"Your money or your life?" said the thief.
There’s a long silence.
"Well?" snarled the thief.
"I'm thinking. I’m thinking," said Jack Benny.
That was likely the best-known skits of radio comedian, Jack Benny; reused, in various forms, over the years, it always received a great laugh. Benny built his career, in part, on being a miser ten times worse than Ebenezer Scrooge ever was. He was not about to easily give in to the demands of a street thief.
The old saying that "time is money" goes hand in hand with the Benny skit. Which do you value more, time or money, ergo your money or your life? I can't say I'm a wise old sage like some people I've known, but recent events have taught me the value of time, especially how I should use it.
Recently, I had to work overtime, at the office, to get a project done. It was several night of long hours. The last night was almost literally an all-nighter: three o'clock in the blessed am, an eighteen-hour day.
Yes, I was a little late the next morning. Driving home in the early morning hours, I thought back to the days of my youth. It wasn’t as if there were many cars on the road and I needed something to focus on to keep me awake.
In college, studying for classes or working at the theatre to build a set, I didn't think anything of such long nights. If long hours meant blowing off the first class of the day, well, what of it. Later, when I was first working as an engineering drafter, long nights were nothing to me.
I was single, I had student loans and the extra money felt good in my pocket and bank account. I didn’t care, much, if I had to work on a weekend or even two or three weekends, in a row. I didn’t have much else in my life at that point, so who cared. There were a couple of months, when I was working on a huge airport project; I worked seven days a week, about ten hours a day, minimum. I almost moved into the office. In fact, I would have, but I had my dog, Rex, waiting for me at home; the poor fellow needed to get out a couple times a day and fed. Yeah, a dog was all I had in my life.
Well, that’s not the case anymore.
Now I have a life, a wife, family, friends and a myriad of activities beyond the confines of my office. I know some people have a strong work ethic. I do, too, but I've gotten old enough to temper it with concerns for other things.
Finishing that recent long project meant putting literally everything else in my life on hold. I didn't like that. I wasn’t able to dine with my wife, I was too tired and worn out to write and I had to cancel several of my writing meetings. I came to the realisation that time is not money; time is far more valuable. You can always earn more money. As Benjamin Franklin so aptly said, "Lost time is never found."
Anyone asking me the Jack Benny question gets a quick reply. I’ve seen far too many people obsessed with money, obsessed with success and personal gain that put their work and career ahead of everything else. Remember, no one on his or her deathbed ever said, "Gee, I wish I'd made more money."
Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.
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