, Newburyport, MA


July 8, 2013

Say, Prof, you got a minute?

The other day I was chatting over coffee with my friend, the professor, who, some of you will remember, was severely hurt when struck by his wife with a dangling participle. His life was at the time despaired of by his primary care physician and other board-certified and licensed health care professionals, as well as a plurality of unregistered nurses. Thanks, however, to the care of his penitent wife, who had learned to avoid misplaced modifiers, he regained his health, as well as his occasionally irascible manner.

“Well, it’s about time!” I exclaimed indignantly in reference to some matter that had come up. A thoughtful expression came over the professor’s face and I heard the clearing of the throat which portends a discourse on some weighty matter.

“Time!” he growled. “Only this morning I was telling my wife Arachne how little grasp we have of the concept of time, and how carelessly we refer to it.

I was put in mind of this yesterday when my student Dilatorius put his head into my office and said, ‘Say, Professor, do you have a minute?’ As I suspected, he really meant a lot more time than that, and as the duration of our conference passed the half-hour mark and I began to feel more like a therapist than a scholar, I interjected, ‘How long is a minute where you come from, Dilatorius?’ He paused in his plaint that he didn’t have time to do justice to the subject of his paper, but did not seem to understand what I was saying. I thought I would have a little unfair fun at his expense.”

“I tried that line from Marvell’s poem, ‘To His Coy Mistress.’ ‘But at my back I always hear,’ quoth I, ‘time’s winged chariot hurrying near.’ However, as Sam Goldwyn might have said, ‘It rolled off his back like a duck.’ ‘Tempus fugit, Dilatorius,’ I said, ‘Time flies!’ Blank expression.

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