I can’t help but notice, recently, the number of times I encounter someone who will say to me “it won’t be a second, ok?” or “I won’t be a second, now” or some other slight variation upon the same theme.
I was at KFC the other day ordering a quick takeaway. After finally getting through the operator’s strict fast food script, I finally managed to communicate my order to him. He took my money, gave me change, and then announced “It won’t be a second, now” before disappearing off to work on his orders.
I stood there, change in hand, and considered what I had just been told.
I have just been told that my order won’t take a second. But that’s all I’ve been told. So either my meal will arrive in <1 second, or it’ll arrive in >1 second. But what I know for sure is, it won’t arrive in exactly 1 second. More than 1 second has passed in the time it took me to consider what the statement meant, and my meal hasn’t arrived. With that possibility already spent, I can now say with certainty that my meal will arrive at some time greater than one second.
If the operator delivered my meal to me in 5 billion years time, he will still have kept his promise.