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World’s most dangerous question: Are you busy?

Burt's Eye View

Perhaps the world’s most treacherous question is, “Are you busy?”

Danger, Will Robinson! You’re about to be in trouble.

Way back when I was a cub reporter and dinosaurs roamed the earth, my editor caught me leafing through that day’s edition of the stone tablets.

He tugged on his animal skin business suit and grunted, “Burt, are you busy?”

Oh, boy! The head cave man chose me for an assignment! “Nope, I’m not busy.”

His shaggy eyebrows furrowed until they met in the middle of his massive forehead. “You have nothing to do?”

Anticipation welled up inside me. Maybe the cave editor was about to send me to the Pterodactyl Aerial Review or the annual Running of the Stegosauruses. My first big break. “I have nothing to do.”

“Nothing at all?”

I grinned. “Not a thing.”

“Ugh. Come with me.”

Two minutes later, I learned my first lesson of employment — never, ever tell the boss that you’re not busy. He might throw you to the saber-toothed tigers.

When in the office, always walk fast and carry a clipboard. Or a wrench. You’re busy. Or you will be.

It’s not just bosses. If a co-worker asks, “Are you busy?” she’s about to foist her project onto you. So she can go home.

The answer to, “Are you busy?” should always be, “I’m buried. Couldn’t possibly handle one more impossible task. I’ve already gone over my quota of miracles for the week.”

Even home is not safe. If you confess to having a spare moment to breathe, you’ll end up mopping the floor, painting the house or helping someone move.

When the phone rings and someone asks, “Hey, are you busy tomorrow?” hang up. You do not have enough information to answer that question.

A related aggravating question is, “Where are you going on vacation?”

Why do I have to go anywhere? Or do anything? I’m exhausted from avoiding people asking me if I’m busy.

To quote the great philosopher Jerry Seinfeld, “I am so busy doing nothing that the idea of doing anything which as you know, always leads to something cuts into the nothing and then forces me to have to drop everything.”

Life is fraught with friends who want to know, “Are you busy?” Answer no, and they’ll look at you in pity. Unless it’s your boss. Then the look is something else altogether.

They think we’re not already busy enough. That we need them to fill our calendar. That we’re just drumming our fingers waiting for something to do. So we always end up going somewhere to be with someone to do something. Rush, rush, rush, hurry, hurry, hurry, busy, busy, busy.

Another great philosopher, Paul Simon, once noted: “Slow down, you move too fast / You got to make the morning last.”

The last time I had a vacation week, I simply told people that where I was going, I would be unreachable.

Then I went home, locked the doors, turned off the phone, traveled all the way to the bedroom and busied myself doing nothing. It was glorious.

Am I busy? Yes. Yes, I am.

I’m busy contemplating more wise words from Paul Simon: “I got no deeds to do, no promises to keep / I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.”

• Feel groovy with Cole at burtseyeview@tribtoday.com, the Burton W. Cole page on Facebook or at www.burtonwcole.com.

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