July 19, 2012

Be Quick, But Don't Hurry

There was a line this morning, people waiting for me, watching me, eyeing me with something like "hurry up", but might be more like "hurry the fuck up, I haven't had coffee yet, and some part of my brain is about to wither in to further decay".

I met all their eyes, asked how they were doing, and told them I would be a second. Well, more than a second. Maybe several. Maybe lots of severals. But I would get there, as fast as I could, and as well as I could. "Be quick but don't hurry." I don't even remember the sport, but some old coach of mine told me that, and I think it's good advice in the coffee bar. Hurry makes bad drinks, messes, and mistakes. Hurry usually ends up taking longer, and pissing people off. So no, don't hurry.

Experience matters, in this context. Work through enough rushes and you learn that the only way is to hit them head on, like a small ship attempting to split a mammoth wave. Turn, try to run, and you'll be swamped, flipped, and screwed.

I remember working at Pizza Hut, my first job, in high school. And I remember the dinner rushes that came every Friday and Saturday night, the hours cursing every new ticket that appeared out of that beeping reservoir of paper and spite. And that was less busy than my first campus job, a food court called the Underground, where we would serve crowds of up to 8,000 in an hour.

Those were not glamorous jobs, not even "real jobs", by some measures. But there were lessons there, about how to handle pressure and persevere, among other things. I count both of those experiences as being every bit as educational as the time I spent in class. I like books, but life, and learning how to live one, doesn't happen there.

Working jobs like that - and like this - teaches you how to become the kind of person who works, who keeps at things until they are done. It seems absurd to say that food service helped me finish the race this last weekend, but it's probably not far from the truth. "Be quick, but don't hurry" would make a great running mantra, especially for longer distances. And when things do go wrong, you can't just quit in the middle of a shift, you have to finish the job.

Maybe I'm digging a bit deep here, trying to ascribe false significance to menial labor. Maybe I'm romanticizing a kinda crappy race performance, by making it less about my bad time, and more about my melodramatic jogging/hiking. (I probably am doing that, if only just a little.) But maybe there is a lesson here, in all of that, and maybe it's worth making a little explicit.

No comments:

Post a Comment