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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Shopping (03/01/07)

TITLE: Efficiency is important, but....
By Suzanne R


Efficiency is important.

My cell phone beeped. My friend’s young son needed to be collected from pre-school at midday. Could I help?

I glanced at my diary. No problem. I needed to go shopping in that part of town. Daniel could help.


“What do you think - fried chicken for lunch?” Daniel’s eyes lit up. Generally avoiding mass-produced high-fat food of multinational companies on principle, I wasn’t even sure what was on the menu. Daniel knew though. And that fast food restaurant has a play centre. The clincher was that it is on the town square, as is the shop I needed.

Efficiency is important.

My calculations were careful. Fifteen minutes to get there. Fifteen minutes to order and eat. (Isn’t that why it is called ‘fast food’?) Fifteen minutes to play. Fifteen minutes to complete my purchases. Fifteen minutes to get young Daniel home.

I munched on my corn cob while the young boy dipped his deep fried lumps of processed substance into a yellow syrup. As the allotted fifteen minutes ran out, my little friend was just beginning on his strawberry sundae.

Daniel made mountains and ski slopes, licking at the spoon to make the surface flat, then sticking it in the viscous muck again. Finally, he declared he was done.

“Quick, Danny, the play centre. Run!”

Efficiency is important.

I sat with my pen and paper, making the most of those few minutes. Until the problems on the slide. I instructed Daniel to function according to the conventions of society. Although the process was anything but efficient, he eventually acquiesced.

Finally, I helped him put on his winter woolies. Complaining he couldn’t see through the hat which was covering his eyes, he staggered around the restaurant like a blind man. I quickly donned my winter layers and raced after him as he tottered out the door.

With his hand firmly in mine, we headed across the town square. Hurrying was not foremost in the mind of this little boy. “I’ve got to walk on the high road!” That was the raised edge of the shrubbery. “We’ve got to jump over the red bricks.” And then the ultimate delay. “Look – a jet plane!”

I paid for Daniel’s ride on a tiny motorized vehicle encased in a rubberized airplane figure, then sat by the side and pulled out my notebook and pen. The sports commentary from a huge TV screen blared across the square. The warm midday sun shone cheerfully. We might not be on schedule, but I was being efficient nonetheless.

Finally, the plane ground to a halt and Daniel reluctantly climbed out. I grabbed his mittened hand. “Come on, little fellow. We’re off to the shop. Mum will be home soon, you know. ”

Daniel wriggled free and dashed to the water feature that ran the length of the square. He clambered up onto the marble edge. I grabbed him and pulled him back. “Oh no you don’t!”

My cell phone rang. It was Daniel’s mother. I explained that we still weren’t done shopping. “Um, shopping? Stay right there.”

I explained to the child that his mother would soon collect him and then I’d go shopping alone. He curled up in a foetal position on the marble ledge of the empty water feature.

“Just go,” he muttered. “I’ll wait here for Mum.”

I patted the dear boy. “Now why would I want to do that?” (‘Efficiency,’ I heard the evil voice say in my mind.)

“Daniel, I want nothing more than to sit here with you, enjoying this beautiful day. Look at that dog! Look at that statue. Talk to me, child!”

Daniel sprang to life. Wiggling to the edge of the empty water feature, he dropped his mitten.

Grabbing his jacket, I pulled him back. With one hand, I clamped hold of him. Then I lowered myself into the empty water channel head first, displaying my broad backside to the world. Mitten retrieved, I loosened my grip. That’s when Daniel started running.

Around and around that crazy water feature we ran, laughing, threatening, and generally being silly with no significant purpose in mind.

Finally Daniel veered from his course. “Mum!” He threw himself into her arms. I glanced at my watch. All this time ‘shopping’, and I’d yet to get in the front door!

Efficiency is important.

But efficiency isn’t everything.

Daniel reminded me today that just ‘being’ is even more important than efficiency. Especially when little boys are involved.

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This article has been read 985 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Sandra Petersen 03/08/07
As a parent, I appreciated your message.

I liked the way you showed just how isolated your narrator was from the realities of little boys. The highly formal way she spoke made me think inadvertently of the Father in Cheaper By the Dozen, another 'efficiency expert.' Great story, interesting direction. Wonderful description.
Venice Kichura03/09/07
So materfully written & such a timely message for parents---awesome job!
Marilee Alvey03/10/07
This was a nice reminder, especially with the repeating phrase about efficiency. That word cannot be used effectively in a sentence with a little boy in it. I ought to know. I had two of my own little inefficiency experts.
Mo 03/10/07
Very good & very good message, too.
Leigh MacKelvey03/11/07
A well written entry with a good message. We often forget that "just to be" is just as improtant than effeciency. Well done.
Jan Ackerson 03/12/07
Really effective use of repetition, and a charming story. Love the authentic voice, and the tone.
Jacquelyn Horne03/12/07
What a day for (I presume) a lady with not children of her own. What an escapade! I like her ending thoughts on the adventure. Good writing.
Cassie Memmer03/13/07
A great reminder in this message, life is more than the plans WE make, more than the efficency of getting things done in a timely way. Nice story and well written.
Sara Harricharan 03/13/07
Efficient indeed. A very fun read! I enjoyed the character of the little boy-so much like a certain little cousin of mine. I always clear my schedule as a rule of thumb now whenever he's around. ^_^ I loved the piece with the water and fishing for the mitten.
Verna Cole Mitchell 03/13/07
Very good story! The voice of the narrator was "efficiency itself." I like how she changed to make the little boy happy.
Joanne Sher 03/14/07
Great detail - and such an effective, lovely way to get this oh-so-important message out. Loved it, Suzanne!
Amy Michelle Wiley 03/16/07
Aww, what a darling story. Great job!