As Albert Einstein famously stated, “Time is relative.” Time seems to go a lot slower when we’re faced with a particularly stressful circumstance. Suddenly, what might just be a five-minute ordeal is somehow stretched to an eternity. Here are some experiences from Redditors where five minutes felt excruciatingly long.
1. Hospital Horror
My wife had a seizure during her labor. That already put me on edge, but then the doctors couldn’t find the baby’s heartbeat afterwards, and she had to be rushed to an emergency C-section. Everything stabilized eventually, but it was scary and seemed to just go on forever. Four years later, everyone is happy and healthy.
2. Never Not Awkward
Watching intimate movie scenes with my parents. I’m an adult now and it still makes me uncomfortable. It makes a minute feel like an hour.
3. Awkward Silence
I was on placement with a doctor and he told a patient that he might lose his leg due to diabetes. It obviously upset the patient, but the doctor left to go get something, leaving just me in the room with him. He must have been gone for only two minutes, but I swear it felt like 20. The patient was quietly sobbing to himself and I had no idea what to do or say.
4. Life Is Pain
It was six months ago, while I was having surgery in the hospital. The anaesthesia ended too soon while the surgeon was still stitching up my knee after realigning my patella. There were still three stitches to go. I still can’t decide what was the worst pain—the tourniquet on the top of my thigh or the stitches themselves.
5. Caught Red-Handed
In fifth grade, while the principal was listing off the profanities I searched on Google Earth.
6. The DMV: Where Time Stands Still
Waiting at the DMV line that will lead to the true DMV line.
7. Fashionably Late
It always felt like forever when I was young if I had to wait for my mom to pick me up from somewhere and she was late.
8. Scary Mystery Guy
Once while I was mowing my lawn, there was a sketchy guy nearby who was acting really weird and kept starting to approach me and then stopping. Then he went and hid in the neighbor’s lawn and was peering at me from the shadows. It wasn’t a long chore, but it felt like FOREVER while I was creeped out, wondering if I was going to die today.
To make matters worse, when I went inside to call the cops through my back door, he FOLLOWED ME and started knocking and scratching against it. I hid on the ground against the door so he couldn’t see me, and then grabbed a bat and ran to the upstairs bathroom, locked it, and sat there waiting for the cops to come. They did really quickly, but five minutes seems like forever when you’re terrified.
9. Gasping for Air
My son was absolutely silent when he was born. I could hear my terrified heart beating through my chest, waiting for him to make a noise. The doctor gave me a serious look, handed me the “scissors” so I could cut the umbilical cord, and then rushed my son to a table on the other side of the room immediately after.
While he worked, I moved to the head of the bed to tell my wife what a great job she did. I was trying not to sob or freak out the entire time. I honestly have no idea how long it took to hear him cry, but those seconds/minutes were the longest year of my life. My baby boy is now a grown man, though: He turned 20 last month.
I did a bungee jump off the Verzasca Dam in Ticino, Switzerland. It’s famous for being in the opening scene of GoldenEye. The jump itself was amazing, but as I bounced up and down after the initial jump, my body rotated and the bungee cord kind of corkscrewed around my legs a couple of times. This was incredibly terrifying.
When the vertical motion finally stopped, I was hanging over a huge drop with a rocky riverbed below. The cord wrapped right around my legs gave the impression that it was all that was holding me up. The operators were shouting at me to remove my ankle from the twisted cord so that they could pull me back up.
My rational mind knew that I was securely fastened at the hip, but the tension of the cord on my ankle made it feel like I depended on it and that I would fall to my death the second I unwrapped it. I was physically unable to unwrap my ankle for a full five minutes while the guys shouted down from the top of the dam. Upside down, blood rushing to my head the whole time.
Eventually, I found the courage to unwrap my ankle, and everything was fine. But man, that was the longest, most horrible five minutes, upside-down and being asked to go against every instinct of survival.
