In the wake of what I view as the legitimate section of my high school education, I’ve been thinking recently about something Douglas Adams once said: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they fly by.”
I think I was about 12 or 13 the first time I read that, and I’d be lying if I were to say that it didn’t sound like a piece of utter blasphemy — that one could actually miss a deadline? Preposterous! All of us live by deadlines that dwell on the horizon like hostile, unidentified warships with incalculable firepower, ready to eliminate the human race at the slightest misstep. We worship them as faceless gods nestled into the squares of calendar dates or hunched in between hours. Deadlines offer no exception; they mandate, and we obey.
Perhaps this is my sense of foolish and recently unencumbered youth talking, but who is it exactly that taught me to wake up every day and count down the list of things I need to do before the end of the week? Why do I do that? What even is a week? Can an essay about Freudian archetypes be labeled as an actual necessity?
It must be said that my devotion to that sacred object of the deadline has died slowly over the years, but I am most certainly still an active member in the Church of What’s About to Be Over Real Soon. I’m actually working by a deadline right now; wringing out my psyche for words and ideas toward this very column, all within the span of the 112 minutes I have remaining to submit it.
Oh, and speaking of writing, Grinnell has reminded me at least three times now that they need — need — to know by Feb. 8 exactly why I’d like to attend their fine college, in 100 words or less. But of course, before I can do that, I have to — have to — meet a Brown University alumnus for a 4:15 interview on the 7th. By the time you all read this, I’ll have a whole new set of tasks to vanquish in the days ahead. This will continue as such probably until I hit the deadline for living, which, ironically, I’ve heard is quite flexible.
I also heard somewhere once that dogs see their owners simply as very clever and evolved dogs with opposable thumbs, but if this is true I’d like to break it to all dogs that we aren’t quite so clever at all. In fact, sometimes we throw perfectly good bones in the garbage, and sometimes we make friends with cats, and sometimes we don’t sleep for 48 hours because somebody told us to do Activity X by Time Y, or else.
As I write this, my dogs are fast asleep as usual by the fireplace, and will probably continue to do so until they think up another place that’s warmer or more comfortable. Aside from the occasional break for food and water, this really is all they do, and they seem far more content than many of the people I interact with on a daily basis. George Carlin once said, “What do dogs do on their day off? They can’t lay around, that’s their job,” to which I’m sure any dog would counter, “What’s a job?”
That’s a good question. A suggestion: Go home and explain to your dog what a job is and why it’s important. Directly afterward, go and take a long nap. The sound of whooshing, I can tell you all, is actually quite pleasant.