Monday, January 25, 2010

Time-Wasters and Hamburgers

I recently caught author Raj Patel on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report. He was discussing his book, The Value of Nothing, a title that comes from an Oscar Wilde observation in which he says “people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Patel talked about the hidden costs in a free market using a MacDonald’s hamburger as an example. He argues that if we factored in the environmental destruction behind getting that hamburger into our stomachs, the actual price would be more like $200! ( 

It was a good interview and when I heard Patel would be in Portland at Powell Books there was no question I’d be there. When I arrived, Patel was already talking to a crowded room and had the audience laughing. The more he spoke, the more I thought about the title of his book and how it could spread to other areas of life, like the value of one’s time - in other words, my time.  

Like others, my time is precious and whom I spend time with is important to me. Whether it’s on the phone talking or sitting around doing nothing, it’s still my valuable time.  

This week, I spent an afternoon canning applesauce with a friend. She took time out of her day to come over and teach me the canning process. It was a worthwhile day and we learned a little more about each other. I’d say time well spent.  

On the flip side, I look at other situations, some even recently, where I’ve given my time to someone only to realize soon after they were a time-waster. There’s the guy who after our first date stood in my kitchen, lifted his leg, passed gas, and then laughed  about his little stunt. I stayed with that dude for six months. Then there’s the guy who had no problem with me making him dinners but insisted on splitting every check at every meal, including the ones where he asked me out. That one lasted six weeks. And then there was the blind date. He sat next to me at Barnes & Noble and wondered aloud if my breasts were real. That one lasted an hour. Luckily, the older I get the quicker I am to throw on my Nikes and run from these types.  

Time-wasters and hamburgers from certain fast food chains can be toxic. Perhaps that’s why Patel’s comments left such an impression on me. If I were to add up the hidden costs of my valuable time I’m pretty sure I’d be a very rich girl. And no hamburger, including a $200 one, is worth that.


  1. Is this my pal, Dan W? I hope you are well ... and stay in touch!

  2. I bet that is a very interesting book - did you get it & read it?
    (Barb in GA)

  3. Hey Barb, I haven't picked it up yet, but I agree with you ... looks like a fascinating read!