Doug Bruns

Encounter at Panera

In Death, Wisdom on February 16, 2020 at 9:00 am

The other day Carole and I walked into the local Panera and placed our order. I went to men’s room while our food was being prepared. There was a gentleman standing at the urinal. I put my hands in my pockets, leaned against the wall and waited quietly. He moved to the wash basin. Soon I was again leaning against the wall, waiting. He looked up into the mirror. He sleeves where rolled to his elbows.

“I’m still delaying you,” he said.

To which I replied, “Don’t worry, I’ve got nothing but time.” And he said,

“Time is money.”

“I want for nothing,” I responded.

“You’ll never be rich.”

“I’ve done okay.”

“The poor die, but have no money. The rich also die,” he said, “but they die with having money.”

He stepped aside and I began to wash my hands. “Rich or poor, everyone dies,” I said. “Time runs out for us all.”

He smiled. I smiled back. We walked out.

* * *

The phrase, Time is money, has forever rubbed me the wrong way. Time is all I have. I attempt to use it as properly as I can, knowing it will run out. It is the mist through which all experience passes and to reduce it a trite formula of economics demonstrates a lack of clarity and perhaps even gratitude. Yet, this surprising exchange in the men’s room of a Panera so filled my heart with song. Two strangers picking up a conversation of such interest and import is not a thing to pass off gently.

There is a tradition in ancient yogic practices whereby the breath is slowed and then slowed yet more. The underlying thought is that we are born with a finite number of breaths and by slowing them down one stretches out personal existence. So, as a counter to the western consumer notion of time as money, I posit the eastern counterpoint, time is breath. Breath is the first thing we do as human beings. It is the last thing we do as human beings. And everything in between is time. Use it wisely. Don’t waste your breath.

Have a good day.

  1. Good one. “Rich is the man who knows he has enough”. “Breath is life”. See you on our next trip.

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