11. Hide and Seek
Oh god. This story still gives me shivers. When my son was three, our neighbors were getting renovations done, so there were big, noisy trucks everywhere. I was getting ready for work and popped into the laundry adjacent to the lounge room where my son was watching television. I was just going to iron a shirt for work.
It took me about two minutes, and when I turned back to the lounge room, my son was gone. I called out that we were ready to leave. No answer. I look in the pantry. No answer. I start calling louder and louder. No answer. Looked out in the driveway. No answer. Backyard. Not there. By this time, I was starting to freak out.
I ran upstairs and stuck my head into all of the bedrooms, calling his name. Nothing. Ran back up to the front of the house, up the driveway, down next door’s driveway to see if he was watching the trucks. Still nothing. Completely freaking out now. I didn’t know whether to call the police to report him missing, keep looking, or ask the neighbors for help.
There had very recently been a very high profile kidnapping of a young boy only a few months older than my son. I was a mess. I had literally looked everywhere he could have been. After what felt like an hour, I started to run back upstairs, and he was just there, at the top of the stairs. I collapsed onto the stairs, hugging him and crying.
He was just bewildered, the poor little thing. Turns out, he had gone out onto my bedroom balcony upstairs to watch the trucks next door. Because the balcony extended out a little past the door, I couldn’t see him when I looked through the room as he was hidden behind the exterior wall. He couldn’t hear me calling because of the trucks.
When I looked back at my watch, it had only been four to five minutes since I first noticed him missing. It felt like hours. I cried so many times that day. I could only think about the mother of the kidnapped boy who had been experiencing the same thing for weeks and weeks. This happened four years ago and the other child has never been found.
12. An Agonizing Wait
When I was a kid, my mom told me to wait in line at the supermarket, and then she went to go get some more things. The person who was at the cashier had just paid and the lady in front of me began unloading her (not heavily-packed) shopping cart. She had almost finished loading and was about ready to pay when my mother finally reappeared.
Those were simultaneously the longest and the shortest and most terrifying five minutes of my life.
13. Some Things Should Never Happen
The time when I was forced to listen to the Kidz Bop cover of “Old Town Road.”
14. Daddy’s Little Girl
Sitting by my daughter’s hospital bed was excruciating. She was a very ill toddler, but my husband had to leave for work soon on a major project in another state. She had been in the hospital for days, but the last five minutes were critical. Everyone in the room realized how awful the situation was and what a crossroads we were at.
She suddenly woke up, sat up, and said, “I wanna sammich.” Holy heck! We all burst into laughter, crying tears of joy. My husband kissed her, cuddled her, hugged her until she said it hurt, and then raced out the door to catch his flight. She turned the corner very quickly and they even released her the next day.
15. Fishing Always Feels Like Forever
This past winter, a few friends and I went up to Georgian Bay to do some ice fishing. We had planned this trip for a couple weeks to figure out schedules and all that since it’s four hours away from where we live. The time comes to head up and this particular weekend was extremely cold. It was minus 40 with the windchill.
Now, I’ve been in the cold. I love the winter, but oh my god it was really, really cold and windy. Beer froze to a slush 30 seconds after being opened and solid 30 seconds later. Already not cool. It was a struggle to keep a drink warm enough to actually drink it. I was dressed appropriately with multiple layers, ski goggles, etc., but I honestly thought I was starting to shut down.
What I thought was an hour was five minutes. Honestly five minutes. I asked my buddies if they had experienced time passing slowly as well and they were equally as shocked. That’s when we called it and went back in, the next day we bought an ice fishing tent and heater. The worst part is that it was so cold, fish couldn’t be bothered to bite.
16. These Five Minutes Were the Dumps
On the Metro and the dump light went on. LA doesn’t have restrooms in their stations. I was headed to a concert and I had to go number two. Got off the train and stuck on the escalator behind and incontinent old lady who smelled like literal crap too, which made me need to go even more. Now things are getting really, really desperate.
Walking down the street looking at doors for openings or secluded corners. I kept telling my wife to just go to the concert so if I have to drop trou she wouldn’t be a part of it. Walked by a bookshop that was near the venue and they said No Public Restrooms and indicated a place with a restroom. I was at negative two minutes at this point.
