High-caliber time

Today we present an ode to the perfect block of time, an often-overlooked measure that has a magic all its own: 45 minutes.

Forty-five minutes is a temporal Eden, a slice of heaven, a just-right serving of our harried lives.

If you've got 45 minutes, you don't have to hurry. You can accomplish most anything in 45 minutes, if you have to. But if you must kill 45 minutes, you don't feel guilty like you would if you wasted a whole hour.

There's something intrinsically comforting about that three-quarters wedge of the clock face. No matter what odious task might await, you'll feel better when you look up at the clock and see you have 45 minutes to do it. Oh, you'll think, I've still got 45 minutes. I can take my time. (Or, conversely, if I hustle like hell, I can make it.) But it'll be okay. After all, I've got 45 minutes.

Most of us don't work more than 45 minutes straight. We take coffee breaks or potty breaks or gossip breaks. You put in a good 45 minutes' work, you feel like you've earned a trip to the water cooler.

You can get most anywhere in 45 minutes, unless you live in one of the really congested big cities. Somebody calls and says, "Can you meet me in 45 minutes," the answer almost always is "yes."

This makes 45 minutes the perfect social cushion. In 45 minutes, you can usually change clothes and still show up on time, more or less. If you're 45 minutes late to a social function, it's still "fashionably late." If you're 45 minutes early, you can always wait in the car. And, 45 minutes is the shortest amount of time you can stay at a dull party before gracefully making your escape.

Forty-five minutes is the absolute longest a speech should ever be. If you're the banquet speaker and you go past 45 minutes, you can rest assured that your audience has gone on to thinking about something else, such as fly-fishing. They need antacids and they need bathrooms and they need more drinks. Wrap your speech up quickly and sit down.

Forty-five minutes' notice is the minimum if you're showing up to someone's house without an advance invitation. Call us first. Tell us you'll be there in 45 minutes. In most households, that's enough time to frantically race about, picking up dirty socks and stray shoes and half-chewed doggie treats. We can get the house presentable in 45 minutes, if forced. Just don't look in the closets or under the beds.

You can do a load of laundry, start to finish, in 45 minutes, with the proper machine settings. This means you can wear the same jeans every day of your life, if you want.

You can read the whole newspaper in 45 minutes, and probably do the crossword puzzle. Leaf through a whole magazine. Pay all your bills.

Given 45 minutes, you'll tackle something you know will be time-consuming, such as ordering airline tickets on-line or cleaning the bathrooms. Less than that, and you'll likely put off the chore until later.

In 45 minutes, you can squeeze in a meal at a restaurant as long as you don't order anything too elaborate. It's always plenty of time for a snack, at least. You can pick up the phone right now and, in 45 minutes, a hot pizza will arrive at your door. Is this a great country or what?

Busy working parents know that 45 minutes is just enough time to catch our breaths. If an empty 45 minutes shows up unexpectedly in the middle of the day, it's a blessing. Enough time to take a real break. Thirty minutes never feels like enough -- we spend the whole time thinking about what we've got to do next. But, with 45 minutes, we can get a coffee, sit still for a little while, catch some quiet. Have a thought beyond the usual hurry, hurry, hurry.

And that 45 minutes might save your whole day.

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