52nd St. & 14th Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11219

Neighborhood: Boro Park, Brooklyn

(The original title “Time is Money” was shortened in the interest of saving both time and money.)

“Time is money,” my ex-wife used to say. Of course she said it mostly when she wanted me to go out and get a second job, and she said it usually from a reclining position on the couch or in the hammock while she was looking through the want ads in Newsday. But I suspect she said it so she wouldn’t have to get off the couch or out of the hammock and find a first job. Another favorite maxim that rings around in my brain is the one that friends often used to console me during the painfully long and costly divorce proceedings: “They can’t get blood from a stone.”

The truth, I discovered in both cases, lies somewhere in the middle. It was after the divorce, in an effort to rebuild my credit and credibility post-bankruptcy and perhaps even recoup some of what my ex-wife and her attorney had taken, that I devised a plan to determine as accurately as possible a ratio for how much money my time was worth. I called it “Time to Money,” which In the interest of saving both time and money I immediately reduced to “TIM to MONY,” and then later shortened to TTM to save even more time and make even more money.

The concept of charging money for one’s time is one that lawyers have been using for years, only they call it “Billable Hours.” An attorney’s $250+ an hour fee as reflected in a client’s monthly bill consists of time actually spent with a client, as well as time spent by a client trying to reach his attorney on the telephone and waiting on hold while the receptionist attempts to locate Mr. Cheatum, who always, no matter the day of the week or the time of the call on any given day, is “in a meeting” or “on another line.” A resourceful legal secretary can rack up more billable hours (TIM) and generate more revenue (MONY) for the firm with a simple, “Mr. Steal is presently in conference with another client. Please hold.” (Click)

This tactic is calculated to keep one client on hold indefinitely and add as much as fifteen minutes (TIM) to a three-minute phone call that will appear as a twenty-minute “tele-conference” on the firm’s next monthly invoice to the client, thereby generating money for the firm and earning a substantial Christmas bonus for the secretary.

I learned that billable hours (TIM) can also include the time lawyers spend driving in their BMWs, Jaguars and/or Mercedes to court, together with all the time spent in court reading the newspaper while waiting for the judge to arrive late at court — on average about an hour — before the legal process can actually engage. But the best billable hours, I discovered, come from the time spent by an attorney inside the courthouse on the cell phone calling the office about other clients. These expenses, in addition to the actual cost of the cell phone service, can and will be charged to both clients, the one in court awaiting the late arrival of the judge, and the one who is the subject of the cell phone call. This is known as the “Double-TIM Bonus”! And there is no end to the possibilities. By simply inquiring about more clients during that one cell phone call any attorney, from the comfort of his seat inside the courthouse, can easily turn the long wait for justice into a “Multi-TIM Bonanza”!

Since I am not a lawyer my time is not worth $250 an hour. So in arriving at my personal TTM rate I settled on $72.00 an hour, less than my last year’s hourly teaching salary and about ten times more than the minimum wage. In arriving at that figure I took into consideration my years of education, my Masters Degree in English, which, my wife was quick to point out at every opportunity, with a little more initiative on my part, all those expensive extra graduate credits could have been parlayed into a Ph.D. and earned me more money. Of course with a lot more effort, I could have changed careers and made some real money, which she and her attorney would have split eventually. And seventy-two divided by the number of minutes in an hour, amounts to $1.20 a minute, or 2¢ for every second saved and deposited in my TIM Account. Cha-ching!

Here are examples of how I have optimized my TIM to earn more MONY. Using pre-stick postage stamps instead of the ones that require the application of personal moisture saves one second, or 2¢ per stamp. A pre-stick envelope flap and pre-printed, pre-stick return address label save another 5 seconds and that amounts to a 12¢ grand total (5 x 2¢ = 10¢ + 2¢ for the stamp) for each letter. Depending on the number of pieces mailed during the course of the day/week/month/year, those pennies add up.

Now consider meals. I have reduced my cooking time by replacing things termed “old fashioned” with “instant,” “quick” or “jiffy,” including Instant Breakfast, Quick Oats, Jiffy Mix and Jiffy Pop. Pre-measured coffee packets that yield only one cup per serving, like using tea bags instead of loose tealeaves, save TIM as well as MONY by cutting down on waste. But I must admit that there have been mornings when I’ve passed up a much-needed second cup in the interest pocketing some extra change.

I have further optimized my use of kitchen TIM by switching from hard-boiled eggs to those that are softer and runny, and I have learned to eat my steaks rare, although I prefer them well done. From a purely theoretical standpoint my “frost-free” refrigerator has, over the years, added hours to my life and put hundreds of dollars into my pocket, even though I never really defrosted my old “frost-full” unit. And I have to admit that non-stick pans are a TIM savings boon. Besides not having to scrape the pans, properly seasoned non-stick fry pans don’t even have to be washed, since everything inside, including food particles, slides out with a simple twist of the wrist!

Outside the house there is a TIM gold mine waiting to be exploited. And by doing just that I have been able to amass a virtual MONY fortune. It started with the automatic garage door opener I had installed and named “Viagra,” because now I can get it up any time I want. Of course I had to factor in the cost of the unit and labor, but now every time I pull up the driveway I don’t have to get out of the car, I save fifteen seconds and deposit 30¢ into my TIM vault. I often I drive up and down the driveway unnecessarily many TIMs just to make more MONY! At the rate I am going the garage door opener will be paid off in two years, and then I will start showing a real profit.

On the road my E-Z Pass speeds me through tollbooths — except at the Verrazano Bridge. To speed me along on my highway journeys I recently purchased an “Inflata-Man” I have named Tim from eBay (thereby saving the TIM it would have taken me to shop for one in a crowded mall). I keep Tim in the back seat of the car and drag him into the front so I can use the HOV lane whenever traffic is particularly heavy. I save lots more TIM with Tim!

These days I only patronize businesses with drive-thru windows or revolving doors. Jiffy Lube changes my motor oil. I used One Hour Martinizing Dry Cleaners until I switched my wardrobe to wash and wear items that need no ironing at all. The 59 Minute Photo Shop saves me a minute ($1.20) every time I drop off my film. I even switched to an on-line doctor so I don’t need to waste time in a crowded waiting room with sick people, and I am looking into an online dentist as well. Remote controls, speed dial, re-dial, Crazy Glue and anything Velcro have all gone a long way in adding to my undeclared wealth. And come April 15th you can be sure I will use the IRS short form instead of itemizing my taxes.

There has been one drawback in my economic scheme — my ex-wife recently brought me back to Family Court to recalculate what her $250 an hour attorney called my “enhanced net worth.” His very persuasive argument, employing my very own TIM calculations, resulted in Family Court imputing my earning potential and adding an additional $20,000 to my income. On the basis of my enhanced TTM ratio the Court has increased my monthly alimony payments and ordered me to send every year her a check for exactly fifty percent of my total TIM is MONY windfall profits — with the right of judicial review!

Time, it turns out, really is money, as my ex-wife was fond of saying. And I have learned that they can get blood from a stone with very little effort!

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*This story is written from the perspective of the author’s former roommate. The names have been changed but all events [...]