I was just doing breathing exercises like I’m in labor. The address for the restrooms were further than the venue so we decided to chance it. Got our IDs out with a block to go and hopped in line. Luckily the restroom was right inside. My extra time alarm expired when I was seated in the jankiest stall ever. Still, it was the most relieved I’ve been in several years.
17. Lost at Sea
When I was eight years old, my family and I went to the beach. My two brothers and I were body boarding when out of nowhere, the tide and the current changed and pulled my younger brother and I out to sea. It was so deep, we couldn’t stand. Eventually, all we could do was scream for help as the tide pulled us further out with each passing second.
I have no idea how far out we got before my father finally managed to reach us. He’d swam out to get us both and somehow managed to fight the tide and pull us back to shore. If it weren’t for my younger brother keeping me calm and telling me how to stay afloat, I have no doubt it would’ve ended up a lot worse.
We got back to shore and went home. My brothers, parents, and I just sat in the living room hugging and crying. My mom still won’t talk about it.
18. Runaway Baby
When my daughter ran away from me at a mall, I was terrified. She was only two years old and managed to get out of the stroller somehow. After that, I put a leash on her to keep her from getting in trouble.
19. A Bad Review
My boss was in the middle of giving me a quarterly review when I suddenly realized that I was about to be fired. It was my first professional job since graduating college and the company had no formal training program. I was the youngest one there by 12 years and my boss had a stroke before I started and his patience was virtually destroyed.
It was a hard, exhausting job, and I never got any kind of positive reinforcement for the work I did. I busted my butt trying to do the job, working over 60 hours a week. After all that, my boss still never had a good thing to say. And I had to sit there and wait for him to bring it all out in the review, then accept my termination. Oh, but it gets worse.
This was also four days after I found out my girlfriend of three years was cheating on me.
20. Slow Motion Wreck
For me, it was definitely being hit by a car when I was 11. I suppose the adrenaline made everything go in slow motion. I remember the lights approaching me, I recall feeling like I had been pushed and I wondered if it was a car. Every second felt like ten. It was the strangest thing to spiral through the air for what felt like two minutes.
21. Nightmare in the Skies
Experiencing turbulence on a descent into Melbourne airport had me counting down the minutes. The pilot had to manoeuvre in and out of the “patch of turbulence” to find the calmest route to land. I’m sure it didn’t last long, but for me—and most other people onboard—it felt like an eternity of terrifying shakes and shudders.
Then as the plane landed, every passenger erupted into claps and cheers, which still brings a tear to my eye when I reminisce about that flight!
22. When the Parental Instincts Kick In
About eight years ago, my oldest son hit the back of his head on his footboard while jumping on the bed. I was in the room, heard it happen, and sprang into action. Got a compress, had my brother take us to the hospital (he lived next door), and I held the bandage over the profusely bleeding wound. Then things got a lot worse.
Everything went as well as could be hoped for—until they had to put four staples in the back of his head. I wrapped my son in a blanket and held him as tight as I could while he was screaming about the doctors closing the laceration. I’ve never cried harder in my adult life than those few minutes, and it was like time stopped.
23. Power Tripping
Dutch border control once decided to pretend that they wouldn’t let me into the country because my passport was too battered. They made me sit outside the little police station just before passport control at Schiphol Airport and said they’d be sending me home. My friends had all been let through, and I could see them on the other side of the gates getting really anxious.
Eventually, the guards let me through and just said they had to teach me a lesson to make sure I’d get a new passport. But when I looked back after getting through, I saw a horrifying sight. All the guards were cracking up and high-fiving each other in a circle. What jerks, that was the longest 5 minutes of my life.
24. Out of Sight
I had to get injections of a medication directly into my eye, wide-awake, with numbing drops and nothing to hold my eye in place. After prep (about 8 different eye drops and a numbing gel), the doctor came in and grabbed the needle for the injection. He had me look up before sticking the needle into my eye, and then injected a tiny amount of fluid.
