordering, then paying for fast food. While caught in the throes of a Big Mac attack, or succumbing to the urge to “fourth-meal,” the new intransitive verb, it crosses my mind that this is actually an area in which I need considerable help, as evidenced by the immediate and not-so-gentle prodding from the counter people taking my order in whatever eatery I find myself.

As soon as the ubiquitous words, “May I help you,” stimulate my eardrums, I realize that I am expected to have already made my choice from whatever extensive backlit menu I happen to be reading. I know this because I’m no idiot, and I’m pretty good at reading body language and I instinctively know when someone is poised to pound out a tune on a piano or poised to punch some keys on a cash register. Their nonverbal message is at first simple: Hurry up! There are people waiting behind you who want to eat!

Do I take the hint and order? Sometimes. But there are other times when I linger – they would call it “malingering” – and I assert my rights as a consumer with choices: Do I want the Angus or the chicken? Hmmm, maybe the fish sandwich. Damn the hungry masses behind me!

A word of advice: We linger at our peril. No longer does the body language suggest a mere callousness or cavalier attitude toward one’s fellow diners, but a bona fide deficiency in one’s character.

I’m no psychologist, but I’ll take a stab at interpreting the look that accompanies my sluggishness: I’ve made the transition from time-stealing narcissist to somebody who simply doesn’t care?about anything. “Sociopath!” seems to be what the counter person wants to label me. The hand no longer hovers like a hummingbird millimeters above the register, but limply wastes away at its side.

But I am no sociopath. And I’ve made my choice: “I’ll have the number three,” I say with as laid-back a tone as I can muster.

The wheels of industry begin to turn once again, but the ordeal continues.

After “Five fifty-six” is enunciated, the ten dollar bill I’m holding is snatched from my fingers, and with blinding alacrity, my receipt and any change due me is assembled on the spot into a kind of tiny care package and presented to me. On its face, the idea behind this “package” suggests that they care about me enough to spend the time to layer it all in a logical manner: thicker dollar bills on the bottom followed by the flimsier printed receipt, both of which serve as a welcoming support for my coins. For a split second I’m disarmed by the seeming humanity of it all. They really care about me, I think. America really is the best. I have hope once again. The real message couldn’t be clearer though: Don’t fuss with separating the coins, receipt and bills here. Drop the whole package into your pocket (or purse) and please?MOVE ON! You can do the tedious work of separation on your dime.

And here is my confession: While I’m no sociopath, I’m also no saint.

I sometimes don’t do what’s expected of me. I sometimes don’t move on right away. I sometimes unwrap their care package, carefully separate the change from the receipt, place the bills neatly in my wallet and drop the coins in my pocket?all while the starving masses behind me are impatiently waiting to be served. Shameless, I know.

But I’ve actually been doing everyone else a service. I’ve been reiterating another invaluable lesson that we can never be taught too often: Patience is the mother of all virtues.

By the way, the aforementioned scenario is rendered null and void if one has the good sense to remain in one’s car and utilize the drive-thru where the awkward, contorted quality of paying for your food renders any consolidation of change and receipt unassailable. The message here couldn’t be clearer either: Any time saved by simply breathing while ordering inside is offset by the amount of gas your motor gulps while idling in line. A true win-win situation.

More to Discover