“Click-click-click-click-click-click,” the light on the dashboard flashed rapidly, in tandem with the relay under the dash. As I headed home tonight, I had turned on the blinker to signal a right turn at the corner when I noticed the odd sound and sight. Usually, when I signal a turn, the light blinks slowly and the sound I hear is more like, “Click—a—click—a—click—a—click—a—click.” As I drove along, I thought that perhaps the people behind me could see my signal better, since it was faster. I was tempted to ignore the anomaly, but logic told me that something was amiss. I would have to check when I got home.
“The sooner, the better,” I’m told as the musical instruments are dropped off to be repaired; “ASAP!” shouts the memo from management; “Urgent!” The assertion is made by the brightly colored sticker attached to the package which was just delivered. We are surrounded by evidence that tells us that to move slowly is to lose out, to fail in life. Everywhere we go, folks are in a hurry, almost as if their lives depended upon it. Don’t believe me? Take a Sunday afternoon drive to admire the fall scenery in the next week or so. Go slightly below the posted speed limit, while you take in the gorgeous vistas that are in store, compliments of our Creator. You’ll likely hear a horn or two, and will quite possibly see a vulgar gesture or hear a rude shout from the vehicles that pass you, their drivers more intent on reaching a destination than looking at dead leaves. They hurry on, oblivious of the amazing display of nature’s beauty. There are recitals, and football games, and church services to get to, and then to be hurried away from.
I am a believer in the “slow and steady wins the race” line of thought, having had my share of disasters while racing along. Decades ago, when I worked for my friends who owned an electrical contracting business, I found the perfect example; one I have cited more than a time or two in the years since. I was an electrician’s helper, providing a barely passable service in the way of fetching items and helping to install the conduit and then to pull the wire through said conduit. It seems that I excelled in the slow part of the maxim, and not as much in the steady part, but since I play only a cameo role in this story anyway, we can move on.
Normally, I worked with the younger of the two men who were actively engaged in the family business. He was my age, but had skills well beyond mine. Whenever we went to a new work site, we would stand for a few moments and look over the situation. “We need to get from this breaker box here to that wall over there for this new outlet,” the fellow would say. “Let’s take a minute and see what we’re up against.” We would spend five or ten minutes opening up the ceiling tiles or going up in the attic to map out the path. As soon as we had a clear idea of any potential barriers and pitfalls, we would begin to install the materials, finishing the job in good time with a minimum of distress.
It was not always so with the older man. He also was highly skilled, but was more inclined to be in a hurry, perhaps because he was the one who also did the books and understood that time was indeed, money. Whatever the reason for his haste, his approach was certainly different. When I worked with him, we would get to a job and he would point out the starting location, as well as the termination point. “We need to get from here over to there. Let’s get this pipe up.” And, we would start installing the materials. On several occasions, we would get part of the way through our task and have to tear the conduit down. There might be a beam in the way, or a firewall through which we could not bore any hole. We would go back to the starting point and begin anew, speedily installing the pipe for a second time. You can see the disadvantage, can’t you?
“Haste makes waste.” Benjamin Franklin, writing in “Poor Richard’s Almanac” coined the maxim. We parrot it today and yet, we continue to be wasteful as we hurry on. We waste capital, and resources, even relationships as we speed on our way, anxious to reach the next stopping point, from whence we will speed away to some new destination. Like Alice’s White Rabbit, we know only that we are in a hurry. “I’m late; I’m late, for a very important date…” In our haste, we are immensely inefficient, and not a little reckless.
I don’t make a claim of having learned this lesson any better than others around me. As I mentioned, I often move slowly, but seldom with any purpose. Little is accomplished by that method, perhaps even less than the hasty tactics. In Mr. Aesop’s story, the tortoise would never have won the race, had he not kept to the task, one plodding foot after the other, while the faster rabbit frittered his time away in other pursuits. There is no moral superiority in simply being lazy.
I have taken my sweet time to get to the conclusion of the matter, too, haven’t I? You know, sometimes when we think we are speeding down life’s highway, covering the miles, we are simply running in place and getting nowhere. Periodically, it may be beneficial to take note of our location by a landmark apart from those we have set out ourselves. Sailors navigate using the North Star, lest they be going in circles as they make record time through the water. We have a different North Star by which to set our course. The maps and atlases of the world use landmarks set by other travelers. There are more than a few which have been placed erroneously, and which will guarantee an adventurer who is hopelessly off course, lost in the confusion of differing opinions and views. Only when reckoning by the true North Star, can we be assured of a straight and steady path to our destination.
But here I am, with my blinker still going “click-click-click”. Do you suppose, after all this, that the blinker was working better as it zipped along at breakneck speed? Could the folks behind me tell my intentions better? No, of course not! In the electrical system of the car, the relay/flasher that controls the blinker requires two bulbs, one front and one back, which complete the circuit momentarily. When the current sustains the light for a second, the flasher clicks off. Then, sensing that there is no draw, it clicks back on again. When only one bulb is in the circuit, the reaction time is much quicker, making the circuit close and open at a rapid rate. It doesn’t mean that it is working better, but simply that something is horribly amiss.
I changed the bulb and was rewarded with the customary “click—a—click—a—click” moving along slowly and steadily, bringing a realization that all is well once more and drivers behind me will be cautioned as they should.
Perhaps it’s time to slow things down a bit in life too, with more attention paid to doing things well, instead of just doing them quickly. I’m ready to give it a shot.
I’ve heard it said (and I’m sure it’s true) that good work takes time. I know the blinker works better like that anyway…
“Be still and know that I am God…”
“Haste makes Work which Caution prevents.”
(William Penn—Quaker leader and founder of Pennsylvania—1644-1718)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.