This fluid would blind that eye for five minutes, create a ton of pressure, introduce small black bubbles into my vision, and gradually come back by revealing portions of my vision like a jigsaw puzzle. The whole process took about five minutes, with the vision recovery taking maybe another five. It felt like a never-ending nightmare despite the complete absence of any pain.
25. A Cheap Mistake
When I had laser eye surgery in 2005, I opted for the flap to be cut with a blade (this was cheaper than the then-new technique of having that done by a laser as well). Your eye gets jammed pretty tight into a device that holds it still enough for the blade to do its job. I do not mind confined spaces at all, so this was an easy choice. Except I made a huge mistake.
Once the crunching machinery noise started, I realized that however it felt, I was going to have to go through it all again in a couple of minutes for the second eye. It felt like sheer terror—I was paralysed by fear as much as I was by the machinery. Somehow I managed to hold myself together and got through both procedures just fine.
26. Something We Can All Relate To
It’s definitely the span of 4:55-5:00 PM every Monday-Friday for the last few years.
27. Backroads Disaster
A car crash I was in. It was a triple rollover into a field from a gravel road going way too fast, 130km or about 80 miles in an early 2000s Pontiac Sunfire. While it only lasted seconds, in reality everything was slow motion and it felt like forever. But when the car finally rolled to a creaky stop, that’s when my real nightmare began.
I was trapped in that car for three hours. Nobody lives close, and it was a hardly-ever-driven road. My buddy who was driving was flung out and, while in better condition than me, was no condition to try and get help or help me out. It felt like I was in there for a day. Obviously, we ended up getting the help we needed, but it’s still difficult for me to talk about.
28. A Truly Excruciating Wait
When you’re waiting to hear back from your crush after a risky text.
29. The Anticipation Is the Worst Part
The first time I jumped out of an airplane in paratrooper training. As the aircraft approaches the drop zone, ten minutes out, all the paratroopers get ready inside, and the jumpmasters open the doors. After all is said and done, there’s a wait. The doors have a red and green light on them—the light is red until the time to jump, at which point it turns green.
As the clock ticks down, the jumpmaster will hold up a single finger and scream “ONE MINUTE!” Everyone in line shouts the same thing, passing the signal back, because you can’t hear more than a couple feet away. Then, an eon later, he holds up two fingers like he’s squishing a marshmallow between them and shouts “THIRTY SECONDS!” And two geological ages later, the light finally turns green.
30. Always Swim With a Buddy
I’d love to say when I asked my wife to marry me or something sweet like that. But honestly, it was when I almost drowned for the second time. I had to be resuscitated at a pool when I was eight. When I was 19, I almost did it again, this time in a far less safe area. I had pulled my arm out of place on the wrong side of some falls.
I walked up the side of the water, trying to find an easier way across. I jumped, slipped, and went into the water, which was moving pretty fast. I remember actually being at peace with dying. I was being dragged off by the water and I was still trying to grab a rock (which I actually did manage to do) and in my mind I just thought “this is how I die” and I was okay with it.
31. This Seems Like a Cruel Way to Evaluate a Student
This year, I almost failed history class and I had to do an extra test where the teacher asks me questions about a subject in front of the whole class. I studied my butt off for this. Then the teacher starts asking me questions, and I slowly come to the horrific realization that those questions have NOTHING to do with the stuff I had been studying.
I feel my mouth getting dry and cold sweat on my palms, because at this point I’m sure I studied the wrong things and I’m starting to accept the fact that I am going to fail this big time. My teacher was already throwing shade at me (“So you know studying would have been an option” etc.), but then my friend from the back row comes in and saves me like an angel.
Apparently, the questions my teacher had asked me were part of the stuff another student had to study, not me. The teacher had mixed it up. Then she asked me the correct questions and I aced that thing. Still the longest five minutes of my life.
