Middle age plus

Thursday, December 11, 2003

When we visited our youngest daughter recently we were intrigued by her new television set and the gimmicks it had on it. When she was watching a show and couldn't catch what one of the characters said, she could stop the program, back up to the place where she missed the words, hear them again, then continue on with the program as if nothing had stopped it. Also, if the phone rang while she was involved in a program, she could stop the television and not miss any action. When she finished her phone conversation, she went ahead with the program she was watching.

I was concerned that she would get so far behind that that if she wanted to change channels at the end of the program, the show on another station would have already started.

That was not a problem. She could fast forward through all the commercials and get caught up on the time missed. There was even a little signal on the bottom of the screen that let her know how many more minutes of commercials must be skipped in order to get the time made up.

As we were driving home I began to think about this machine and its abilities. I wondered if there would be a way that this technique could be transferred to the human race. Think how great it would be to pause your life and go back a few seconds. You could erase those words you said that you didn't really intend to let out of your mouth. You could change the dismayed expression on your face when you unwrapped a present you didn't care for. You could find the step you missed before you fell off the porch. And best of all, you could get the newspapers picked up, the bed made and the dishes washed before the unexpected guests got out of their car.

Even if nothing were erased, just giving ourselves an extra minute to think through the situation would be a big bonus.

Now we are ready for the catch up gismo so that we are back in sync with the sun, the tides and all those things that make our world an organized place to live. We can fast forward through unpleasant situations. A root canal comes to mind, or maybe listening to a boring speaker at a meeting. We would need to be careful to balance our erased or paused times with our make up regime or we could make our lives very confusing. Each minute must be matched by another one.

But there might be a way to combine the two functions. We could stop the action of another person, back up the time and erase whatever had happened that we didn't care for. Then if we immediately fast-forwarded past the moment, maybe that other guy would lose any chance for whatever trouble we had witnessed before the stop button was pushed.

The possibilities are endless and it is exciting to think about what could be done.

But there is really something good to be said for living life as it comes to us. There is a very strong chance that if we began tinkering with actions, words or happenings, that more dreadful consequences might follow.

The little line at the bottom that tells us how much time still needs to be made up might get blurred and we might miss a moment or two of our own lives. When you are middle age plus every second of life is very important -- even if some of them are spent putting our foot into our mouths.