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Four Minutes 

  You need to factor in those four minutes, at least once, because it’s part of the route

Barring traffic, the way home from Lakewood takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Plus four minutes.

You need to factor in those four minutes, at least once, because it’s part of the route.

It happens when you exit the Garden State Parkway and reach the fork between Perth Amboy and Smith Street. At that point, you’re supposed to turn right onto Smith Street. That is, toward Perth Amboy. That is, to the 440N, toward the US9… you think.

You’ve only traveled this route several dozen times before; how can you be sure?

It doesn’t help that Waze is urging you to “Keep right, then, keep right.”

Naturally, you keep left.

The first time this happens, you panic. You’re sure this wrong turn will lead you all the way to Kentucky with no chance to turn back along the way. Then you realize the detour only delayed you by four minutes. You figure, “Four minutes? Big deal. Let’s do it again.”

You do the Perth Amboy/Smith Street circle five times, netting a substantial 20-minute delay.

Because seriously, there are no blinking arrows pointing where you need to go (unless you count Waze, but, hello, Waze, are you blinking to keep right, now? At the previous fork? At the next one? Could you, like, talk?). Does Perth Amboy expect you to make a split-second decision that will determine right from — you wouldn’t say wrong, how could you know? — but definitely left?

The simple thing to do would be to blame Waze. Or even the nondescript sign that says Smith Street, for being so nondescript. But the truth is, this is your exercise in decision-making. And in second-guessing yourself. And in eating yourself up over poor judgment for the longest, most agonizing four minutes of your life, because four minutes on the wrong road feels like four hours.

That’s why you hate Perth Amboy so much. Perth Amboy forces you to make decisions, and you hate making decisions. More than anything, you hate making split-second decisions. You prefer to mull over your options until they’re so mulled out you don’t even remember what the options are and why you have to decide at all.

It happens when you shop. Size 5 or 6 for a size 4 five-year-old for next season? What happens if the dress will be too big and it won’t be possible to alter it? What if she’ll grow a lot and it’ll be too small? “The store is closing,” the saleslady says, accelerating the pressure. “Do you want to pay?” If only the store wouldn’t have both sizes in stock!

It happens when you’re getting dressed to go to a wedding. The black dress with the belt, the black dress without the belt, or the black dress, you know, that black dress? Will I be too elegant, too casual, too daring, too typical? “Ready?” your husband asks sweetly.

It happens when you need to choose paint colors. OC-18 or OC-19? What percentage? You conference call your sisters as the painter holds you at brush-point.

It happens when you pack. Which headbands for the girls? Long or short for the baby? Which Shabbos tops for the boys? Do we need spare clothing in case they get dirty? (You know the answer. If you take along spares, they won’t get dirty. If you don’t, they will.) At one point, you need to zip that suitcase shut. You have an hour-and-15-minute drive ahead of you, plus several times four minutes.

So you label yourself an indecisive person.

Although really, you’re not an indecisive person at all. You may tend to sweat the small stuff — Perth Amboy or Smith Street, quick, help — but when it comes to big things, you don’t even consider two options.

When you meet your spouse for the first time, you say yes. No agonizing. No qualms. This is it and there is no other.

When it comes to naming your child, you just name him or her. With the only obvious choice. Mazel tov.

“This is our house,” you announce as soon as you walk through the door of the 849th house you’ve gone to view. Not because it’s gorgeous and not because it’s huge, just because you know. Same way you knew that the previous 848 houses you saw were not.

Big ticket items? This appliance, that sheitel, here’s my credit card info, thanks.

Will there be fallout for these big decisions? Maybe. But you’ll deal with it, no problem.

The small stuff?

You can’t risk it. A wrong exit, a wrong size dress, a hair accessory that doesn’t match… When that happens, you berate yourself. You feel the regret so deeply, you can’t stomach it. You wish to turn back the clock.

By four whole entire minutes.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 879)

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