The Tale of No-Time Nora


No, no, no, no!

No was No-Time Nora’s favorite word. Often she would say, while hurrying past him or her in some frantic flurry, “No! Sorry! No time!” No time for coffee with a colleague. Sorry! No time for sewing with her sister. Sorry! No time for a film with a friend. Sorry! No, nor time to stop and listen, nor time to stop and chat. Nora was far too busy for frivolous stuff, for time-wasting things like that.

“Sorry, sorry, sorry! Gotta go feed the dog! And then the cat,” she would blurt into her cellphone while darting door to door, car to apartment, in very few seconds. Usually just 26 seconds flat. Though with her arms loaded with grocery bags, Nora would sometimes wave one spare finger, very quickly, toward her neighbors Paula, Spencer and Nat.

No-Time Nora had showers to scour, you see. Washing to wash, dusting to dust. Endless errands, a list of things-to-do that filled up her day. Important stuff, time-taking chores like that. And when they were done, just before bed, there was always the company of her dog. And her cat.

There was no time at all for doing with others. There just were not two seconds in her day to give two seconds to anyone at all. She never could squeeze in one instant for friendly frolics or friendships, she never could eek out one moment for moments of family fun. Though sometimes Nora paused long enough to admire her checklists showing all the chores she just got done.

Of course, none of Nora’s “no’s” was entirely necessary. Her shower was completely mildew-free. Even her dog was scrubbed down and her cat was washed clean. As were Nora’s doors and windows and every one of her window screens.

But at least her busywork life kept her so, so, so busy. So busy she had almost no time to notice how busy she was being unhappy. No-Time Nora just numbly buzzed with a busy loneliness throughout each busywork day. With no one and nothing in her busy life but one fat dog. And one very fat cat. And one sparkling shower – oh yes, and also one totally spotless white bathmat.

Until one day, Nat helped Nora with an armload of groceries, smiled and said to her, “Nora, my neighbor, some of us plan to help out another neighbor who needs some real help this weekend, just down the street. I know you’re always rushing off to do chores in a frantic flurry. But why not help us help our neighbor for just two hours – or just one hour’s helping if you really have to hurry?”

She could at last meet all the nice neighbors in their nice neighborhood, Nat told Nora. Giving two of her busy hours to someone else might make her smile more than she seemed to smile now. She could set aside for a while, Nat suggested, all the endless chores of her frantic, flurried life. Nora might even talk a bit with Spencer and Paula – who, Nat explained, were his son and his wife.

Nora pondered Nat’s invitation for just a moment. For two seconds Nora gave his suggestion a first and second thought. Maybe she really needed to meet some people. Maybe doing something for somebody else would do her some good. Maybe a nice smile with some nice neighbors would make a nice change. And with Paula and Spencer, she might even have some pleasant words to exchange.

But you know, of course, how No-Time Nora answered Nat. “No” was the first of the few short words in her no-time reply. “No time for helping neighbors, but thanks, Nat – goodbye!”

Sometime later, after Nat was gone, Nora told herself she really would like to help her needy neighbor. Why, of course she would! Because she was a giving person after all. If, if, if only there were more hours in her busy, busy day. But on the big neighbor-helping weekend, of course, she really had to scrub down the dog and clean up the cat. “And then there’s that dirty shower to scour,” Nora reminded herself, “and I really, really must wash that filthy white bathmat!”

Time for sharing herself with others was time that No-Time Nora always seemed to lack. Besides, when she had tried sharing herself with others, in the long ago past, others sometimes didn’t share themselves back. Life was so, so much simpler with just her one sparkling shower and her one fat dog – and her one very fat cat.

MORAL: Sharing ourselves with others is essential to a full, meaningful life.