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How Long Is Five Minutes?

Updated on February 6, 2020

Depending on your viewpoint and activity, time has different meanings

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Famous last words. Changing clocks for daylight savings time. Some people think they lose time, others think they gain time.Pretty helps you think of time differently.Sundials are pretty, but I can't tell time with them. I don't have the knack.Cuckoo clocks are an acquired taste. My father once shot the cuckoo for waking him up from a sound sleep.They say clock watching makes time go slower. But it doesn't really. You are just more aware of time in the present.Watching minute by minute pass by is excruciating!
Famous last words.
Famous last words. | Source
Changing clocks for daylight savings time. Some people think they lose time, others think they gain time.
Changing clocks for daylight savings time. Some people think they lose time, others think they gain time. | Source
Pretty helps you think of time differently.
Pretty helps you think of time differently. | Source
Sundials are pretty, but I can't tell time with them. I don't have the knack.
Sundials are pretty, but I can't tell time with them. I don't have the knack. | Source
Cuckoo clocks are an acquired taste. My father once shot the cuckoo for waking him up from a sound sleep.
Cuckoo clocks are an acquired taste. My father once shot the cuckoo for waking him up from a sound sleep. | Source
They say clock watching makes time go slower. But it doesn't really. You are just more aware of time in the present.
They say clock watching makes time go slower. But it doesn't really. You are just more aware of time in the present. | Source
Watching minute by minute pass by is excruciating!
Watching minute by minute pass by is excruciating! | Source

It should have been an easy question!

My eight year old granddaughter Katie is visiting with me here in Florida this week with my daughter. On Sunday, we are all going to drive up to Virginia to vacation for a couple of weeks at the beach. We love it there and right now, everyone is in "anticipation mode," including me. Vacation can't get here fast enough and I'm just so glad I don't have to drive.

When Katie and I spend one-on-one time together, she doesn’t usually want to do the same activities that I do with the other grandchildren, like going to feed the ducks at the lake or going to a skateboard park. If other children are with us, reluctantly she’ll go.

But for her "Granny" time, she likes me to sit with her to watch a well-plotted movie (no cartoons for her!) or maybe take a trip to the library to spend quality time with "real books" instead of reading virtual books on her laptop or her Kindle.

Our face to face conversations are more like marathon discussions where one topic will continue over several days. I swear there's a 40 year old living in that 8 year old body. She doesn’t waste time talking about frivolous topics; she’s a deep thinker. She’ll consult the computer for answers to her questions before she will ask a human. Oh, but when she does ask ... yes, I do sometimes cringe.

I tend to brace myself because her questions sometimes require me to spend some time clicking through encyclopedia websites looking for the answer. Usually I call out for my son Cameron who lives with me, because he's the brainiac here.

If she asks me a "theory" question, well ... let's just say that I am not shy about admitting that my 130 IQ is no match for her 165 IQ.

So this week, out of the blue she asked me:

"Granny, how long is your five minutes?"

Finally, I thought, a question I could answer without consulting Wikipedia!

Note to Readers:

Katie speaking appears in bold type with quotation marks.

Granny speaking (that's me!) appears in regular type with quotation marks. Bulleted text and parentheses are my commentary.

"Katie, five minutes is exactly five minutes."

After about 10 seconds, Katie said, "Not so, Granny, and I can prove it to you."

  • (Oh, Lord, my short-lived relief was over. She was going to give my brain another turbo-workout.)

I explained: "Katie, five minutes really IS exactly five minutes! Five minutes in London England is the same as five minutes in Sydney Australia or in New York City. The actual time on the clock is different because of time zones, but five minutes passes in exactly five minutes in each place."

Time Differences


"I know, but how long is it for you? Exactly how long does your five minutes take to pass?"

"Well, it passes differently for each person. Five minutes can seem like an eternity, or five minutes can feel like it's just one minute. It's still only five minutes."

  • (Obviously with this question, my five minutes was going to last at least one hour.)

"But you just said five minutes is five minutes.