32. Home Invasion
A junkie pulled a knife on me in my own kitchen. I backed off when he picked up a big knife from the counter and held it up to me, shutting a door partway behind me as I went. I started talking him down from behind the half-open door. Luckily, I got him to put the knife down and eventually got him out of the house. But for one, long minute I was keenly aware that I could be dead the next.
33. With Great Responsibility Comes Great Fear
Making my first rescue as a lifeguard. I was 15 working at a public pool. I saw the kid struggling after going off the diving board and instantly leaped off of my chair into the deeper water, but it seemed to take me forever to surface again to begin swimming to her. I also did not have a lifeguard tube at the time, as my manager did not require us to carry them around back then.
34. An Intolerable Experience
I was on a public dock on the Thames up in Connecticut with some friends. A boat comes into the dock, and the people on board are clearly drunk. Somebody fell off the back as they hit some of the shallow part of the shore. There was so much confusion that at first it seemed okay, but it went very, very wrong.
The engine tore up their arm and put a solid gash right into their neck. Buddy and I hop in and are able to pull him to shore while our other friend calls 911. I was just sitting there with my hand in this guy’s neck trying to stop the bleeding. It felt like hours before the ambulance arrived, and then after they got him out it was as if the moment had passed in an instant.
35. Midnight Snack Gone Wrong
This just happened a few hours ago. I am making myself some popcorn and think I should spice this up a bit so I go and get some Nutella from the fridge. The thing is solid and I am a little drunk. I put the tub of Nutella in the microwave, thinking it will just be in for a few seconds then I’ll take it out. I was wrong, so wrong.
After a good five seconds, some colors flash in the microwave. Like Close Encounters of the Third Kind colors. Then this loud BANG comes from inside the microwave and I stop the timer. The minute felt like hours and a thousand and one thoughts came into my head. What in God’s name have I just done? Can I take it back?
The long silence was disrupted by my stepdad asking what that bang was. I said nothing. I reached to open the microwave door and check out the damage. Nothing exploded, chocolate was not spilled everywhere, and the tub had not cracked. As I reached inside, a warm air heated my hand as I went for the tub of Nutella.
It was not hot, just normal. “Strange,” I thought to myself. Then I proceeded to open the tub up. Inside I saw a small explosion of chocolate, and the inside of the lid had a small burn mark. After all that, it was still rock solid.
36. What We See in the Shadows
First night in our new house. We only had 10 hours to move all of our belongings from our apartment. By the time we finished getting our stuff inside, we were beyond exhausted. We put beds together and went to sleep. I got up in the middle of the night to check on the kids and use the bathroom. On my way back to bed, I saw something horrific.
As I entered the living room, I saw the outline of a person standing 10 feet in front of me. Everything was pitch black except for the light coming in one window from the street. If I hadn’t just been in the bathroom, I would have peed my pants. So I’m standing there, frozen for at least 30 seconds, staring at this other person. I have no idea what to do.
No weapon. Not even a kitchen knife had been unpacked. And the person was standing between me and my husband. I take a step backwards. The person takes a step backwards. My brain says, “Wait a minute.” I step forward. The person steps forward. I step forward again. The person steps forward again. I turn on the light. The person disappears.
And that’s how I spent an entire minute of my life terrified because of a shadow.
37. Brave Last Words
I was having extensive dental work done (brush your teeth, kids!) and was six hours into the appointment. Had gotten there at 9 and it was 3. While the dentist was drilling, I felt a twinge so I raised my hand to let him know I could feel it. He stops, takes the bite block out, and says “So, we’ve got about five minutes left. I can numb you up, but we’re in so deep you’ll be numb for another four hours if we put more in. How bad does it hurt?”
I think for a second, longingly dreaming of consuming a mountain of food, and say, “Well….keep on drilling. I’ll make it.”
38. Night Terrors
My son when he was eight months old had a night terror. Woke up screaming bloody murder. Then (we presume) he had sleep paralysis. There is nothing worse than spending five minutes desperately trying to wake up an infant who is screaming while staring blankly into space while also completely limp and responding to nothing.
