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If I was in a hurry I wouldn't live in North Idaho

| December 12, 2010 8:00 PM

"If I was in a hurry I wouldn't live in North Idaho." That line is my invention, I think, but if someone wants to claim it, e-mail linotypecomplaintdept@deadmail.edu. Just don't be in a hurry for a response. We move a bit slower up here than in some other places.

I have been using that line for most of my 23 years in Idaho, mainly when cashiers are apologizing because I had to wait in line. Last week I reassured two charming female employees at Albertsons gas station that a two-minute wait was not a problem. Some folks must have more on their plates than I do or more important stuff, at least, because they complain about such things. Being in a hurry is probably more a state of mind than anything else. It may be associated with Thoreau's famous line in WALDEN - "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Desperate people seem to rush things.

I have seen people snap their fingers to attract waiters. The first time someone did this in my presence I was mortified; I later realized such actions are cultural. While we don't snap our fingers around here the behavior is quite acceptable east of the Mississippi. I wonder what would happen if I snapped my fingers at a waiter in Paris; customer service, as we understand it, is unknown there. Don't get me wrong, French waiters are wonderful and very professional and render excellent service. But they are the experts on serving food, after all, and thus set the pace rather than their customers; egalitarianism has limits. To the French, "finger snapping service" is practiced only in quaint and primitive lands. France is also a country, of course, where one is guilty until proven innocent. If you see no connection between a French waiter and the Bastille, Hawaii is a better place for your vacation.

Another day and another line at Albertsons (the grocery this time and also in Hayden) I had 10 cans of Campbell's chicken noodle soup (destined for Fresh Start), half a pound of sweet and sour pork (destined for my lunch) and a bag of kettle chips (golly, they were good). The female customer in front of me had about twice that many items - not very many - but still offered to let me play through. In declining her kind offer I recognized a kindred spirit - another person in the business of not being in a hurry. Her mother lives in Toronto, is 94, in great health with all her faculties and bi-lingual. I would have missed that wonderful story and half a dozen smiles had I been in a hurry. After my fellow traveler had departed, the cashier said my new best friend is always that way - friendly, vivacious and witty. Bon appetit, Madame. (I am less fearful of getting into trouble with English only crackpots around here than with my kids who know how wretched my French is.)

From time to time, I am passed on the road by someone in a terrible hurry, possibly a desperate one. Often I pull up right beside that person at the next traffic light - hurrying is one thing, arriving sooner quite another. We are supposed to stop to smell the roses, I have been told; heck, I want to stop to feel the thorns, too. Are they as sharp as they used to be? If I am in a hurry, I will never find out. Wild animals, maybe, need to hurry because they have to work hard trying to survive - most of the time, humans and their pets do not.

Tim Hunt, the son of a linotype operator, is a retired college professor and nonprofit administrator who lives in Hayden with his wife and three cats. He can be reached at linotype.hunt785@gmail.com.

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