There was an interesting article in The New Yorker recently about the psychology of  waiting.  The article explored how our reaction to time passing can be very different when we know how long we’re going to wait.   We may not spend the waiting time doing anything differently but  the mere fact that we know how long it will be changes our experience.   One example cited was the classic situation of waiting for a pot to boil.  (Having no experience with this, I asked around and learned that this kind of thing usually happens in a kitchen…how cool!)  The author suggests that we (you) might still hang around the kitchen until the pot’s contents boil but we’ll (you’ll) feel differently about the time passing.  As the author put it, “It’s easier to waste time when you know how much time there is left to waste.”

In a somewhat meandering way the article went on to talk about an experiment that was started in 1927 in a lab in Australia.  Although I can’t see a direct connection to the discussion about waiting, I still found it fascinating.  It seems that the purpose of the experiment was to show how viscous a fluid could be.  Hot pitch (tar) was put into a funnel and then let cool.  The first drop of pitch fell from the funnel eight years later! The second drop fell nine years after that.  In the last 85 years there have been a total of eight drops…the next drop is expected in 2013.  Interestingly, no one has ever actually seen a drop fall.  The Pitch Drop Experiment is now the world’s longest running experiment.

By my reckoning, the second oldest ongoing experiment is ME.  In my case however, the drops of ME  that are falling, are doing so constantly.  In almost imperceptible (hopefully) ways I’ve been changing for, what is now, a very, very  long time.  But fortunately, as in the case with the pitch, no one ever sees these “drops”.  Even I, who pays attention to me as no one else does, haven’t ever noticed any change from hour to hour or from day to day for that matter.  Yet, when I see the transformation over a longer period of time, I’m stunned.

I guess I was so drawn to the Pitch Drop Experiment because I see it as a metaphor for slowing down the process of aging.  Hoping that I could glean some information that would be useful in my attempt to slow down time.  Maybe I can figure out some way to make myself more viscous.  Or if I can’t do that, maybe I can find out how long the wait is until you-know-what.  At least then, I’ll know how much time I have to waste.

Even Mao Wondered When It Would Boil


3 Responses to “Tick….Tock….”

  1. yduj Says:

    Aha… calling someone a “drip” has now taken on a whole new meaning!

  2. iron(ic)man triathlon Says:

    what a viscous thing to say to someone!

  3. Mike McPartland Says:

    Boiling in a microwave, you know exactly how much time you have to waste. Anyway, I don’t think I’ll start reading The New Yorker. I haven’t got that much time to waste!

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