Thursday, January 24, 2008

Variability of time

Einstein asserted that time isn't a constant value -- that it varies according to external events.

I've just gotten confirmation of that in the form of a voicemail left for me.

I do the odd bit of computer service for folks, and get a fair number of referrals from the folks that I've helped; one of those referrals was a gentleman that called to see if I could help him get his computer functioning again. Except that he couldn't just call and leave a message giving his name, a message to the effect of 'my computer is broken, can you help me?', and a phone number to reach him at. He felt obliged to leave me a message that lasted just short of three minutes: it started with him telling me a bit about himself (i.e. his medical and financial problems), then the life story of the computer, a history of the problems he's had with it, and ending with an explanation of just how badly he needs the computer working. It was only as an apparent afterthought that he gave me a phone number. From the sound of his voice, I figured he was an 'older' gentleman, so that it took a while for him to get to the point really didn't surprise me; it was how LONG it took that shocked me.

After I dealt with the problem (his computer is complaining it can't find an operating system, which tells me he's got a dead hard drive; I don't 'stock' hardware, so he has to get the replacement himself), I started thinking about the conversation I had with him and realized that (it seems to me, anyway) that a high percentage of older people often have a tendency to make a short story long: dwelling on irrelevant details, going off on conversational detours, dawdling in the telling, and so forth. What could have been a 10- or 15-second message by this fellow ended up going 2:57 (I couldn't resist listening to it again to time it).

Still, I can't help wonder if this is just a case of selective memory on my part (that is, remembering the few long-winded instead of the many to-the-point), or an actual phenomenon - and if the latter, why it happens.

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