My father once preached at a church service that time is more precious than money. Why? Because when we spend money, we can always earn or acquire some more. But once we spend time, there’s no way to get more– it’s gone forever.
We’re all mortal. Each of us has a finite number of days in this world, a limited amount of time to accomplish our goals. And time slips away from us no matter what we do. It also slips away when we do nothing. We can’t hold on to it, and whatever we do with it is irrevocable. We can’t go back in time and change the past whenever we make a mistake. All we can do is make the most of the time we have now, using it to shape the future.
After hearing my father’s sermon, I became somewhat obsessed with what I did with my time. I was in college at the time, with an ever-increasing workload. I viewed my time almost solely as a resource to be spent on my classwork. “I should spend this hour studying for my test,” I would say, or, “I should be spending these next three hours on my 3D model, instead of hanging around here at my auntie’s house.” Leisure activities became monitored; I’d glance at the clock while relaxing or indulging in a hobby, then scurry back to work when my allotted time had passed. Often, I would mix my work with my leisure time– reading my study notes while occasionally pausing to play a game on my laptop, which would also have one of my assignments open in another window.
On top of that, my friends were similarly busy with their classwork, so I became deathly afraid of wasting their time. Which was why I became terribly concerned when my good pal Black Sunday (nickname used to protect his privacy) invited me for a jaunt around the city.
It was a Monday afternoon and classes were finished for the day. Black Sunday needed to buy a box of processing paper for his upcoming photography class, but the college’s supply store had run out of the kind he needed. He made a tactical decision to look for the paper in the photography shops downtown, and enlisted me as a second set of eyes and ears.
We arrived at a shop on Pitt Street, only to find that they didn’t carry film processing paper– just inkjet printing paper. The gentleman at the counter directed us to the shop’s sister store, farther down the road.
When we got there, our efforts again proved fruitless. Like the college store, they too had run out of the particular paper that Black Sunday needed.
We decided to hit George Street. Several meters of walking and two shops later, we got the same result: nothing. Nada. Zip.
“Let’s try York Street,” I said with waning optimism. “Can’t hurt to try.”
So off to York Street we shuffled, lugging our bags of artist’s tools and other bits and bobs. My feet started to drag along the ground, and Black Sunday looked like he could use a breather too. “Just one more shop and that’s it for today,” he said as we entered the store. It was somewhat bigger than the others, and looked quite well stocked.
“Yes, just one more. Maybe they’ll have it here,” I replied.
Dejectedly, we made our way to the Japanese grocery on Clarence Street. We agreed that some Oriental sweets and ice cream would be just the thing to cheer us up.
It was nearing 5 PM, and since it was winter, the sun was low in the sky, ready to rest in its bed of clouds. We didn’t linger long in the store, making our selections quickly: a red bean ice cream sandwich for Black Sunday, and a lemon soda for me. Just as we neared the checkout counter, something in the freezer caught Black Sunday’s eye: a pile of icy-blue plastic parcels, labeled “Ice Tube Soda Flavor”. Having never encountered them before, our curiosity got the better of us, and we each bought one.
Minutes later, we were sitting on a flight of stone steps beside the store, struggling with our Ice Tubes– lemon soda-flavored sorbets packaged in plastic tubes. One had to squeeze the tube to dispense the sorbet. The problem with ours was that the sorbet had been frozen rock-solid. Eager to get at the tasty treats, we squeezed the tubes until our finger joints grew numb with cold; we gnawed on them; we warmed them with our hands, willing the sorbet to soften. But alas, our efforts were unsuccessful.
Then Black Sunday said, “It looks like we’re going to have to get really violent.”
And so we did. We worked ourselves into a bloodthirsty (or sorbet-thirsty) rage. Black Sunday punched his Ice Tube repeatedly and slammed it into the steps. I crushed mine in several types of grab-and-choke locks normally seen in professional wrestling. We made quite an odd sight to passers-by, who probably wondered what the Ice Tubes did to deserve such brutality. As Black Sunday put it, “If there was a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Ice Tubes, we’d get arrested!”
Then, just as we were ready to give up, it happened. With frustrated, trembling hands, we gave our Ice Tubes a last angry squeeze, and– lo and behold– the sorbets came oozing forth. We were ecstatic. The taste was sublime, a delicate, fruity, candy-like flavor that was somewhat like bubble gum (although the product was meant to be lemonade-flavored). The slushy ice was smooth-textured, almost silky, as it melted on our tongues. We wrung the tubes in blissful rapture, until the last mouthful of sorbet was gone.
When we finished, it was 5:21 PM, and almost time to head home. As we pitched the empty remains of our Ice Tubes into a nearby trash bin, a thought struck me: Had we done the right thing this afternoon, by spending our time the way we did? Should we have waited for the campus store to re-stock, instead of going on this citywide wild goose chase? Had we embarked on a monumental waste of time?
I pondered on our somewhat sorry state: weary feet from walking through several city blocks; sore backs and shoulders from lugging our school bags; aching, frostbitten knuckles from our monumental clash with the Ice Tubes. Was this a prudent way to spend an afternoon?
“Well,” said the little voice in my head, “it may not have been prudent, but we did get something good out of it.”
Something good? Like what?
Then it hit me.
Black Sunday and I had made up our minds to search the city shops together. We plodded on from store to store, street to street, together. We put up with sore feet and strained backs together. We performed insufferable acts of murderous savagery on innocent Ice Tubes, and enjoyed the fruits of our efforts, together.
And one day– maybe soon, or far along in the future… it didn’t matter when– we would look back on this day and laugh about it, together. Because that’s what friends do.
Time is precious. So is friendship. Therefore time spent with friends is doubly precious. That day, I learned that the worth of time is not measured in how or where we spend it– it’s what we get out of it. And if an activity, no matter how troublesome or trivial, brings friends closer together, it can never be considered a waste of time.