Introducing the one-hour rule

Laura K. Silver is a trustee of the Jewish Light who writes a blog for the paper’s website ( Laura is married and the mother of two middle school age children.

By Laura K. Silver

The end of the school year and the beginning of summer means ceremonies…lots and lots of ceremonies. I like a good ceremony or recital or performance or competition as much as the next person, but they all need to come with some parameters.

My husband — and I mean this in the kindest way — has the attention span of a gnat when it comes to these things. (For the record, he preferred I use 4-year-old, but gnat is more accurate. Sorry, my love.)  Five minutes into a performance at the Fabulous Fox and he’s checking to see how much longer until the fabulous intermission. Sitting next to him, I’m resigned to seeing the glow of his iPhone every 10 minutes showing him the current time.  After intermission, I have come to expect either the continued intermittent glow of the light or, in its absence, light snoring. This is for a professional performance. For an amateur performance during the daytime, it’s everything I can do to keep him in his seat.  

He is not alone.  More often than not, as I look around the room, whether at a dance recital, a school award ceremony, a swim meet or even an adult’s only event,  after a certain amount of time, adults are fidgeting, playing with their phones, hushing squirming children, even reluctantly giving said children their phones just to keep them quiet. The ubiquitous, unspoken question permeates the room. When is this going to end?  

I’ve been on both sides of the aisle, as participant and as audience.  As a child, I was a decent pianist. While I am not Carnegie Hall material, I worked my way up from beginning the recitals to being the closer. When I first began my lessons, I remember being nervous, but it was short-lived. I went near the beginning. Once it was my turn, the nerves passed and I was left with an hour and a half  of sheer boredom. I know I was supposed to appreciate the other performers, but two hours straight of piano at 8 years old is pretty painful.  As I got older, the nearly two hours was still a lot to sit through, but for a different reason. Performing is stressful and to have to sit for almost two hours before it is your turn is downright torturous, particularly for someone with stage fright. It doesn’t need to be this way.

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My friend mentioned to me the other day that he subscribes to the one-hour rule. He believes anyone can sit through any performance or ceremony or game or play as long as they know it will only last an hour. After that, he says you should be free to leave. To me, it sounded like a stroke of sheer brilliance.     

So here is my appeal to those who plan these types of things…do us all a favor and give it a try, even just once. If your event is scheduled for an hour an a half, chop it into two 45-minute performances with a 15-minute intermission to get people in and out. If it’s two hours, let the first group leave at an hour and spend 15 minutes resetting before beginning hour number two.  

I assure you, your audience will think the event is truly fabulous.