Once upon a time, blogger Kelly Brown asked the question, “Why is everybody in such a damn hurry?” She probably didn’t say “damn.” I can’t find the citation just now, and I’m in too much of a hurry to find out.
My theory? It’s technology, or rather the technological revolution gone amok.
(It’s not that I’m a Luddite. A technology such as the refrigerator is better than the old icebox, because it’s better at preventing spoilage.)
I remember reading a number of forecasts for the future, when I was growing up in the 1960s. They all sounded like this:
“Americans will be working fewer hours, giving us more time for leisure with our families. We’ll become so efficient that the 30- (or 25-) workweek will become commonplace.”
What happened instead is that the technology that made us more efficient meant that we could do more and more, so even more and more was expected. That may have been a business model that drove this trend once upon a time, but it appears that too many of us have bought into it, internalized it.
For instance, what is road rage but the manifestation that “I don’t have TIME for this!” Last month we were on the Interstate spur I-787 heading from Albany to Troy, when three lanes became one. The merge was in a half-mile, and it was working surprisingly well until some yahoos decided that their time was More Valuable than others and started passing everyone on the right, expecting to be able to get back into the line further up the road. This was in direct violation of one of Roger’s Rules: Respect the queue. Apparently, it was in other people’s rules, too, as the cars in the queue started moving farther and farther to the right, just DARING the people to pass them. Of course, when the merge happened, the yahoos did get back in, but not without a struggle that frankly left me white-knuckled. I was sure there was going to be an accident.
Vacation. It means to vacate. “Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream,” some guy once wrote. So how do you do that when you just HAVE to check your e-mails from wherever you are, be accessible by cell phone, pager and all sorts of technological harnesses? The technology that is supposed to be liberating has become a trap. When I used to have a cell phone, nobody except my wife knew the number. I wanted it in case of emergency or courtesy (“Honey, I’m stuck in traffic.”) I will admit to accessing my work e-mail from home on the last day or two of vacation, just so I am not inundated with 499 e-mails when I get back, 150 of them junk.
How did we get as a society where a town in New Jersey had to declare a family day? NO soccer practice, NO anything except staying home with the family, getting reacquainted by playing Scrabble.
Why ARE we in such a hurry? Where are we going? Are we afraid that we have to “fit in all in” so they’ll still talk about us when we’re gone? Kelly asked the question before. I’d value your observations, because I’d like to know, too.