Thursday, September 20, 2012

Just Another Minute

Something just within my field of view catches my attention. It's a handbag dangling from a shoulder strap.

My eyes follow the strap up to the shoulder and then to the face of the shoulder's owner.

It's Iris.

I'm not sure how long she's been standing there.

She dangles her car keys before my eyes.

Oh yeah, we're supposed to be on our way to dinner.

"Uhh...  just another minute", I say. "By the way, what time is it?"

"8:30."

"Oh. Umm... OK. Yeah, I guess that's more than a minute past 7:00."

"Yup."

"Umm... but...  OK, let's go."

We head out the door, my mind still running diagnostics on why the app isn't performing as fast as I think it should.

"Oh", I think. "I know what it is!"

Even as my mind races me back through the door to my desk, my body refuses to go with it, steadfastly maintaining a pace behind Iris as we walk out the driveway to the car.

Just one more minute. Just one more try.

Over the years, Iris and I have learned how to interpret one another. I've learned the subtle differences among, uh-huh (I get it), uh-huh (I only appear to be listening) and uh-huh (would you please stop talking). Iris has learned what "just another minute" means. Even though the words are the same, she can tell whether it means ten seconds, sixty seconds or thirty-six-hundred seconds.

Yup, if you pay attention, you get to know each other.

It's a good thing. Iris' ability to interpret "just another minute" means that she's rarely sitting around waiting for me. Mine to interpret "uh-huh" means that I'm never surprised when Iris fails to do what she ostensibly agreed to.

Of course, either of us could work to change how we communicate. Iris could just say, "got it" or "I'm not listening" or "go away!"   I could provide better estimates.

However, there something quite functional in how we express ourselves that would be lost if we were to do so differently.  For example, I think that "just another minute" may be the key to my seemingly endless persistence.  Regardless of how long something ends up taking, I always have the sense that the answer is just around the corner. If I take just one more step, give it just one more try, I'll get there.

My actual performance doesn't even remotely resemble this belief. However, my experience of working on a challenging problem does. I never feel like, "Shit, I've been working on this for hours and haven't gotten anywhere."  The answer's never been more than a step away.

To drop that and try to provide an accurate time-estimate would pretty much undermine the attitudinal advantage I get from everything being just another minute away.  So, I'm pretty sure that I won't be changing that soon.

Fortunately, Iris knows how to interpret. So, it's all good.

Happy Thursday,

Teflon

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