People often overhear me talking with myself and every time they do they can’t resist asking me who I am talking to. I tell them that I enjoy exchanging ideas with the most intelligent individual I know — me. I’m sure the response comes off as flippant but, really now, let’s be honest here. Who doesn’t occasionally carry on at least a silent conversation with themselves when they’re deeply absorbed in one activity or another.
I remember having such a conversation during a brief visit to the March AFB exchange shortly before I was to present a briefing to the senior staff at 15AF Headquarters 27 years ago. As a matter of routine I usually went for a short walk to clear my mind before these weekly presentations and on this particular day it was drizzling so I decided to stroll through the base commissary.
I vividly recall standing in the checkout line behind an attractive but disheveled woman who clearly failed to grasp the value of time. Waiting for the cashier to first ring up her purchase and enduring an extended chat about the weather in the process, I was at once annoyed and relieved when she finally reached into her purse for her checkbook.
Me (Addressing Myself): (With a roll of my eyes.) Can you believe this? She knew she was going to write a check but didn’t bother to even get her checkbook out when the cashier started ringing her up.
Myself (In response to Me): (Nodding in agreement.) What a inconsiderate moron.
As one might expect the woman didn’t have a pen either, so she asked the cashier for one going out of her way to specify that it be either black or blue. He quickly stepped to another register, searched through a couple of drawers, and returned a minute later to hand a pen to the woman who then asked him to repeat what she needed to write the check for. Of course, she also had to ask what day it was and (as she wrote) felt compelled to reiterate her belief that it was, indeed, going to rain the following weekend.
Me: What time is it?
Myself: (Looking down at my watch.) We’ve got :35 minutes before show time. We’re okay. It will only take :10 to get back.
Me: (Looking down again making a barely perceptible scene slowly shaking my head.) Does her husband know that she has the keys to the family car?
Myself: Good one.
Again, as one might now reasonably anticipate, the woman didn’t think to hand the cashier her ID when she handed him the check so he had to ask for it and this led to even further delay. In due course she eventually pulled out an over sized wallet stuffed with what appeared to be a month’s worth of receipts and dozens of credit cards all of which fell in disarray on the conveyor belt. Needless to say, no one was surprised that it took her another minute to locate her driver’s license and to clean up the mess.
Me: (Visibly upset.) Good gravy. How does one get to be so disorganized? Doesn’t she realize she’s wasting everyone’s time?
Myself: (Obviously beyond the point of frustration.) Unbelievably self-absorbed, I’d say.
Well, to everyone’s relief the woman finally started to walk away with her bags of stuff but not before she looked at her watch and announced that she was late for a hair appointment.
Me: (Taking two quick steps forward.) Finally.
Myself: Our turn.
The cashier greeted me with a smile and an audible sigh of relief. “What can I do for you Captain?” he asked.
“Well,” (Looking down at the empty conveyor belt with a blank stare I tried to delay my response in a futile attempt to find something clever to say.) “Hmmm ……… nothing I guess.”
It was only then that I realized I had just wasted seven or eight minutes of my life standing in a checkout line for no particular reason other than to demean a woman who failed to understand how her oblivious disregard for time wasted my valuable time.
Me: (Somewhat redfaced I attempted to stroll to the exit as non-chalantly as possible.) That was awkward. Are we going to be late?