39. Bomb Threat
Traveling on Route Irish (the road between the airport and Green Zone) in Iraq around 2005. You’re really just sitting there waiting for an IED to rip you apart. Slightly longer than five minutes depending on how fast you go, but it feels like an eternity.
40. So Much for Privacy Settings
I was interviewing for a big promotion at my old job. I had put in the time, the hours, and the effort for this promotion, and I had been passed up a few times, so I was sending out resumes while trying to get this promotion. I go through the first interview, and everything seemed great. They invited me for the second interview.
I was so excited. Flash forward two days, and I go in for the interview. The interview is with the regional and site managers. Everything is going great, they are asking me, “What are your priorities, goals, etc.” At the end, the site manager changes his posture and says, “Would you say that you’re a loyal employee?”
Taken aback, I say, of course, I’ve been here almost two years, etc. And like a shark circling his prey, this dude turns his computer monitor around, and shows me my PRIVATE Facebook posts that I posted that I was in the market for a job in the same field. Now, there’s no way he could have seen this, as it was a friends-only post.
Someone I work with had to have tattled on me here. He then proceeds to read them to me out loud, not only the posts about my job search, but personal posts about my health situation and questions that I didn’t bring up to anybody other than personal friends. I look at the regional manager and this guy won’t look me in the eyes, he is shifting, obviously uncomfortable.
I tried to say that I was looking just in case this promotion didn’t work out, as I am a college student paying my way through school, but he kept interrupting me and saying, “Loyalty is key.” He then tells me, “We will think about it,” and points toward the door. The regional manager kind of coughs and goes to shake my hand, but by that point, I was already out the door.
So I said “Thanks anyway,” and then proceed to have the most uncomfortable walk back to my desk—I was wearing heels for the first time in like a year so I stumbled on my way out the door—with coworkers asking for the details if I got the promotion. I didn’t get the job. I think the whole thing was just an “in your face” type deal.
I went on to get a promotion in a different department. I worked there for about another year and a half, and then I moved on to work for Netflix, actually. So, it all worked out! That manager was unfortunately promoted to regional, but the replacement manager was much nicer and not a huge jerk.
41. That’s No Scratch
I’m a nurse, but I was working in the ER when a guy came in for a scratch on his neck and “feeling drowsy.” We start the usual workups and this dude’s blood pressure TANKED. We scrambled, but he was dead within ten minutes of walking through the door. Turns out the “scratch” was an exit wound of a .22 caliber rifle round. The guy didn’t even know he’d been shot.
When the coroner’s report came back, we found that he’d been shot in the leg and the bullet tracked through his torso shredding everything in between. There was really nothing we could’ve done, but that was a serious “what the heck just happened” moment.
42. When Everything Seems to Stop
My wife and I were in the OR for her to deliver our twin boys. There were complications, but I didn’t understand how bad it was. Suddenly I heard the doctor say, “prep for hemorrhage protocol.” My heart dropped and I was rushed out with my newborn twins. I then heard them call a “code white” and yell for the crash cart.
An entire team of doctors ran in. Meanwhile, I’m staring at two little newborn boys with the life a single father flashing before my eyes. What felt like an eternity later, the doctor came out and said she was stable. It only lasted about five minutes, but that’s five minutes I will never forget. My saving grace was a co-worker’s wife, who was the charge nurse on duty. While everyone was running over to save my wife, she rushed over to save me.
43. Fiery Panic
I used to be a firefighter. Working a house fire on night just after midnight and hearing, “My kid is still in there!” was terrifying. The mother sounded almost like an animal. Thankfully, she was wrong: he wasn’t in there. He was actually hiding in the bushes next door, a bit frightened, but completely fine. I think that took a few years off my life.
44. My Eyes Are Burning Just Reading This
I accidentally rubbed my eyes after I had been cutting up ghost chilli peppers from my garden. It was the most intense “I just want to kill myself to stop this pain” moment in my life. Took me a couple of minutes just to get up off the ground and stumble around to find the sink so I could finally rinse them out.