Al Batt: Waiting into a river of proliferating procrastinators

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Tales from Exit 22 by Al Batt

And we’ll charge by the leaf.

That was our plan to become rich beyond belief in the leaf-raking business.

Al Batt

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“The Foolish Almanak For Anuthur Year” by Theodor Rosyfelt published in 1906, said, “It is said that nothing is impossible; but there are lots of people doing nothing every day.”

We were kids from the sticks who had proven capable of doing nothing and doing chores, but we needed more. We helped our elders rake leaves. They raked them to get into shape for shoveling snow. We raked because we were told to rake the leaves or move. Life is filled with insurmountable inconveniences, so we raked with little complaint. We talked as we raked about what we’d do one day. We could converse because we had no leaf blowers to deafen us. Our leaf blower was the wind.

We acted like we knew something and we had a business plan that we’d use as a roadmap to structure, run and grow our lean startup. We even had a mission statement three words long: “Get rich quick.”

We’d have to wait until we had bicycles that could travel over 1/4 mile without pulling up lame. And we needed to save our pennies so that we could hire an efficient bookkeeper to count the leaves and our money. 

Eventually, we’d sell stock in our company. We’d form a board of directors to give our fathers something to do and continue to take wise advice from our crinkly eyed mothers who were far too busy to be on the board.

Sooner or later, we’d build the Hoja-A-Lago (which we hoped meant Leaf-to-Lake in Spanish) near a wading pool and experience the lifestyle of the rich and fatuous within its friendly confines. We promised to use our powers for good.

We were fixin’ to begin that enterprise. When you’re fixin’ to do something, you’re getting ready to do something, but we’d have to wait until the perfect time to launch our business venture. 

The days are long, but the years are short. We’re still fixin’ to do it. We’re still waiting for the perfect time, which doesn’t exist.

I’ve never had to wait long at a license center, pharmacy, store, post office, restaurant, repair shop or clinic. I’ve never sat in a waiting room and had a postman deliver a postcard from my doctor saying he’d be a little late. Clinic waiting rooms don’t have wall hangings reading: “Time is a great healer.” Everything comes to him who waits — old age, high blood pressure, arthritis, etc. My longest wait times have been at an airport where I enjoy watching others wait. It’s people watching, but I call it joining the Wait Watchers.

Any waiting period I might undertake is minuscule compared to a diehard Vikings fan waiting for that team to win the Super Bowl.

I can’t recall ever saying, “This is taking forever,” although I’m sure I did as a teenager. Now I say, “That went by much too quickly.”

I found waiting for Christmas to be more enjoyable than excruciating. Things were festive, although singing dogs and cats dented the celebratory mood. There was always the carrot on a stick — the gifts.

“Patience, young grasshopper” is a quote from the “Kung Fu” TV series starring David Carradine as Kwai Chang Caine. His teacher, Master Po, thought patience was the ultimate martial arts skill. I keep an empty mind when waiting as the ultimate martial arts skill. I’m good at it. When I’m sitting in a chair in a waiting room, I look pensive. My wife asks me what I’m thinking about and I can honestly answer, “Nothing.”

Waiting doesn’t bother everyone. Some people prefer to do everything later. I remember waiting for a tardy refrigerator repairman to arrive, but that’s water under the fridge.

I’m a lucky guy. I’m humble because I know I could have less. I’m grateful because I know I’ve had less. But I can’t help but wonder if I wouldn’t be a bit more humble and a bit more grateful if I were the leaf-raking king living at Hoja-A-Lago. 

For now, I’m waiting for the perfect time to launch the Super Bowl, my self-cleaning toilet.

It’s better wait than never.

Al Batt’s columns appear in the Tribune every Wednesday.