Monday, February 14, 2011

Haste Makes Redfaced

The English language is rife with aphorisms that warn against the dangers of rushing. Slow and steady wins the race, look before you leap, measure twice and cut once. Hurrying is how you neglect to see that red t-shirt sneak into the laundry with the load of whites, or get two thirds of the way through a recipe before realizing you are missing four key ingredients needed to finish it, or speed to the school pickup before remembering that your kid is going home with a friend that day. Unfortunately, "rushing" is also the default speed at which I seem to live my life.

We had a busy fall. The girls moved up a level and are taking ballet twice a week, and the older daughter embarked on a nine-month long confirmation program at church. The husband is working long hours, and I bit the bullet and took a 12 week writing class that involved a bunch of homework, on top of my regular work. For about three months there I was living my life in 15 minute increments, happy if we were all where we needed to be at the appointed time and fighting off a little bit of panic every day. Reasoned consideration was in short supply.

In December I was in London and saw a poster that resonated with me. It was produced by the British government during the Blitz and hung all over the city of London during the war, an admonition and comfort to the British people. On a bright pinky-red background topped with a crown, white block letters spell out “Keep Calm and Carry On.”  

That’s it, I thought. I need that poster across from my desk so I can remember to slow down, not give in to the false allure of doing things faster. More important to do things well than to do them quickly. When I got home, I ordered it from the Imperial War Museum web site, paying three times as much for shipping as I did for the actual poster and resigning myself to wait for the month it would take to arrive. It’s worth it to have something so unique, I thought.

My new philosophy in mind, I felt smug when I decided to take all the VHS cassettes that hold our family movies and drop them off to the photo store, to be converted to DvD. Our VHS player died years ago and now exists only to hold up a sheen of dust, and I’ve been meaning to get these converted forever. I was finally going to do it right and cross it off my list.

I scooped up the whole pile of tapes from the cabinet where we’d always kept the family movies, back in the Pleistocene Era when the VHS player worked. At $25 per tape it wasn’t going to be cheap, but how else would we ever watch them? After I dropped them off I even had enough time to get a cup of coffee and do some writing. Carrying on!

Fast forward to me picking up a big bag of tapes, each one fastened with a rubber band to its new DvD twin, and the labels from the VHS tapes carefully reproduced on the covers of the DvDs. The girls and I laid them out on the table: 1999/Camp Gorham; Christmas 2000, San Diego.

But what’s this? Cool Runnings? Isn’t that the Disney movie about the Jamaican bobsled team? Holy Mother Mary, did I record that on a VHS tape and leave it with the family movies, and then pay $25 to have my non-HD, hoopty version of the movie, complete with commercials, converted to DVD? In case you’re interested, yes I did. Also, you can buy a Cool Runnings DVD new from Amazon for $11.49.

There was one other video that was mysterious, labeled “Dr. Video.” Hmmm. Did I maybe take the camera with me to one of the girls’ checkups? Maybe it’s a sonogram? The VHS cassette was no help, completely barren of labels. After we got through watching an excruciatingly plotless movie which consisted entirely of scenes of our older daughter opening every gift she was given that year, we slipped Dr. Video in the DvD player.

A grey circle appears on screen. Looks a little like an artery. A man’s voice starts narrating. “Ok, we are standing at the front curb filming towards the house,“ he says. "The line proceeds in a northerly direction."

That circular grey shape is no artery. It’s the sewer line at our old house, the time we hired someone to do a fiber optic inspection to determine if it needed work. Yes. Because I didn't take the time to actually figure out what was on all the videos I was dropping off, I paid another $25 to convert an inspection of the poop pipe of a house in which we no longer live to DvD. Would you like to borrow it? I’m charging $1 per day, until I earn $25 back.

Right after sent in my order for my Keep Calm poster, we got a sales circular from Cost Plus. On the cover it featured the exact poster, mounted on canvas and framed, for about half of what I paid. A day later I saw it again, different store, different frame, same low price. A friend of mine said, “Yeah, you were so excited about your poster I didn’t have the heart to tell you that you can pretty much find them anywhere if you take the time to look.”

Keeping Calm. Carrying On.


  1. So I'm RSVP'ing in advance for Movie Night at the Khos - we're busy watching our own poop video.

  2. Nancy, thank you for confirming I am not the only chicken running around without a head...

  3. What a comforting and hilarious story. Love to hear about other tech traumas, believe me, I've had one or two . . . Also, I slowed down long enough to read your blog AND join your site.

  4. This really made me laugh. At your expense, of course.

    And yes, "Keep Calm, etc." is even on pot holders now. But maybe you can still get in on the ground floor of "Just close your eyes and think of England."


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