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01/15/2007: "good samaritan, but on the clock"

This morning I was greeted by very ugly commuting weather: freezing rain had come during the night, and ice pellets were falling. After attempting my usual back-road route, I detoured onto the highway in the hopes of finding somewhat better conditions.

The conditions were not bad, and I certainly didn't have any of the sphincter-exercising moments that I've had on previous icier days. The lady in front of me, however, was not so lucky. I watched as her van fishtailed to the left, kept on arcing clockwise, and witnessed her plunge into the ditch facing backwards, with her vehicle coming to rest on its side. I put on my 4-way flashers, stopped, got out and called 911.

A transport truck also stopped, and its driver ran over to make sure the van's driver was OK while I called in fire and ambulance. After figuring out exactly where on the highway we were, fire and ambulance crews were on their way. The trucker and I then tried briefly to right the vehicle, but it was simply too far over and too heavy. Having determined that the driver was indeed uninjured and fine (save for the fact that she was sitting at what looked to be an uncomfortable angle), I wasn't really sure what more I could do. And very sadly, time started weighing on my mind.

Being on contract, I am always on the clock. Until I actually get to work in the morning, I am focused on getting there and putting my time in. I no longer take lunches (and haven't for about 2 years now) because that's an extra 2.5 hours per week I can bill. I can eat at my desk and work.

So I'm standing in the dark next to a slushy highway, with ice pellets stinging my naked scalp, and am starting to feel the need to get back in the car so I can get to work. How stupid is that?!? I could have stayed another 10 minutes to make sure fire and ambulance got there OK, and that wouldn't have cost me anything significant. Heck, let's call it for what it is - it would have been a PALTRY loss, in the grand scheme of things. I lose many times more each time I have an interview, and I do it gladly.

The need to leave grew, the trucker was staying, so I hopped back in the car and drove off, not even 10 minutes off schedule. I saw the fire trucks and ambulances coming out to find the accident, so I knew that everyone was in good hands (and that had I stayed until their arrival it would have cost me all of about 3 more minutes). Even before getting to work, I realized how stupid this urge to get to work is. I would have cost me next to nothing to stay. But I'm "on the clock" - I have to get to work. Stupid.

If there is a next time, I'm just going to really try to just eat the time loss. And I'm going to continue seeking full-time work with flexible hours, such that I don't feel the pressing need to be somewhere within a 15-minute window. More on that later - maybe a big tangential announcement tomorrow.

Replies: 2 Comments

on Monday, January 15th, Mike said

Our small group is studying the book "The Life You Always Wanted", and the chapter last night was on being "in a hurry".

He said that many 1st world societies are material-rich and time-poor, while 3rd world societies are material-poor and time-rich. And that hurry is the enemy of Love - we cannot love our neighbour when we are consumed by hurry.

My wife and I talked about the challenges of not being in a hurry in our society - most of them are related to the premium/value put on promptness (and the rudeness of tardiness). Being late for work, late for rehearsal, late for meetings, the negativity of that makes us hurry to be on time. In Latin cultures (Mexico, Nicaragua, etc) promptness is optional - and so is efficiency for that matter. If either of those two interfere with relationships, then relationships win out. If you are chatting after church with your friends, but your kids have skating lessons, you will likely be late for the lessons rather than cut short the conversation.

I struggle with this a lot.

on Tuesday, January 16th, Violet said

I refer you to this link:

It's Slow Down week.. How timely!

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