Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Forthwith & Posthaste 

Photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson

I’m not as patient as I used to be. I’m also more patient than I used to be. In private, amongst friends or at work or even when trying to make considered decisions, I am like a zen master. I can sit silently and contemplate the nature of my existence. Yet, if in a lineup waiting to pay for something, I cannot abide the person in front of me who has decided to bury their credit card in a wallet, deep in the bowels of a backpack, purse or messenger bag, and only after every item has been scanned and bagged decides to begin their spelunking adventure for the one card they require to pay for the things they knew they would have to pay for when they entered the store. You just wasted my precious time, but don't think twice, it's alright. Many people commit this act of time terrorism. I find glaring at the back of their head is calming. It’s a coping mechanism.

Why worry about a few moments lost in a lineup given the immensity of hours lost connecting one device to another device via bluetooth, or watching the spin of a loading graphic or trying every password you've ever used to log into a computer you rarely use. None of which compares to the time spent sitting in front of my computer in service of somebody else's business. That is my job. I am literally paid to sit there and take it. I fill the time by taking copious notes, colour coded, with diagrams and arrows and instructions with sticky notes.

I'm not sure it's because I'm being paid for this time that makes it tolerable whereas when I'm out in public it feels like everyone else is wasting my time, but shopping in particular is an excruciating experience for me. Let me be clear, I don't mean window shopping or browsing, for those are times I've chosen to slow down, but when I need to buy something as dull as dish soap it feels like I'm wasting my life on this unredeemable task. I'll never get that time back and I get nothing from it, except dish soap.

In St. John’s it feels like everyone is having a grand old time chatting in lineups. Someone who could see I was growing impatient asked me why I was in such a rush. Of course I wasn’t in a rush, I had no imperative need but that didn’t mean I wanted to spend another minute of my life in a grocery store. I had no pressing need to be somewhere else other than the fact I could not stand wasting my time standing in a place I didn’t want to be in the first place. If you only live once then I do not want to live my life waiting for other people to finish their lives. You are free to use your time as you like but you absolutely do not have a say in how I use mine.

Some people have suggested I’ve become this way because I’ve lived over twenty years in a bustling city. There may be something to that. Each city has its own pace, its own pulse. According to a Radiolab episode, two physicists have conceived a formula that defines a city’s rhythm. I’m not sure that is the case for me though because even in Toronto I want to push people who dawdle into a wood chipper. Linger on your own time, not in front of the exact yogurt I want. If I had my way, every grocery shopping expedition, every prescription pick-up, every hardware store visit would be a sprint where time is the only currency you have to worry about.

In the past, a second was the same second we have today. An hour then, was the same hour we have now but is it? If I think about some of the great art from the past, paintings, poetry, literature, all seemed to have been born out of spending a long time thinking about nothing other than the thought of creating some great art. I can't help but wonder where did they find the time? Didn't it take an entire morning to heat and fill a tub for a bath? Didn't they have to walk to a privy? Didn't they have to walk everywhere? For me, walking to the fridge seems too slow.

In fact, time is the only currency I care about. Particularly, my time. Douglas Coupland has argued that the tidy 24 slices of time we carefully carved the Earth into has been destroyed by the always-on 24-hour world the Internet has created. He may have a point. Or not. I slowed down enough to read his opinion but I’ve grown weary of my own argument and don’t have time for this anymore. There are people to meet, books to read, movies to watch, television to view, sports to see, life to experience, art to enjoy, meals to cook and dish soap to buy.

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