Time Savers

The definition of what passes for entertainment has become very cloudy. For instance I found myself watching a video last week of a dead flamingo standing on one leg. At first I didn’t realize it was dead, even though there was a warning at the beginning of the video that said “CAUTION: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS DEAD FLAMINGOES.” Fair enough, I decided, mentally preparing myself for what was about to appear onscreen. The camera focused on a flamingo standing on one leg. I watched and watched, waiting for it to die. I didn’t know whether the bird was going to expire naturally, just fall over from old age, or whether a gun would appear and blow the bird’s head off, or a bigger, predatory creature would come along and eat it. Maybe I would die first, from boredom, or some kind of deterioration. After all to watch a bird stand on one leg for fifteen seconds feels like watching it for fifteen hours. Now that would be a funny little trick. Some anonymous hacker could be filming ME through my computer, watching a bird stand still and do nothing, until I died, at which time there would be another video released of a dead man watching a dead bird, saying, “CAUTION: THIS VIDEO CONTAINS A DEAD MAN WATCHING DEAD FLAMINGOES.” So on and so on.

It wasn’t until some scientist appeared onscreen (he had a white coat and rubber gloves so I guess he was a scientist) to pick the bird up, invert it and fold its legs under its body that I realized the bird had been dead the whole time. The video was meant to demonstrate that even when a flamingo is dead it will stand on one leg, which is pretty impressive. According to a certain police dash-cam video I can’t even stand on one leg for twenty seconds, or walk a straight line, or touch my nose with my arms outstretched. That’s another story, though, and I feel that time is of the essence.

Speaking of time, modern conveniences ensure that we can free up as much time as possible in order to live life to the fullest. There is instant coffee, instant abs, instant messaging, and for some Muslim households in India, instant divorce. The magic word is Talaq! If a husband shouts this at his wife three times (strangely it doesn’t work the other way around) then he is free to pursue other relationships. A thrice repeated utterance renders him single, a man on the move, ready to hit the discos and nightclubs to find that one ghostly apparition veiled head to toe that will replace the former ghostly apparition, veiled head to toe.

A Muslim must be careful, though, because this method of separation is strict and final. There was a story about one poor fellow who was out to dinner with his wife. The man began choking on his chicken vindaloo, making a sound that was similar to “talaq” and by the time he had cleared his airway his wife had been packed up and shipped back to her family. The other tricky problem is that, in Arabic, talaq means divorce but “tabaq” means Beetlejuice, and so a man frustrated with his marriage, if he is not enunciating carefully, may invoke a rotten zombie creature looking eerily like Michael Keaton, who will arrive to haunt his house and steal his daughter.

If only everything in life was this easy. A Texas oil billionaire facing a lengthy court battle for his third wife’s alimony may have to rethink his vocal animosity to Shariah Law when he finds out how simple it is to get rid of her.
“Say it three times and she’s outta here? These Muslims ain’t all bad.”

I tried the technique at the grocery store the other day. The checkout line was crowded, and so I invoked the word “checkout” three times fast. Nothing happened except that an elderly woman glared at me from the front of the line as she picked through an accordion folder the size of War and Peace, plucking out coupons with a shaky hand and laying them carefully in front of the cashier. My lone purchase, a sandwich from the deli counter, was consumed easily before I even made it to the register.

We all like efficiency, but some modern contrivances may be better served with a more lengthy process to ensure that careless errors are avoided. In fact, things like Instant Airline Pilot, Instant Surgeon, and Instant Skyscraper may seem like good ideas at first, but may result in some serious disasters down the line. Quality takes time for a reason. There is no such thing as instant excellence. Every great invention we rely on has a million man-hours buried in the electrical boards and gearshifts.

Still, if it is possible to affect that drastic of a change with three simple words, might there be some other beneficial applications? For instance, is there a word that keeps the brainwashed and militant from committing indiscriminate murder? If so, that is a word worth repeating.
More Alembics to come.