"If it's the same amount of time for each person, how come each person doesn’t experience five minutes as five minutes?"

"Ok, I see now. Well, it depends on what activity you are doing in those five minutes and if you find it enjoyable or not. If I am waiting in a very long line at the supermarket, five minutes can seem like an hour. But if I spend the time flipping through a magazine from the checkout racks or if I have someone to talk to in order to pass the time, five minutes passes a little more quickly."

The Clocks Are Set 5 Minutes Apart

cropped and altered from a photo with 4 clocks
cropped and altered from a photo with 4 clocks | Source

"But you are still not answering my question. How long is five minutes for you?"

"My five minutes is different depending on what I’m doing. If I call a utility company on the phone and they put me on hold for five minutes, that five minutes can feel as long as twenty minutes."

"Before you get ticked and hang up."

(she laughs)

"Right, but if I'm spending the time with my granddaughter, every five minutes is fleeting."

"Good answer, Granny, but not THE answer."

"Do you mean there's ONE answer to this question?"

"Maybe not one, but there is an answer. Want to try again?"

  • (She's obviously enjoying this, so I decided to turn the tables.)

"Hey, let’s look at it from your prospective to see how long it takes for five minutes to pass for you."

"Granny, we are talking about YOUR five minutes. Let's try a little exercise. We'll talk about something for 5 minutes and at the end, we'll evaluate ourselves to see if the five minutes passed quickly or slowly for each of us."

  • (She set my kitchen egg timer for 5 minutes. I was sure she had a point, I just wasn't grasping it. I said I would pick the topic, so I purposely picked one I knew was enjoyable to her - our upcoming vacation. For the five minutes to pass slowly for her, she had to be a listener which meant I had to monopolize the conversation to keep her from participating. I apologize in advance for the droll.)


When my son was five, he wanted to know how to tell AM from PM with an hourglass.
When my son was five, he wanted to know how to tell AM from PM with an hourglass. | Source

Anticipated Vacation

"Ok, Katie, I'll start. Let’s say you, your parents and your sisters are really looking forward to going to Virginia Beach for vacation."

"We are!"

"I know! All of us are excited. So now, everyone is packed, and all you kids are waiting in the car as your parents spend five minutes to run down their checklist to make sure all the luggage and boxes of supplies are packed in the car.

"To you and your sisters, it might seem like this is taking a very long time, but it's only five minutes. The reason it might seem longer is because all of you are in 'waiting mode.'

"When you are in “traveling mode," the actual two hour drive to the beach can seem like the longest ride of your life, but it's still only two hours. It’s seems long because you can’t wait to get to the beach to start your vacation.

"But when it’s time to go home, you'll notice that your parents loaded the luggage in what seemed like the quickest five minutes ever. The same two hour drive going home passed so quickly that before you know it, you are back in your home, getting ready to start school on the following Monday."

"Groan. I wish we only went to school for 6 months at a time. Ok, Granny, nice story but what's the moral of it?"

"Because you have high anticipation about getting to your vacation destination, a place you really want to go, the two hours it takes to get to there will pass by slowly, so that two hours feels much longer.

"Because you are filled with dread about returning to school, a place you really don't want to go, the two hours it takes to get home will pass by quickly, so that the two hours seemed like just an hour when it was the same two hours.

"Anything we don't want to do, the date and time creeps up on us very quickly. Things we want to do and are looking forward to, the date and time seems to take forever to arrive."

How Long Is Your Five Minutes?

Made using Funny Times Template
Made using Funny Times Template | Source


"Ok, time's up. How did that five minutes feel to you, Granny?"

"It went by very quickly for me. How about you?"

"I thought you'd never get done talking!"

"I have another moral of the story for you, Katie. If you are participating in an activity, you don't notice the time passing. If you are on the other end of the activity, you notice the actual time passing much more slowly because you want the activity to end."

"So you're saying if I am busy, I won't notice time passing so much?"


"I knew that! Really, I did!"

(At the look of disbelief on my face, she kept saying it over and over.)

"C'mon! Granny, I totally knew that."

There's always a reason ....

