Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Uh-Oh Second

In this world of micro-seconds, nano-seconds, and pico-seconds, it is becoming more and more important to measure increasingly smaller units of time.

I’ve heard that the smallest measurable unit of time is the time between when the light turns green and the guy behind you begins to honk.

I have determined that there is an even smaller, more definitive unit of time. I call it the “Uh-oh second”.

An uh-oh second is the unit of time between when answer “Yes” to the computer’s question “Are you sure” and you realize you weren’t. Uh-oh.

You just deleted a file that you didn’t intend to. You just exited a program. You just closed a session. You just completed an order. Your credit card just got billed. Whatever. You did it. It’s too late.

The uh-oh second can be applied to many other aspects of life. It’s the time between when you slam your car door shut and you realize your keys are in the seat. It’s the time between when find yourself pouring catsup on a hot dog and you realize that your son had asked for mustard.

It’s the time between when you complete drilling a 3/4 inch hole and you realize you should have drilled a 3/8 inch hole. It’s the time between when you introduce your new wife to your best friend and you realize you just used your ex-wife’s name.


I discovered a whole new genre of uh-oh seconds recently when I purchased a new shredder for my home office.

The office trash can is a wonderful invention. It’s a kinda purgatory for paper. It’s the place where paper goes when you don’t think you need it any more, but before you’re really ready to give it the official heave-ho to the landfill.

But privacy concerns — and a burning desire to experiment with a new source of mulch — lead me to replace my office trash can with a brand new Fellowes shredder. This is the one that they advertise on television with a bulldog confetti-making machine, making a mess of the office to the delight of the owner. “Good boy.”

What I learned very quickly about office shredders is that they are very unforgiving. Instant judgment.

Credit card solicitation. Rrrrip. Another credit card solicitation. Rrrrip. Home equity loan solicitation. Rrrrip. Mutual fund solicitation. Rrrrip. Credit card bill. Rrrrip.


The shortest measurable unit of time is the time between when you shred a bill that you need to pay and you realize you have no idea what in the heck that was that you just shredded, but it must have been something important.

Purgatory never looked so good.

1 comment:

Roy B. Scherer said...

Thank you very much, Joe!

Moments ago I was composing an email in which I used the phrase, in the well-known Uh-OhSecond", and it occurred to me to check and see just how "well-known" it really is. Imagine my surprise to find that I had to go to the second page of Google results to find an instance of someone using it!

Again, thank you. Someone should really work with the Bureau of Standards, and similar international groups, to get this fundamental unit officially recognized.
-- Yours for greater linguistic flexibility,
-- Roy