"Are you ready?"
"Just a sec."
We've all heard or said it, haven't we? We use the contracted form of second to indicate a brief amount of time. However, I have had to rethink that after watching several nights of Olympic competitions.
The ancient Greeks would have had no comprehension of the way technology has entered their games. I agonized with the competitor who learned that four hundredths of a second kept her from the medal podium. She said, over and over, "I am trying to digest that four-hundredths of a second." I agreed with her. Nothing in my life seems to enable me to understand just what that might be.
The TV commentators commiserate about someone, once a medal hopeful but now relegated to 7th or 8th place. As I study the numerical results, I realize that that "loser" was only a fraction of a second behind the bronze medalist.
To what have we come when we can so divide seconds that a mechanical clock can register something that human experience cannot replicate? It is all part of that elusive concept which is time and which marches across our lives with no help from us. The Olympics have deepened my understanding too.
Those marathon distance races across snow-covered landscapes are about as exciting as watching paint dry, but the agony on the faces of the participants turn them into humanly recognizable actions. I have seen so many preliminary heats that I have actually lost track of when the real event is to occur. Some of this is due to the syncopated choices of the broadcast network. It decides what we shall see. I keep reminding myself that 9 hours separate us from Sochi. The winners are all safely in their beds getting ready for the next day's action against a time-sensitive clock.
Every four years, winter or summer, we are transported to another world, meet new young faces and become part of their struggles against sometimes better competitors whom they had never before met.
Swimming pool or ski slope, swim trunks or ski suit, there is only one constant -- the second clock that retains its ability to split itself into infinitesimal moments. "Just a sec" is gold or heartbreak.