"So Katie, what happened? What made you ask this question?"

"You need to check your computer, Granny, especially your Google Hangouts."

Autistic Temple Grandin's mother tells about raising her daughter

TTY phones, voice to text


Google Hangout

Google Hangout is Google's answer to a glorified chat room. I use it to create a place to be able to talk in "real" time to my 5 children and 7 of my 10 grandchildren.

I'm not on Facebook or any social networks like other people, and I don't use any of the instant messenger mail programs. Google Hangout takes care of all my needs with text and video.

Although my speech is perfect, I have been deaf in one ear for most of my married life, which got worse about 20 years ago after a road rage accident. What started out as 30% loss is now 95% deafness.

With technology, I can hear most normal range voices, so I have a lot of experience using assistive devices. All my children have TTY phones in their homes so we can communicate. Using our TTY phones are easy but if I can avoid using the phone, I do. If one party starts "talking" before the other is done, one can have their text cut off and they have to repeat.

If you look at the photos to the right, you may agree with me that the idea behind the TTY phone and the computer are the same concept. The phone changes voice to text but they are both still based in text. I think typing on the computer is faster for all of us in the Hangout and it's nice because I can add anyone to a Hangout to join in conversation. Lots of times, there may be more than just two of us "talking."

Kids would rather text

Kids rather text and talk using the computer or their cellphones, so I'm more than glad to oblige. When typing, we don't have to repeat ourselves. It's the one place they will never hear me say "What did you say?" lol

My daughter, Katie's mother, and I talk every Tuesday after her Bible Study. Because she and Katie are here with me this week, we didn't use a Hangout.

I talk to Katie every Sunday after her Sunday School.

So when Katie said to check my computer, a quick check of my Google home page shows I left two Hangouts open, which is unusual for me. One was from Friday, August 1, 2014 with my son who lives in California and one was from Sunday, August 3, 2014 with Katie who lives in Virginia.

The last text my son wrote was: Mom, hold on. Christa (his wife) wants to talk to you. So I left the Hangout open, expecting Christa to type.

I guess I'm still 'hanging.'

The one with Katie says: Katie, I have to go put my roast in the oven. I'll be back in five minutes.

Ugh! Famous last words.

I thought this was the funniest 23 seconds I've spent in a long time, which only proves one thing. I really, really need a vacation. BADLY.

About the book "The Reason I Jump" featured in the Amazon capsule below this paragraph

My granddaughter Katie is not autistic. She's just very bright. But my son Cameron (now an adult) is autistic savant and when we were raising him, I wish there had been more books written to be able to understand better. We did just fine, but it would have been nice to have a smoother road.

This book has been endorsed by many celebrities and has over 1300 positive reviews on Amazon. The publisher's blurb says it takes the reader inside the mind of a 13 year old autistic boy, as told by himself. My friends who have read this book say it lives up to its reputation and it is excellent.

My daughter is reading it and passing her copy to her sisters. She is raving about it and says there is much that is like her brother Cameron. Since I have to wait too long for the book to come to me, I just bought my copy and I will be reading it on vacation. Even if you aren't raising an autistic child, you might know one, so pick up a copy of this book.

I'm not sharing mine. lol

The Reason I Jump - As Told By A 13 Year Old Autistic Boy.

The message to the exercise

I don't know why I didn't return to the Hangout with Katie. Too much time has gone by for me to remember my movements of that day, outside of cooking a roast.

My notes say that I talked to my husband Joe (he's working in Virginia) and several grandchildren and children that day in separate Hangouts, but it seems I just forgot to come back to finish talking with Katie.

Katie and her mother arrived here on Monday night to stay for the week. On Sunday, we'll all drive up to Virginia Beach for our vacation.

Katie, that little minx, never said a word when she arrived here that I left her hanging in the Hangout.

Leaving Katie at the kitchen table typing on her laptop, I went to my computer to close my Hangouts.

When I sat down at my computer, 8 year old Katie had typed this text into our Hangout:

"Granny, the real message to the exercise was: If you are going to hangout in the Hangout, don't forget who you left hanging for five minutes, because five minutes means something different to everyone."

