First appeared April 25, 2004
Sunday Column: North Country Reflections
Watertown Daily Times
Watertown, NY 13601

(Revised 10/22/06)


In Which I Explain the Fifteen Minute Rule

by Julie G. DeGroat

In the beginning of the world there weren't a lot of people, and the few there were had little in the way of possessions. It was easy for the Earth to lazily glide through the days under its own power and in its own time. Everything moved forward at the same speed, and no one ever noticed a hitch or a left-behind item. As people began to multiply and acquire things, however, the Earth noticed a slight problem. People began to misplace little things, like their stone adzes or their favorite antler buttons. It was irritating, to say the least. So, the Earth enlisted the help of a band of local Woodland Elves to help shift the possessions forward in time along with the people. (One could say these Elves were no longer shiftless, if one were inclined to silly puns. But I’m not, so I won’t.)

This method worked for eons, and nothing was ever misplaced or lost because Earth or the Elves failed to move it forward in a timely fashion. (Some things were lost because of carelessness, such as the time Og lost his flint awl down between two rocks and never found it again. This was not the Elves' fault; they moved that stupid awl forward in time for seven hundred and twenty-nine years, and then decided to heck with it. It doesn't get moved again.) However, as will inevitably happen, more and more people populated the Earth, and more and more possessions were stacked and stored, bundled and boxed, crammed and crated. Even the Elves realized that it was too cumbersome a job to do willy-nilly. Some sort order had to be restored or even more things were going to be lost in the past.

So, they devised the now-famous Fifteen Minute Rule. At the end of fifteen minutes (according to Elvin Theory) everything in the world could be shifted forward in time to be in the present with everything else. (It actually takes a little less than fifteen minutes for the Elves to move everything in the world forward, but they like to take their Very-Berry Coffee Breaks and eat their Merry-Fairy Coffee Cakes, and tend to get sullen if they are overworked. And believe me, if you have any items you truly care about, you do not want to mess with a sullen Woodland Elf.)

Sometimes, of course, they miss a small item (such as scissors, car keys, a recipe, a book, etc.) and it doesn't get forwarded along with everyone and everything else. This means some items are then lost forever. But it also means that some items are merely left fifteen minutes behind, and if the searcher is patient, waits fifteen minutes, and then looks all over again in the very same places, then the missing item is likely to turn up. This sounds ridiculous, but it happens to be true. Next time you have searched the house top to bottom for your car keys, just sit down, have a cup of coffee, wait fifteen minutes, and then go to where you are positive you left them. They will be there, even if you have searched this spot five times previously.

On the rare occasion the item doesn't turn up, suspect Borrowers, which many now theorize may be Woodland Elves who turned renegade, and refused to work for Earth shifting items forward in time. Instead, they delight in sneaking into the slightly past and snitching the items accidentally left behind by the Fifteen Minute Rule. In this case, you will never see your keys again. A word of caution: the Fifteen Minute Rule cannot be held responsible for family members who take your $79.89 Ginghers Scissors and leave them out in the sandpile to rust. When you are missing the very same items over and over (like, your favorite paring knife) and these items turn up in places you know darn well you never left them (like, under your television) then there is just no sense in blaming the overworked Woodland Elves or the Borrowers either.

I'd write more on this subject, but I've lost my pencil again...! Oh, duh. Fifteen Minutes. Right. See you then!