WHAT TO DO WHEN THERE’S NOTHING TO DO

To Twink or Not To Twink

“SOMEWHERE,
SOMETHING INCREDIBLE
IS WAITING TO BE KNOWN.”

– Carl Sagan

The final shipment of fresh strawberries had been processed and production was drawing to a close for another year. It was time to clean the machines one final time and put them to rest until winter gave way to spring and the commodity most needed for production was available in abundant supply once again. A little bit of maintenance could fill the void and quell the prevailing silence, but for most of the next five months the machines would sit untouched, waiting for next season’s crop.

Fall had arrived at Continental Bakery, signaling the end of production for the company’s popular strawberry shortcake snacks. It was the dawning of the slow season and factory workload was adjusted accordingly. Without strawberries, Continental was left to market the less popular options of their product line. Less working hours were needed from the labor force, as the company approached the time of the year when assembly slowed and profits took a downturn.

One of Continental’s bakers, James Dewar, was bothered by the quietness of the machines. The eerie silence that echoed through darkened hallways was magnified by the cold grip of winter’s shortened days and frigid temps.

While strawberries were out of season, Dewar experimented with the idea of using the same machines to produce a snack cake filled with banana cream.

Continental welcomed the idea and commissioned a short run of the new cake. The banana cream cake was a smashing success in the test market and in 1930 the “Twinkie” was born.

Bananas ran short in supply during World War II due to rationing. Continental, known as Hostess by that time, make a quick switch to Vanilla Cream and found the snack cakes to be more popular than ever.

* * * * *

Had James Dewar filled the days of that fall and winter with the same activities as the year before, had he followed the same script and worked with the guidance of the same check list, no one would have questioned him.

He would not have lost value as an employee, nor been chastised for poor performance. He would have been doing his job, just as he had in the previous year and possibly the year before that.

Most likely, James had enough work to keep him occupied. He may have even had a few “busy” days along the way. But it was the slow season, and he saw darkness in a hallway that was once illuminated with purpose. He heard silence from a quadrant of the plant that once required ear plugs.

For James, the silence was deafening. In stillness, machines waited for a call to service. Strawberry shipments would no doubt return, but James saw opportunity in the waiting.

Knowing that something is on the horizon is comforting. It brings assurance and purpose. It’s laden with anticipation and hope. Expectations soar, and well they should.

But, knowing that something is on the horizon can also be a deadly distraction which lulls us into valleys of inactivity and orchestrated apathy.

A new shipment of product is ordered. So, we wait.
An appointment for a sales presentation is set. And, we wait.
The laundry is in the dryer. Now, we wait.
The car is in the shop for repair. Hurry up, AND WAIT.

A favorite TV show comes on in twenty minutes. We watch something else, while we wait.
We send an Email. We wait for a reply.
We post something on FaceSpace and wait for comments.
We have become highly skilled at waiting. We wait at restaurants. We wait on the phone. We wait in line at the store. We rush to wait in rush hour traffic. We even buy tickets so we can wait for the movie to start.

We wait for paint to dry, meat to thaw, water to boil, grass to grow and rain to stop. We WAIT!

“The waiting is the hardest part. . .”

                                                               -Tom Petty

Not only was waiting hard for James Dewar, it was unacceptable. Productivity was being cheated. Progress was slipping away. And, the ease of embracing idleness was just too frightening to imagine.

A dollar shouldn’t be forced to wait on a nickel and consumers shouldn’t have to do without snack cakes just because strawberries don’t grow year ‘round.

Sure, there are times when waiting is the right thing to do. We probably shouldn’t return that text message while changing lanes. We probably shouldn’t fold the clothes until they’re dry. And, we probably shouldn’t pull chicken off the grill until it’s fully cooked.

There are also times when we should fill the waiting with banana cream and embrace our inner Twinkie.

Sometimes waiting is just an excuse to openly disregard the one commodity that we claim is always in short supply – Time.

“Good things come to those who wait,
but great things are experienced by those
who prepare for the moment
while waiting for it to arrive.”

                                                    – Mark DeWayne Combs

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