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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, December 8, 2003

Women confuse male personal energy conservation with sloth

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By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Long before home computers with automatic power-saver modes, my grandfather had perfected the mid-afternoon shutdown.

He'd sit there on the old sofa, back perfectly straight, holding the morning newspaper up in front of his face, and nobody would guess that he was sleeping until we heard the tell-tale whistle of his nose.

"Just resting my eyes," he'd say, slowly waking to our pokes and giggles. Then he'd turn the page like nothing had happened.

Grandpa was anything but lazy — he kept working years after his official retirement from American Factors — but he was acutely aware that a man's energy wasn't meant to be squandered on trivial things like small talk or thumb-twiddling or, apparently, excessive consciousness.

Indeed, you could argue that the average modern man is an evolutionary wonder of efficiency and personal conservation.

From our hunting, gathering forebears we have inherited the ability to carefully manage our reserves of energy, attention and concentration so that we may spring to action wherever and whenever necessary (provided it's not 7 a.m. on Sunday morning). Who knows when we might be called on to gang-tackle a wooly mammoth or undertake a quest for fire?

In fact, our decision-making processes, our actions and reactions are all dictated by a complex set of protocols and mission-defining questions: Can somebody else do it? Will my wife yell at me? Will I have to stand up? What time is the game?

Consider, where women might spend months carefully considering the most appropriate Christmas gifts for friends and family, we men — so wisely protective of our mental and physiological resources — will dispatch with the entire task in a single quick-steppin' Christmas Eve afternoon. Granted, a 7-Eleven gift pack of Potato Buds, ChapStick and AAA batteries isn't ideal for everyone on your shopping list, but you'll appreciate how well rested we are when it comes time to beat back that marauding horde of Visigoths.

Over the last several months, my fiancee and her attendants have spent countless hours searching for the right dresses, wraps, shoes and jewelry to wear on our wedding day.

My best man Mark and I, on the other hand, secured suits for our half of the party in less time than the average Super Bowl half-time special. We checked three tuxedo shops in an hour and were in and out of the best place — suits fitted, reserved and paid for — before the engine fan in Mark's car could stop spinning.

(Did I mention the Knicks were playing on TV that afternoon?)

Now, while it may be true that there aren't many woolly mammoths tromping around town in need of gang-tackling, and we do in fact have plenty of fire for everyone, and the only goth types we normally see, Visi- or otherwise, hang out in the Baudelaire section at Barnes & Noble, we shouldn't worry that our genetically imprinted desire to pace ourselves is in anyway obsolete.

Just the other day something went awry with my digital cable service and — because I thoughtfully supplemented an unproductive morning with an unproductive afternoon — I was able to leap (O.K., roll) into action immediately. Carefully sizing up the digital snow that was obscuring LeBron vs. Carmelo II, I threw a Tostito at the screen, threatened to kick my TV in the cathode rays, then rolled over and fell asleep. When I woke up the picture was back to normal, thank you very much.

Now imagine if I'd squandered all that energy painting the bathroom, or re-doing the tile, or assembling that bookshelf.

I know, it's scary. I'd better stop writing now.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 535-2461.