I typed back to her:

"Indeed, it does. Lesson learned."

Two days, ugh

Made with Funny Times Template
Made with Funny Times Template | Source


"Time" Cartoon Strip - by Rachael O'Halloran 2014

"How Long Is Your Five Minutes" Cartoon Strip - by Rachael O'Halloran 2014

© 2014 Rachael O'Halloran


Submit a Comment
  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    #OhMe, Yes, it is never a dull moment with Katie and when she gets together with my son Cameron, look out! Thanks for reading, commenting, and for the follow. I'm glad to follow you back.

  • OhMe profile image

    Nancy Tate Hellams 

    6 years ago from Pendleton, SC

    I loves reading this. We can learn so much from our grandchildren. Grandparentimg is quite an adventure, isn't it?

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    #The Examiner-1

    "Getting lost in library" - my granddaughter is just like me in that respect. For me, it started when I was a kid, and continues even now! lol I never fault anyone for getting lost in the stacks, because it is time well spent.

  • The Examiner-1 profile image

    The Examiner-1 

    6 years ago

    I looked back through them and it was not there, so either I did not post it or completely to leave a message after I read.

    I understand getting lost in the library. I would do that when I was older, it is easy to forget time while you are reading.


  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    #The Examiner-1

    I apologize if you left a comment in the last two weeks. My daughter-in-law (who isn't real familiar with HP) was moderating the comments for me while I was on vacation since I didn't have my computer with me and she may have overlooked it. She wasn't replying, just moderating them due to spammers.

    It is true that five minutes means something different to everyone, depending on what they have going on in their life at the moment or on their concept of time. I have one grandchild who can't understand how long five minutes is when he is put in the naughty corner and another grandchild who goes to the library to return books (just to drop off!), says I'll be out in five minutes and gets lost for an hour. The idea of one minute is even more exaggerated to some people and can go on, like you said, for 10 minutes or me.

    Thank you for voting, pinning, sharing this article and for your comment.

  • The Examiner-1 profile image

    The Examiner-1 

    6 years ago


    I read this a while ago and I cannot believe that I did not leave a comment, I do not know why I did that. Unless I wrote it but I forgot to click 'Post'. Anyway, that was funny - but true. It happens to many of us. How many times have we heard, "Please hold for a minute." and end up waiting about 10 minutes for someone. Or getting the hang-up. Frustrating. I voted this up, shared and pinned it.


  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    annart, breakfastpop and DDE

    Katie is both challenging and delightful and our conversations get better with age. Thank you for your comments.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States


    Up to 3 years ago, Katie wanted to be a math teacher. When she started at her new school in 2011, she announced that she wants to be a cytogeneticist. She hasn't changed her mind. She goes to Cora Kelly in Virginia and will be going to Jefferson's STEM in 2 years for high school. She'll have some other young students for company but I worry about the age difference. She can do circles around me and her parents, so I guess I shouldn't worry. lol Thank you for your comment.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    Hello Everyone, Thank you so much for your comments while I was on vacation. I didn't have a computer with me, so my daughter-in-law clicked approve on all of them so that's why you saw your comment and no reply from me.

    #tirelesstraveler - Katie's teachers are phenomenal. She is in accelerated classes and has skipped two grades (which I don't approve of but that's what they do). At the rate she is going, she will be challenging high school teachers in three years. Your 2 1/2 year old H.J. will be pretty interesting, so get ready for a great ride!

    #vkwok, thank you for reading.

    #mothersofnations - She is a great girl, even if she does get to put one over on her Granny once in a while.

    #teaches12345 - I'll bet your household is just as lively! Thanks for reading.

    #MsDora - After having spent nearly two weeks with Katie, my brain needs another vacation. She truly is a remarkable child. Thank you for reading.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    6 years ago from The Caribbean

    Great story and you're blessed with such smart conversation from your granddaughter. You teach and learn from each other!

