07 October 2009

Does anybody really know what time it is?

And I was walking down the street one day

Being pushed and shoved by people trying to beat the clock,
oh, so I just don't know, I don't know
And I said, yes I said-
Does anybody really know what time it is?
Does anybody really care?

Chicago, from Chicago Transit Authority, 1969

Recently I was in the checkout line at the grocery store, wondering why the customer two people in front of me couldn't fill out their check a bit faster so the line would get moving. I had several other things to do and didn't have the time to wait for this.

It was at about this time that I got to thinking 'What the hell's the hurry?'

I know that I've emailed to several of you, and I also know that if I don't hear from you in a couple of days, I get to wondering if the person I wrote to died or picked that day to decide to crank up a grudge. I suspect that, other than blaming this on my legion of mental issues, I've become a full-fledged American.

The culture I've worked in (designer/engineer) is based heavily on meeting deadlines, making sure our vendors meet their deadlines, and keeping to committments and promises our company makes-unless they're clearly absurd. I guess after 22 years that's rubbed off on me.

It's said that Americans aren't a patient people, and I suppose that's partly right. We came up with air-to-air refueling so our Air Force doesn't have to waste time landing its planes. We come up with tons of labor-saving devices, which only partly work, because we come up with 5 times more work to do. Our football teams excel in two-minute drills (getting downfield to score points with 2 minutes or less on the clock). The NBA forces pro hoops teams to get a shot off within 24 seconds-because we don't have the patience to watch a defensive struggle. We have debit cards so as to conduct transactions quickly-who has time to write a check, or God forbid, count out real money? At one time we wrote letters, then we faxed, then we emailed, now we IM and Twitter one another-and still it isn't fast enough. What's used more often at your house-the stove or the microwave? I know what the answer is here.

Recently Starbucks has introduced an instant coffee-evidently even waiting a couple of minutes for the morning cuppa has become a chore. Anyone here go to your favorite fast-food place and pace back and forth because it took 5 whole minutes to get your meal? I'll raise my hand there. We invented the 'drive-thru' culture -restaurants, theaters, banks, even churches and funeral homes! We don't even stop long enough to pay proper respect to the dead.

Christmas? Who has time to shop? Do it online, have it shipped next day, and you're free to run off to the multitude of other things that fill the season. The person that comes up with a matter transporter (a la Star Trek) will make a fortune unparalled in human history.

Time was that five days by train to cross the country was outstanding. Then three days by streamliner or car. Pretty good, but wait! You can do it in six hours by jet now. If you had access to an SR-71 it'd take something like 90 minutes. But why screw around with wasting time on traveling-have a netmeeting. Right now 186,300 miles per second still rules. If they figure out how to use tachyons for anything then I suppose even poking along at lightspeed will be passe.

I grew up in a small town in the 1970's and 1980's, and I expect that my generation is the last one that knows (barring a collapse of civilization) about waiting for a couple of days to get the part for a car repair, or ordering something by mail and having to wait 6-8 weeks to get it, or writing letters-on paper-to your penpals in Australia and waiting for the boat to take it there, then waiting for them to write back and do the same on their end.

I know that I've likely harassed a couple of you Aussies, and heard something to the effect of 'Don't mind me-I'm a bit slack'.

Well, dammit, I don't have time to wait while you folks catch up!! I don't see what being slack does for you, other than lower your stress, worry, and blood pressure levels, and increase your sense of well-being! I suspect that living in a semitropical climate does that a bit. I've even noticed it in the southern states. Generally you get around the coast and life gets a bit more laid back. Too hot and humid to get worked up over much most of the time.

So, is part of it climate, or culture, or urban vs. rural? Or is the mad rush even catching up with some of you? Or is it simply that someone needs to step up, draw the short straw, and say 'Why, no, YD. Your elevator simply doesn't go all the way to the flight deck.'

Now that I'd buy.

yankeedog out.


  1. Hey that was a really good post and it makes some good points.

    Do worry about any Aussie from QLD, e v e r y t h i n g h a p p e n s s l o w l y u p t h e r e .

  2. Naut

    Whats the point of rushing when everything south of the Gold Coast is crap?


    I spent 2 years on a remote island in Australias far north - you learn to be patient when everything takes over a week to reach you.

  3. Ydog, I know you'd have made some good points, I just need to find the time t read the whole thing ;)

  4. Great laugh for the morning, down here we suffer from the Tyranny of Distance so we have to learn to tbe patient, You can get next day delivery from Amazon. Ours is still six weeks.

  5. Yeah, what Barnes said. Esp at the arse end of the south island.

    I'm a big fan of slow food (as distinct from fast food.) Might be a wog thing (half Italian). Of course your average lunch break doesn't permit a two hour degustation menu so a crappy sandwich at warp speed it usually is.

  6. "a couple of days to get the part for a car repair", I suspect at least in my neck of the woods that would be real optimistic.
    (WA stands for Wait Awhile you realise, not Western Australia.)

  7. Naut-The streak stands at one, then.

    Ausgaz-There are times when being on a remote island sounds good. Where do I sign up?

    Bangar-Nice one!

    Barnesy-True. You guys are pretty far away from everywhere. Maybe that's why there's no rush-there's no way to get stuff there faster, ergo, no sense being in a hurry.

    Doc-Yep-my 'lunch break' is usually spent at my desk, working. Not too amenable to long lunches with friends.

    Drej-Well, I do live close to major cities that have decent transportation. I suppose if I lived in the Alaskan wilderness, it'd take a while to get stuff as well.