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Stuck in line? Try a little 'slide time'

Aug 12, 2012 - By Randy Tucker

If you have to wait for something, make the most of the interlude.

We spend much of our lives waiting. Even in our low-population setting we spend far too much of our time waiting for something else.

It's been estimated that the average American spends nearly 70 minutes a day waiting. Extrapolate that over a life span of 80 years and you'll find yourself wasting almost four years of your life.

That's right, four years at stop lights, standing in line for the single open checkout aisle in a store designed with 30, on hold listening to Muzak, in traffic jams, or in the lobby of a medical office. It adds up precipitously, and as our population grows, it only gets worse.

Thankfully, we are exempt from much of this in the isolation that we call home. Solitude has untold benefits, and one of the least appreciated is a life largely devoid of the annoyance of lines and waiting.

When I tell easterners of the distances we travel to watch ball games, shop or meet with medical specialists, they are aghast at the time. They think of this as wasted time, but in the larger scheme of things, this "windshield" time can be some of the best time you will spend in a day.

Whether driving yourself or riding in a car or bus driven by someone else, you have the chance to spend some very beneficial time inside your own mind, if you have the desire to do so.

Unfortunately this is becoming a lost art. Generations X and Y living in the Western world are the most connected group of humans ever to live on this planet, yet they also can be the most isolated, insecure and friendless collection of people as well.

They spend so much time in the artificial world of instant communication that real interaction with a living, breathing entity is difficult for many of them. Psychologists report that many of the teenagers through 30-somethings that they work with experience actual physical pain when separated from their cell phones.

What incomprehensible string of events could have created this bizarre phenomenon?

Travel to an airport, a waiting room or terrify yourself and watch the youngster in the driver's seat of the monster truck in the lane next to you, and you'll often see someone mindlessly texting a life away.

In essence these people feel somehow connected and vital to their virtual world, but in reality they are wasting just as much time as a fuming driver stuck in a creeping mass of gasoline-powered metal on the urban freeway during a rush-hour fender bender.

Waiting has its benefits, though they are often difficult to see except through the prism of hindsight.

The best athletes use the time before they take the field to play the game in their mind. Fred Biletnikoff, arguably the greatest possession receiver to ever play professional football, and the man whose name adorns the trophy given each year to the NFL's best receiver, was one of the best at using the pre-game hours to his advantage.

Biletnikoff was always the first player to get taped and dressed for the game, sometimes three hours before kickoff. He would lie on his back, with his feet over the bench in front of his locker and toss a football into the air and catch it again for hours. First with two hands, then with just one.

When game time came he was always prepared to play.

A study among high school and college basketball players was conducted in 1986-87 studying the effects of shooting 100 free throws a day for a year, either mentally or physically.

The control group was the young men and women who physically shot the ball each day, and the experimental group just thought about shooting the ball. In a follow-up after the prep and college seasons for each group concluded, researchers found slightly less than a 1 percent difference in their actual season free-throw percentage.

The power of positive thought is very much underestimated.

Many find themselves sitting with time to waste as they wait for appointments or in one of life's unexpected delays.

When I'm waiting for some pre-planned event, be it a game or medical procedure, I find myself in semi-surreal state I've come to call slide time.

Slide time is the period separated from the worry and contemplation of an upcoming event and the actual opening of the event.

The sensation is one of sitting at the top of a giant slide. You've intellectually climbed to the top of the slide and now the only thing remaining is to scoot ahead a few inches and began the rapid, uncontrollable descent.

Once you are on the slide, the events take care of themselves. All you can do is react.

All the planning and preparation can help but once the slide begins it's simply you and fate that determine the outcome.

Waiting is one of the realities of being human. How we relate to it is up to us. The lyrics from the Kansas 1970s hit "Dust in the Wind" sum it up well:

"...Now don't hang on, Nothin' last forever but the earth and sky. It slips away and all your money won't another minute buy."

You can buy a car, an election or a house, but you can't buy time.

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