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Pins And Needles: Slow Talk

...In those days, slow was slower than it is today. No one could, or would, so they said, run a mile in less than four minutes. Cars moved slowly enough that even a child could read Burma Shave signs on the side of the road, and on a hot day when I opened my grandmotherís cooler to finger the ice, the drips were a long time coming...

Gloria MacKay remembers her childhood days, when parents advocated the virtues of slowness.

Gloria regularly broadcast on an Everett, Washington State, USA radio station http://www.kser.org/ To read more of her columns please click on Pins and Needles in the menu on this page. For maximum, and guaranteed, pleasure they should be read slowly.

'Slow' was a virtue parents used to teach their children. My dad was always telling me to slow down: I moved around the house too fast; I ate too fast; worst of all, I talked too fast.

In the evening he would sink into his overstuffed chair, pick up the newspaper, fold it, deliberately, so the front page was on top, and settle in without a rustle for a long, slow read. I would take this as my signal to talk, and since I had a lot to say, I talked fast.

ĎSlow down, child,í he sighed, looking over his glasses, chin on his chest. When my words kept bursting like pop corn out of a kettle, he would slowly remove his glasses and slowly but more energetically repeat, 'For Godís sake, child, slow down.'

In those days, slow was slower than it is today. No one could, or would, so they said, run a mile in less than four minutes. Cars moved slowly enough that even a child could read Burma Shave signs on the side of the road, and on a hot day when I opened my grandmotherís cooler to finger the ice, the drips were a long time coming.

Slowing down is something parents donít emphasize today; families donít have time to be slow. Parents keep two vehicles humming: to and from school (the bus is too slow); to and from lessons, of one thing or another; to and from practices, for one sport or another. Since doctors now preach that hurrying is bad for our health, is seems peculiar that the pleasure of slowing down is one of the few advantages we donít choose to give our children.

I recently read (slowly, of course, my dad did not approve of speed reading) that talking fast is also a health hazard, often associated with the Type A personality - that dreaded powder keg of tension and stress.

A group of heart patients were asked to read the United States Constitution out loud, twice, once quickly and once slowly. When they read quickly their blood pressures climbed and their hearts beat faster than when they slowed their reading down. The final word is not in, but it looks like my dad was right to make me slow down, although he was not concerned for my health. He wanted to hear what I said, and read the paper at the same time.

My dad did not push slow food the way he did slow talking, probably because we did not know what fast food was. The only eating out we were used to was an occasional Sunday stop at the Triple X in south Seattle. You didnít have to get out of your car, but it wasnít really fast food. My dad rolled down his window, a pert waitress on roller skates took our order and skated it back on a tray which hooked over the open window. Sometime it took a long time to get served, but the food was never defined by its speed. It was a Sunday afternoon treat, fast or slow.

'Slow food' as defined by some, mean anything that takes so long to eat it is calorically self-limiting. Take nuts. While the average snacker devours twenty cashews a minute, she downs only eight pistachio nuts, because of the time it takes to break open the shells: pistachio is a slow food Ė along with celery, artichokes, barbecued ribs, steamed clams... and pomegranates, too. After an experience eating a meatball sub sandwich while driving on the freeway during rush hour, I would certainly add that to my list. Slow... and dangerous, as well.

Speaking of slow chewing, a new chewing gum called Brain Gum is supposed to improve our memories and help us concentrate. To be effective, a person should start out chewing two pieces for a half an hour three times a day. Along with an ample assortment of slow food this could keep the health conscious chewing from morning to night.

I doubt if my dad would have tried it. It is rather expensive, and I know he would not have shared it with me. He didnít like me to have gum even if was free. I chewed too fast. Besides, he would have said that forgetting is just very slow thinking - which just might be the next health fad, along with slow food and slow talking. I can hear him mumbling now. 'For Godís sakes child, slow down. Youíre thinking too fast.'


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