Has anybody ever figured out the precise duration of the yellow light as the signal goes from green to red, where you could reliably make sure the light would not change just as you roar through it, all guns blazing? Or is orange a legal color, and does that really depend on the disposition of the cop lying in wait in the shadows? Is it worth the chance?

Speed. Well, there is this: I’ve discovered that the older you get, the less speed seems to matter, in nearly everything. As far as I’m concerned, I no longer have to be first: to see a movie, to bust ahead of the line in traffic, to date the girl, to buy the latest smart phone, or to win almost anything. Life just evens things out in time anyhow.

However — and I’ll be quick about this —

There are practical aspects of life where speed and quick reaction times can be rewarded and rewarding.

For example, in home life:

My older brother was always unbelievably quick at the dinner table, possibly enhanced by my slowness on what they used to call the uptake. As I dawdled in conversation, he would promptly seize the remaining chunk of beef from the roast, or more maddening, the last helping of pasta. It never failed. He was that fast. I was that slow.

Common problem, I know, and to this day I’m not convinced that my growth was somehow stunted, nor has he paid the price in obesity. But in a house where portions were carefully considered, it helped to be very quick.

On the work front, an equally common occurence:

The brown-nosers who shout out answers to the boss’s call for suggestions before anyone else has time to even consider the issue. It’s disgusting, and these are the guys who grab a seat at the conference table that as close to the boss as possible. You’ve seen them do it. I remember one guy in particular who compounded the embarrassment by being the first to laugh heartily at the boss’s — or anyone’s — jokes. And wouldn’t you know it, the boss would later say, “I like your idea, Bob. Why don’t you pull together a team and put some time into it?”

The big, new office that’s closer to the chief follows shortly and you start thinking about arriving at meetings five minutes earlier.

Both items, of course, have everything to do with the old axiom, “He who hesitates, loses,” and there is something to be said in its favor. Still, I tend to be a deliberator. I take my time, and, it could be said, take my losses. But speed can kill, as others say. A tendency to not survey the situation, of becoming impetuous in the interest of being first, or the winner, can and does lead to disaster.

Then again, there is at least one endeavor in the human experience that absolutely demands both speed and precision, which is where this small thought has been going…

Ass gaskets, those super-thin paper toilet seat covers that can be doubly maddening when used in conjunction with electronic toilet flushers (That’s kinda funny by itself, now that I think about the reason for one in the first place.). I needn’t describe the procedure; you know it only too well. It’s just that there’s a real premium on promptness, plus planning. Speed. A moment’s delay and you have to start again at the beginning, and always in a more awkward posture. ( Have you ever just given up and left the area?)

My suggestion? Give both speed and efficiency time off now and again and seek out models with hand-activated flushers. Yes, it’s archaic but it’s one small step in favor of a less heated environment.

In all other things, deliberate.

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