I have no time. I never seem to have any time. Even when I’m on Twitter and Facebook I need a lot of time to figure out what I need to ignore so that I can save time. I didn’t notice this irony until today morning. To avoid the usual morning mad rush, I mapped out my day over thirty minutes. Tyke woke up at that time and beckoned me to a conference on dinosaur eating habits which I turned down.
“Not now, I don’t have time”, I barked.
“Okay” he went away chastened. Not for long though. He was back with a proposal to examine the lethal abilities of the T Rex. I happened to be preparing his breakfast at the time. Of course, there was no time.
This cycle went on and my irritation grew with each attempt. At 8.40 as I shepherded him to the door he stopped for an infuriating three seconds and said “look! my shoes are wrong!” He meant he’d worn the wrong shoe on the wrong foot.
“It still fits, but it’s funny! I look like a duck!” He did a little chaplinesque waddle around the room. I exploded. “We’re getting LATE!”
He followed me to the car, trying very hard to keep quiet. “Dad look there are insects on your car! Which insects are they?”
“I don’t know dude. Just sit quickly and let me strap you into the seat.”
I dropped him to school and then cursed five drivers on my way to work because unfortunately, they were observing the speed limit. Picking up coffee was horrible. I know the drive-thru has a timer next to the serving window and I kept asking no one in particular if they couldn’t see I’d been waiting for more than 180 seconds (after which that timer starts flashing red)? (I ignored a small voice that went “seriously dude? over COFFEE?!) Then I got into office and cursed the access card machine for taking a couple of seconds longer than I expected to beep me in. I settled into my cube and caught up with requests from clients who needed all that work yesterday because their bosses needed it the day before and we’re all so frightfully late.
We’re always late. Nothing at work ever makes it to anyone with a second to spare. Ninety percent of the workday is a melee of excuses and contingency plans. And then the devices. I channel all information through a screen. Phone, inside the car, on the laptop at the office, a tablet in someone’s hand. Still unable to work more efficiently because evolution hasn’t caught up with us yet. It hasn’t provided eyes on top of our head so we may walk unfettered as we stare into our screens, drinking in the world’s minutiae.
The glass isn’t on the ceiling. It’s in front of our eyes.
This feeling of having no time is called “time scarcity” and is due to greater comparmentalization of work and personal life, rising consumerism, more automation and ironically, greater collaboration in our lives. If coffee takes five minutes less to prepare than it did ten years ago, how would you like to use those five minutes? It doesn’t matter because in someone else’s frame of reference, those five minutes are already seven too many.
I’m not one of those doom criers lamenting the lack of human contact. I get enough human contact in the day but not the quality I’d like. I met an interesting client a couple days ago who sat across me at lunch and said “fuck people who expect you to conduct business over the phone, email or chat. How can I get anyone to listen to me if they don’t know who I am?” Initally I misinterpret that sentence as an attempt at asserting authority but what he meant was to really get to know someone as a person and not as a co-worker. He was true to his word and never brought up work during that meal.
The rabid pace of work forces us to ensure our leisure is equally rabid. No we MUST load ourselves into two suitcases and a plane and MAKE SURE we get to the beach in under SIX HOURS because we only have TWO DAYS to ENJOY. Then we get to the beach and hungrily look to anything that remotely resembles a good time and angrily participate before the sun sets and we lose out on those happy hour deals. FUCK OFF ASSHOLE CAN’T YOU SEE I’M HAVING A GOOD TIME?
I LOVE planning vacations based on what the destination has to offer but ever so often we end up planning it based on what we have to offer the destination. Limited time. I hate this.What can I do except lament? The time we never have is an integral part of our livelihood. No matter what the Eagles croon, love alone won’t keep us alive. You need grub and gratification too.
On the other hand, there’s family. Human contact with no strings attached and no agenda. So now I make time to just talk with my wife when we return from work. Just talk. Our conversations won’t save lives or lead to a cure for cancer but I do feel my work battered soul take a few hesitant steps back into me.
I’ve also decided to stop being a parent with my son when he wants to share his time with me. “Parent” is a job description with “always be a judgmental asshole” one of the key requisites. There’s always this urge to “educate” your child when he’s just having fun. I got back from work today and had a conversation with him about dinosaurs. I let him share his interpretation of their lives and death at the hands of a “bad” meteor. I participated with questions that sought to better understand or embellish his world of jurassic monsters. He seemed satisfied by the fact that I hadn’t shooed him away,
hijacked the discussion with painful attempts at being factually accurate or made it clear that I had better things to do. I just let him be a child without rushing him to be an adult.
The best part, I don’t know how long we were hanging out with each other. Suddenly, there was time.