In Praise of Inefficiency

One May morning, I went to the DMV.

I’d set aside the whole morning. I was expecting red tape and inefficiency.

Within 15 minutes, a kind woman in a short-sleeve plaid shirt took my photo, tested my vision, chatted with me about the weather in her former home of Klamath Falls, Oregon, and sent me on my way.

I got into the car. The woman had gifted me time. I had an errand to run, but the store wouldn’t open for a while. I’ll do a bit of work at a coffee shop, I thought, then head to the store.

There was a coffee shop next to the store. It made the most sense to go there. It’s just that it was a dull chain with dull coffee and too much air conditioning.

I could try a new coffee shop, I thought. There’s a sweet spot up the road that’s famous for their bagels and teas. It’s further away, though, I thought, it’s probably not a good use of time to go there.

I pointed the car towards the dull coffee shop. Then I stopped. Caitie, the woman at the DMV gave you time! Her efficiency means you can be inefficient. You don’t need to do the practical thing; you could do the delightful thing.

I drove to the sweet spot. Raucous harmonica music played from the speakers and stacks of honey-colored bagels slept on metal racks and string lights swooped across the ceiling. I got a jasmine green tea and sat in a room with plants, a globe, bird sculptures on the multi-colored walls and I wrote this Lightning Note.

But it wasn’t a good use of my time. It was a wonderful use of my time.

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