(Alternate title: list-icles are great when you’re a lazy blogger).
As a person who is clumsy and who also enjoys food, and who sometimes enjoys food while being clumsy, I am quite intimately familiar with the ‘five-second rule’ of acceptable food-to-floor contact. The problem with this is I don’t actually think it’s very useful. When it comes down to it, if the food looks good enough or if I’m hungry enough to eat it off the floor, chances are I’m not really going to care if it’s been there five seconds or five minutes. In fact, the main criterion here probably isn’t time, but the food’s ability to pick up pieces of dirt and other fun things off the floor. For instance, if a piece of toast falls peanut-butter-side down (maximum stickability), there isn’t a chance of me eating that even if I could grab it the instant bread touched tile (or worse, carpet. Ew.)
So this whole five second business seems rather arbitrary, and I don’t think it makes much sense when it comes to food. I was thinking, though, that there were other places in which a five-second rule would actually be pretty useful. Like these:
1) You get five seconds after a micro aggression to call someone out.
Microaggressions are specifically that, micro, tiny, fleeting. And especially when they happen in the middle of a larger conversation, or in passing, I find it incredibly hard to be able to formulate my thoughts into an actual response and give that response before addressing it means derailing the entire rest of the conversation. 5-seconds seems like a comfortable window in which I can register the aggression, think of at least some response, and articulate it without the entire flow of the conversation moving past me. (Obviously timing shouldn’t really be stopping me from calling people out, but that’s easier to change than any of the things that might actually be stopping me, which might be the topic of another post).
2) You get five seconds to recognize someone on the street before they can assume you’ve forgotten who they are.
If I am seeing you somewhere I’m not used to seeing you, or if I see you in the morning, or both, there is a fairly high likelihood that im not going to be able to recall who you are right away, regardless of how many times we’ve met before. My brain just takes a little bit of time to produce that kind of information. So I think it’s only fair that I get 5 seconds to place your face, adjust my tone of voice so it is appropriately enthusiastic, and greet you, before it actually becomes uncomfortable. (To the girl outside the library today who I know I’ve met before at least twice, and who I stared at blankly when you waved at me, I am sorry).
3) You have five seconds to break a silence in a conversation before the other person assumes you’re cool with it.
I’m good with silence. My best friend from high school would sometimes play this game when we talked on the phone, where he wouldn’t say anything and see how long it would take me to break the silence. He would always start talking again before I did. So silence really doesn’t bother me and, call me self-centred, but I have a tendency to assume that it doesn’t bother other people either. So if we’re talking, and a silence comes up, and you don’t break it in five seconds, then I’m just going to assume that you’re cool with it. And once that happens, I’m happy to just let that silence sit for as long as it wants to. You’re welcome.
4) You have five seconds to figure out if you know how a machine at the gym works.
Exercising should not have to be as complicated as it is. As it stands, there have always been a whole group of machines in any gym I’ve been to that I simply could not figure out, no matter how many other gym-goers I try to sneakily observe through their reflections in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Add to that the fact that I’m usually too embarrassed to actually try the machine for fear of not figuring it out and looking ridiculous. So this rule is for me and other self-conscious people just trying to stay fit: you get five seconds to see if you know how to use the machine, no judgement, and if you can’t figure it out within those five seconds and move on, then you’re all good. You can just go back to your free weights, no questions asked.
5) You get five seconds after singing the wrong song lyric out loud to correct yourself.
There are some songs to which you know the words, and some to which you’re sure you don’t know the words. And then there are those special songs to which you THINK you know the words, until you are singing along to it with all your friends and then suddenly you’re saying ‘garden’ and they’re saying ‘party’ and nothing is ever quite the same after that. This rule is for those moments: if in five seconds you can figure out the actual words or match up with what everyone else is saying, then you’re all good. It’s like brushing the dust off of that stray chip on the floor: no harm done at all.