February 10, 2008

Cut to the chase! When did it become OK to interrupt someone and say this? Why not just say, "I don't feel like listening anymore", or "Get to the point because I'm bored".

Everything is being sped up. Everyone wants the bottom line. Wasting a second of someone's time is criminal. What's everyone doing that's so important?

If I send someone an email longer than five sentences I'm worried it will take too long to read and they'll give up. The three words no one wants to hear are: "Let me explain".

When someone tells me to cut to the chase, I usually do. I figure I'm better off. And also, naturally, I assume I must be rambling and going into too much detail. Or, maybe the person I'm talking to has somewhere they need to be and they don't want to miss the ending of what I'm leading up to. I try to be positive.

But there are women out there who men would never tell 'cut to the chase'. Can you imagine Brad Pitt and Anjelina Jolie sitting down to breakfast? She starts talking about Darfur and he tells her to "wrap it up"? Anjelina can talk for 18 hours without a break and no one would mind.

I've been in plenty of situations where someone is telling a story that is dragging on but I would never order them to cut to the chase. It seems rude. And, completely unnecessary. Why do that when you can simply stop paying attention?

Especially if you're talking on the phone. How hard is it to interject "Really?" and "No!" while doing dishes or making the bed. That's the considerate way to treat people.

The other day I began telling a friend about the results I got back from the doctor and she told me to cut to the chase. "Fine," I snapped. "I'm going to live."

Then I was explaining about an assignment I'm working on and when I started to get to the part I thought was most interesting, this person said, "Get to the point." "Okay," I said, "The point is: war sucks." They seemed pleased with my brevity.

Is this what it's come to? Have attention spans become so truncated that any verbal communication has to be reduced to bullet points?

I admit, I can get carried away. My father once said, "When I ask you for the time, I don't need the history of Switzerland." But now, I've lost all perspective. The other night I was out to dinner with someone and he asked what happened with a recent break-up. I asked him on a scale of one to ten how much detail he wanted. "Four."

Four? That seemed impossible. But fine. I proceeded. And then, just as I got going he began to wave his finger in the air in circular motions giving me the 'wrap it up' gesture.

I was giving him detail level four and it was still taking too long?

"Forget it," I said.

To make matters worse, I've always been drawn to the cut-to-the-chase type of man. When people ask me what type I'm attracted to I should say: the type who will rush me to get to the end of a story so that he can go back to what he's doing. Like taking a nap.

I went out with someone once who would set an egg timer. I'd have to get to the point before the time ran out. I felt like an athlete in training. The kind of athlete who didn't care about winning.

People love to point out it's the journey, not the destination that matters. So how come that doesn't apply to when I'm telling a story?