15 Easy Minutes by Miriam Sagan

Time—friend or foe? I’ve always engaged with it. In the 5th grade, I suffered horribly from boredom and the snail-like pace of time passing, particularly the last quarter hour of the day. The big clock would click and move forward every minute. Every 60 seconds.

School let out at 3 pm. At 2:45 I’d start to watch the clock. I’d try to do 15 tiny things to amuse myself as time passed. John Cage would have loved me.

1. Hold my breath. See how long I could do that. Practice in case I fell into the water from a boat. (Not very likely, but better safe than sorry).

2. Twist the button on my shirt until it fell off. Count how many times I had to twist this. (My mother hated this, but I never told her how it kept happening).

3. See how many times I could kick my friend Mary Ann’s foot until one of her tennis-shoe shod feet would kick me back. (She was good-natured and didn’t seem to mind).

4. Stare at the back of the boy I had a mild crush on and will him to turn around. A smile was a bonus. (I loved him because he was sarcastic—unwittingly the start of a trend in my romantic life).

5. Count to a hundred fast in under a minute. (I still do this).

6. Do #5 but backwards. (100, 99, 98, etc.).

7. Scribble a line and then work it with a pencil over and over until the paper shredded and I was writing directly on the desk. (I’m sure you’ll enjoy this too).

There were more, but this is most of what I can remember. I did have a winter scarf with fringe that could be braided different ways. I don’t know if this was the start of my time-killing technique called “think about something for a minute”—what I’d like to eat, how to spend a million dollars, who I’d put a hit on, and more.

I have spent my life since 5th grade playing creative tricks with my mind. And it seems time has passed. I’ll be turning 68 this spring. Click. Click.

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