Tripping Over Trivia

Damon Runyon

I am trying to cultivate the habit of not being particular about little things. I suppose that after years of being very particular, indeed, I will find it difficult to shake off some of my old exactions, but I must keep struggling. I have come to the conclusion that I have been wasting an enormous amount of time in being particular.

Take the small matter of boiled eggs. I used to be mighty particular about how long my boiled eggs should be boiled. I made a strong point of specifying that they should be boiled three minutes and a half. I had the idea that I could not even look at eggs boiled less than that time or two seconds beyond. The cooks could not fool me, either, though sometimes I suspected they exerted the most diabolical ingenuity in the effort. I could tell to a clock-tick how long they had boiled eggs the instant they were set before me.

One day I sat down and seriously contemplated the economic phases of the boiled egg situation as applied to me. I considered, through careful calculation, the hours I must have wasted in arguing with waiters that those eggs had not been boiled three and a half minutes, but only two and a half, or maybe four, and in sending them back to the kitchen and then waiting for another boiling.

When my figures showed that on being particular about my boiled eggs alone I had wasted fifteen years, I was appalled. It was then I made up my mind to cease being particular. I immediately made some progress on the boiled eggs. I began calling for them scrambled.

As a cash customer of the New York drama, I estimate that I have thrown away at least six years in being particular about the location of my seat in the theatre, and there will be no more of that waste. I can see now that it made no difference to me, physically or intellectually, where I sat, and that many a time I would have been much better off had I been unable to get inside the theatre at all.

I have also always been particular about the location of my seat in a movie house and have stood up through half a picture to grab a chair in the region of my fancy. From now on I am going to take the first seat I find, and if it happens to be off at one of those angles characteristic of our movie houses from which I can catch only a cockeyed slant at the screen, I will console myself with the thought that I am saving time I would have wasted waiting for a better spot, and that maybe it is a bad picture, anyway.

Nor am I going to waste any more of my precious moments trying to coax head waiters into planting me at a more advantageous table in a restaurant or night club. From now on I will take the one they offer me, behind the pillar, from which I am unable to view anything but the broad backs of the servitors hovering over the favored guests at the choicer tables, because my figures show that I have thrown away nine years and two months just standing on one leg like a crane at restaurant and night club doors waiting for someone in authority to notice me.

If my will power holds out, no longer will I be particular about the berth that the fellow at the railroad ticket window wants to sell me. I will ask for a lower, of course, but if he says there are only uppers left, I will take it and thus conserve the time I formerly threw to the winds in trying to find someone with a drag with the railroad, or waiting on another train. Upper or lower, I never sleep much on a train anyway, so what difference does it make.

It is the same way about a room in a hotel. I am going to save the time I used to waste waiting at the hotel desk while the clerk examined his records with pursed lips and an air of doubt, to see if he could find a room to my most particular fancy, and take whatever he can offer. There will be a snoring guy in the next room or a noisy party down the hall just the same and I will be ahead about an hour.

I am going to try to make up on some of the time I have wasted in hat stores trying on hats. Hereafter, I will just step in, call for my size, clap the first hat presented on my sconce and hurry out, thus saving half a day that I used to toss off peering into mirrors and pulling the hat brim this way and that and chatting with the clerk about the matter. I now fully realize that all hats look the same on my bean, and that there is no sense in my being particular about them.

From here on in, I will endeavor to eliminate the utter waste of time in being particular about where and how I hang my clothes on removal and place my shoes and neckties and stuff like that. I am just going to quickly shed them anywhere, though at this point I am confronted by an economic problem on which some of my readers may enlighten me.

Will the time I save in not being particular in this shedding stand off the time I will probably waste in household argument about me not being particular?