I reproved my ten year old son tonight when he was stuffing his face with popcorn, both fists employed busily. “Hey, Borg,” I said, “we don’t eat popcorn that way! You need to be civilized and take only what you can with one finger and thumb at a time.”
“Seriously, Mama!” That being the standard phrase to express incredulity or just plain disagreement. “I am conserving Therbligs, you know. This is much more efficient.” It was my turn to be unenlightened. My thirty-eight year old brain couldn’t come up with a definition for “Therbligs” or even a reference to them. “What?” I asked the obvious, “are Therbligs?”
He was ready for me. “They are the 18 motions that the Cheaper by the Dozen people studied when they did their efficiency evaluations in factories. It’s Gilbreth, spelled backwards. See, when I eat popcorn like this, I am conserving motions. It’s more efficient this way.” He was really on a roll now, and I knew that he had just finished reading “Cheaper by the Dozen” for the third time last week because I found it out under the tree that he climbs to become invisible while he is reading. I settled in to listen.
“There is even a Therblig for thinking about things and often if you do that first, you can save a lot of the other steps. That’s why I think so much.” I wondered if he was thinking about the most efficient popcorn eating method when I asked him to bring the bag of 5 dozen eggs in to the house and he let them sit in the hot Suburban all afternoon. But I digress. After he had made his case for eating popcorn in great gobbling fistfuls, I made my case.
“Someday,” I said. He sighed gustily and settled in to listen. “Someday you will be sitting with your girlfriend, eating popcorn, and when she sees you stuffing it in like that, she will tell you good-bye politely and you won’t ever see her again.” He was not convinced. Because obviously a ten year old boy will never have a girlfriend and it only makes sense to eat popcorn like a caveman to stave off that awful calamity.
“Are you saying I may not ever eat this way? Ever?”
“Only on the far side of the moon, when you are all by yourself.”
“Okay,” he agreed. “Only where not even astronauts can see me.”
We called it a truce.