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    6 years ago

    I have your granddaughter's twin in my home! What a bright young child and so very creative. Treasure the moments, dear lady.

  • mothersofnations profile image

    Mothers of Nations 

    6 years ago

    That was so much fun to read! Your granddaughter is indeed very bright and I know you must absolutely adore her! God bless all of you!

  • vkwok profile image

    Victor W. Kwok 

    6 years ago from Hawaii

    Thanks for sharing this article, Rachael! Thumbs up!

  • tirelesstraveler profile image

    Judy Specht 

    6 years ago from California

    Oh dear, I can already hear H.J. having this conversation when he is 8; he's only 2 1/2. Love bright children who challenge us. Hope Katie has teachers who challenge her. Happy vacation!

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    Thank you to all for your comments. We're packing up the van now so I'll be on and off this site as wifi allows over the next two to three weeks. I'll be in the company of 3 brainiacs and will likely need another vacation when I get home. It will be good to see everyone though. All comments and well wishes are appreciated. Thank you. :)

  • breakfastpop profile image


    6 years ago

    I am not the least bit surprised that your granddaughter is charming and brilliant. All I have to do is look at the Grandma! Up and totally awesome!

  • annart profile image

    Ann Carr 

    6 years ago from SW England

    Up etc and shared! What an amazing story and so well told (it could have been confusing but wasn't)!

    That granddaughter of yours is amazing; what a great thinker and such humour too. My 3 year old maybe hasn't got quite such a high IQ (I don't know) but she runs circles round me often and is also a deep thinker with lots of 'what if....?' questions. They have much to teach us, these little ones. To be able to think about an abstract concept like time in such an abstract way is brilliant.

    Thoroughly entertaining!

    Hope you have a great vacation and look forward to reading more when you get back.


  • DDE profile image

    Devika Primić 

    6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

    Wow! This is an amazing truth! You have such an intelligent granddaughter.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    6 years ago from USA

    Nurture that brilliant girl and encourage her to go into a STEM field. She'll turn her field inside out, whatever she does. I love that she has no qualms about teaching Granny little lessons. She's gonna be a hard one to keep up with.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States


    A week?? I thought the hour was grueling. Geez, I think I might have called out sick from your class for the week. lol

    Katie is very bright, and she knows it. Besides my son Cameron and my granddaughter Katie, there are 3 more in the family like them. All are very intelligent adults and have inquisitive minds. I still cringe if they get me alone and ask a question, but they are very entertaining.

    I'm glad you enjoyed this article. Katie read it this morning and gave it her stamp of approval.

    My daughter (her mother), on the other hand, is still roaring that I let Katie get one over on me, because she knew that all Katie wanted to do was point out that she had been left hanging in the Hangout.

    Thanks for stopping by to read my article. We are leaving for vacation on Sunday and will be back in 2 weeks.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    This child is only eight????? I could have taught a one-week unit on that question alone. What a perceptive and totally brilliant child. My goodness, I enjoyed this hub immensely. Thank you for sharing that conversation with us.

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States


    She sure did get me good. Strung me along for almost an hour. She and my son Cameron get along well and sometimes I think it is a conspiracy. He used to do similar tricks to both Joe and I when he was growing up. We should be used to it by now, but we are getting older and they are getting smarter. :( Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

  • RachaelOhalloran profile imageAUTHOR

    Rachael O'Halloran 

    6 years ago from United States

    #Jodah, She's a tough customer, I'll tell you. Thanks for reading :)

  • bravewarrior profile image

    Shauna L Bowling 

    6 years ago from Central Florida

    Rachael, your granddaughter is a hoot. She got you good, didn't she? You're right - there's a 40 year old in that 8 year old body. She's so intelligent! The Google Hangout question threw me for a loop and gave me an out loud chuckle. She's got much more patience than I do. I would have asked you about the 5 minutes long before she did. And they way she brought it up! What a clever mind!

  • Jodah profile image

    John Hansen 

    6 years ago from Queensland Australia

    I hope you learnt your lesson Rachael. That's one wise eight year old. Great hub. Voted up.


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