Cover Story: Give the Gift of Slack

Well, y'know, if you feel like it ...

Nov 29, 2001 at 2:06 pm
Ryan Greis

I know the president wants all us patriots to immediately buy new cars and electric letter openers for Christmas. And if he can sleep well with the coming national debt, we certainly ought to be able to snooze through a measly $3,000 Visa overdraft.

All flag waving aside, why not give the gift that everybody needs, the one that really no home should be without. Give the gift everybody asks for. Give the gift of slack.

It's proactive, empowering, biodegradable, transferable, nonpartisan, user friendly, environmentally friendly, portable, needs no wrapping, nobody has enough and no assembly is required.

It's the lack of slack that makes ulcer medication and valium the two top-selling drugs in the U.S. It's the lack of slack that drives people to abusive use of alcohol, drugs and chocolate chip cookies. It's the lack of slack that makes us drive around with those lemon-sucking looking faces during the Christmas rush.

I know what you're saying. "Christmas is too busy, I don't have time for slack.

What if someone sends me a gift and I don't send them one? What if I left someone off the Christmas card list? What if the tree catches fire? What if the kids fight over their presents? What if I eat too much over the holidays? What if we get snowed in? What if the cheese ball gets moldy? Is that last year's or this year's fruit cake? What if uncle Fred leaves his teeth on the table again?"

What-if's are the road blocks of slack. Give what-if's to your enemies, and save the slack for those who truly deserve it. For instance:

Fast food workers: They deserve a break today. If you don't have time to wait five minutes, you probably don't have time to eat either.

Postal employees: I mean really, out of all the thousands of pieces of mail you've been involved with in your life, how many of them have been lost by the Post Office? You probably lose your own keys more often than the Post Office loses mail. On balance, there are lots of federal employees that make more money and move slower than postal workers.

Newspaper delivery folks: So the paper lands in the bushes once in a while. NFL quarterbacks make millions of dollars and they hit their target only about 55 percent of the time.

Trash collectors: If life were fair, they'd make more than elected officials. Think about it. If Trent Lott doesn't do his job for a month, you hardly notice it. If your trash doesn't get collected for a month, you've got a personal crisis.

Like charity, slack begins at home. Institute a Slack Day in your house. Schedule a day of no appointments and start by taking your watches off and unplugging the clocks. Really. Try it. You'll go crazy for the first couple hours, but it's a freeing experience.

You can go wild. You can order a pizza in the morning or drink a beer before noon. You won't even know it.

An added benefit is that it will drive your slack-deprived friends insane when you say, "Sorry, I'd like to come over at 6, but I don't have a clock or a watch. Could you tell where the moon will be at that hour?"

You'll soon find that if you give slack you'll get slack in return. The kids at the fast food chow houses might actually say "Have a nice day" and mean it. Your relatives might show up on time. Your boss might sprout a sense of humor. Your spouse might even overlook some of your bad habits.

I know it will take practice for those of you who live your life by meticulously avoiding relaxation and frivolity. Here's a slack lexicon to help get you in the mood:

· "Take your time, I'm not in a hurry"

· "Maybe next year"

· "You're right, I'm not holier than thou"

· "If you get around to it"

· "If not this green light, maybe the next one"

· "Driving slower is safer anyway"

· "So, come here often?" (suitable ice-breaker for all waiting-in-line circumstances)

· "Cleanliness is nowhere near godliness"

Essential viewing and reading: Slacker. This Richard Linklater movie is about people who are overqualified and underemployed. Shot in Austin, Texas, but it could be anywhere.

Church of the Subgenius: P.O. Box 140306, Dallas, TX 75214. This parody church puts out numerous newsletters and has a radio show called The Hour of Slack. (This is true, I swear.)

I'm not completely opposed to the full capitalistic regalia of Christmas, as long as you realize the cavernous gap that separates what we "want" and what we "need."

We need something with a little more compassion — something that helps soothe our fragile, bruised souls. What we really need is a big slice of slack. In fact, make mine à la mode while you're at it. ©