My Top Ten Time Wasters

If wasting time was an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medalist. If they made it a triathlon with procrastinating and being lazy, I would rule the event. These traits seem to have gotten more pronounced as I’ve gotten older. I think having children was responsible. A very wise woman whose identity currently escapes me once told me that when you have children, “The days go on forever, but the years fly by.” I think it’s this sensation of the days going on forever (which they do—the longest six hours of your life are the twenty minutes you have to listen to your kid trying to play “Hot Cross Buns” on the recorder) that has made me more inclined to waste time now that I’m older.

Most of my wasted time is spent on some website or application. I don’t game, but I’m very happy to wander among the diversions available on the internet, distracted by every new pretty shiny like the lazy ADD procrastinator I am. Here are ten ways I fritter away my life.

I have about 350 friends on Facebook, and didn’t really spend that much time on it until two things happened. First, Facebook revealed its dick personality and changed their algorithm so I no longer see everything from everyone. I only see what they think is “quality” content. This means I’m doing more stalking, going to the timelines of friends I haven’t “heard from” in awhile to make sure that a) we’re still friends and b) they haven’t posted a status about some massively life changing event. The second thing that happened is that I got invited to a couple of secret groups. Posts in secret groups are visible only to those who are in them. It’s like having a private soundproof room where you can go talk to like-minded folk about whatever the theme is around the secret group. Now I can spend literally hours on Facebook, chatting it up with people who are in the books I was in or have interests and ambitions similar to mine.

Another massive time suck, because even if I’m not on it, I’m constantly trying to think of things to put on it. And of course Twitter never stops. Twitter alone could consume a whole day.

The New York Times/The New Yorker
We recently got subscriptions to both of these so we now have unlimited access to their electronic content. One could argue that at least this is somewhat educated frittering away of time. And that’s true, except that you don’t know what I’m going to tell you #4 is.

Celebrity Gossip Sites
Yes, I am one of those people who reads celebrity gossip and then whines about how we can’t seem to get rid of the Kardashians. I am partial to The Hollywood Sigh, Celebitchy, and Go Fug Yourself (which is less a gossip site and more of a fashion site, but I count it). I read thoughtful, well written essays on current events and world happenings, and then go kill a few brain cells reading about what Kim Kardashian wore to the Met Ball. (I mean, was that dress ugly or what?)

Humor Sites
I have a list of blogs I visit regularly, of course, but I also love sites like The Onion, Clickhole, Obvious Plant, and McSweeny’s Internet Tendency (see guys? No hard feelings over that rejection). Sometimes I use these sites as inspiration—I’m always looking for ideas for funny activities, or occupations to use in my own writing. I’m not taking their topics--I’m unlikely to write about the actual activity of flicking wind chimes—but I jot down things like “flicking wind chimes” or “probation officer” and who knows when I may need a pointless activity, or an unlikely occupation in something I’m writing?

Advice Columns
Mostly just the one in my local paper, and mostly for the train wreck quality of it. I can’t resist reading about other people’s problems and how the columnist suggests they resolve it. It’s kind of an everyday people version of celebrity gossip.

Amazon Reviews
I love to read product reviews on Amazon. Sometimes they’re intentionally funny—the Bic pens for her and the banana slicer are the two that spring most readily to mind. Equally funny are the ones where the reviewer has completely missed the point of the product. The review left by someone named Matthew on the Organ Transport Lunch Cooler was classic. He gave it one star and insisted that anyone who used it would be “advertizing [sic] you are carrying at least $15 grand.” My guess is that Matthew is the kind of guy who generates a lot of sidelong glances among people with normal senses of humor when he attends social functions.

Google Maps
Ever since Google Maps has offered street view of almost any location around the world, I can’t get enough of it. I go look at my high school, my grandparent’s old house, my insurance agency’s headquarters. Perfect example: I read about an underground city of sorts in France where a bunch of soldiers in World War I had written their names and countries of origin on the walls. One from America had written his address. I immediately clicked over to Google Maps, dropped the address in, and found his apartment building in the Bronx, which is still an apartment building. I thought that was pretty cool.

I love all kinds of trivia, and little back story bits about movies are always fun. I love knowing that the horses in the Emerald City scenes in “The Wizard of Oz” were tinted green with Jello crystals (they had to film quickly before the horses started licking the powder off of each other—who knew horses were such Jello fans?) and that “Miracle on 34th Street” was filmed during such a cold New York winter that the cameras literally froze (but it was released in the summer—go figure). The older and more iconic the movie, the more trivia there is, but even for contemporary movies you can find quite a bit.

Every single site that I’ve mentioned prior to this feeds into Wikipedia, and Wikipedia is the ultimate time waster. I look up everything: the Geneva Conventions, the biography of David Sedaris, the Doppler effect. The problem is Wikipedia links to related articles so I finish reading about David Sedaris, and I decide it might be interesting to read about his sister Amy. Amy was in “School of Rock.” I didn’t know this, and after reading it, two things are likely to happen: first, I will click on the link and read about “School of Rock,” and then I’ll remember that I’ve never read the trivia about “School of Rock” on IMDB, and will jump over there to check it out.

Now if you'll excuse me, the internet beckons.


A few weeks ago I saw someone on Twitter asking at what point kids go from asking a million questions to thinking you’re an idiot who knows nothing, therefore not asking questions at all. My own experience is limited to children up to age twelve, but so far, he still asks me a million questions. The difference between age four and now is that now when I answer him, he tells me I’m wrong.

At this point he’ll argue about anything at all. The temperature, how long it takes to fly to Disneyland, or what kind of bird that is in our yard. A month or so ago, we had this exchange:

Him: “What’s the date?”
Me: “The 17th
Him: “No it isn’t.”

Really? I thought, really? You want to fight about this?

My favorite argument is the one we have about whether or not he argues about everything. That one always makes me feel like I’m in the middle of some kind of Dada-inspired performance art piece.

So far I haven’t gotten too many dismissive gestures, although I am proud to tell you that over the weekend my instructions regarding some  chore or other were met with an eye roll and a “blah blah” puppet hand. So that’s quite a milestone. I have always maintained that while Tweens have embraced eye rolling as their own, they learned it from their mothers

The fact is, I can’t really be too surprised that he’d argue with a stop sign. One of my own earliest memories is standing in my crib, leaning on the railing while I jumped up and down on the mattress. My mother saw me doing it, and cautioned me against it.

“You’ll fall out and crack your bean,” she said.

I remember looking down at the floor next to my crib and seeing the soft fluffy blue oval  rug with the white lamb on it—my “lambie” rug, as I called it, that was on the floor, and thinking, “No I won’t—my lambie rug is there. I’ll land on that and be fine.” I didn’t say it, but I remember thinking it. I was about two years old.

So with that kind of genetics it’s no wonder he looks at every verbal exchange as an opportunity for debate.

I’ve heard when they get to be teens they clam up. Instead of telling you you’re wrong and arguing about it, they just roll their eyes and turn up their iPods. I’m not sure which is the better choice. The silent treatment is probably more maddening (“You could at least answer when I speak to you!”), but I have to tell you that spending every waking minute of every day having my responses challenged by someone who can’t tell when his shirt is on backwards is pretty exhausting.