Strange that the time savings are not greater. The microwave oven is one of the modern objects that convey the most elemental feeling of power over the passing seconds. You watch those seconds, after all, as they tick past on the digital display. If you suffer from hurry sickness in its most advanced stages, you may find yourself punching eighty-eight seconds instead of ninety because it is faster to tap the same digit twice. You face new dilemmas: does standing at the microwave for a minute and a half make you feel that you are wasting time? Will you be able to apply these time savings to your chores, your obligations, your assignments? "Ah, let them go," Randall Jarrell wrote, while not looking through the window of a microwave;

you needn't mind.
The soul has no assignments, neither cooks
Nor referees: it wastes its time.
It wastes its time.

Fine, easy for him to say, but is a minute and a half long enough for the soul to make a quick phone call or run to the next room? It's surprising what can be packed into eighty-eight seconds. If you just stay and stare through the oven window, time leaps forward before your eyes. You see the food coddle or steam preternaturally fast. You remember a Steven Wright joke: "I put instant coffee in my microwave oven and almost went back in time."

  • Steven Wright's magnificent, hypercompressed humor is all over the Web. Here's a possible place to start. Wright's delivery is slow, but the humor is, in a crucial sense, fast.
  • If you're spending time worrying about the Year 2000 problem and your microwave oven, you could read this sober assessment.