things first - this essay is NOT about self help, or fast food. It's
also not about generation W, X, Y and Z or about a generation gap.
It's about impatience, it's about rushing
through life as fast as we can and it’s about trying to understand why
we live our lives while traveling faster than the speed of light.
Think of this essay more as reflection and not so much as a rebuke to
our daily routine. After all, who am I to pass judgment on something
I’m equally guilty of?
It seems that as a species, humans have
an ingrain genetic tendency to rush through life in what can only be
called a futile attempt at squeezing out twenty five hours in a twenty
four hour day. We have become a collective generation of impulsive,
hurried individuals, wanting life in five minutes or less - hence, the
fast food generation.
Can you remember a time when life was
lived at a slower pace; before fast food, and hurrying to get here or
there? Before the catch phrase, ‘Thirty minutes or free’?
We're in a rush to find the time to
accomplish more in each minute of every day and I'm not sure we're
getting there, wherever ‘there’ is, any faster.
Let’s start our search in attempting to
understand this necessity for speed by beginning where most of us
begin, the morning routine.
The sun is beginning to crest the horizon
of apartment buildings in the East, breaking the morning mist as the
dawn of a new day begins; and Monday morning has arrived in all its
glory. You’ve already hit the snooze button a half dozen times trying
to eke out more of that precious morning sleep. In time, as you
tentatively open one sleep encrusted eye, then the other. You peek at
the time on the clock radio and announce to the world, “Shit!”
You dash out of bed and since you
showered last night, no need to worry about it now, a quick spray of
the deodorant will do. You tear into the bathroom and run your head
under the tap at the same time you brush your teeth in four nippy
strokes. No time to even hurry through breakfast, sometimes skipping
that most important meal of the day. When we do eat it's pre-made,
pre-fabricated and pre-cooked, with the slogan 'eat on the run'
printed on the box you just removed from the freezer. Then you run off
to work because you wouldn't want to miss the bus to attend that
meeting, appointment, or some other first light crises at the office
like changing your voice mail to say that you’re in, but too busy to
take that call.
If that scenario isn’t bad enough, I've
seen co-workers run at break neck speed to - not catch an elevator -
but to push the button to call for the lift. The wind created as one
colleague dashed past me almost knocked my touque off (it was winter
I asked myself at the time, "When did
pushing the elevator button become an Olympic sport?"
By the time I walked up and stood beside
her, she was frantically pressing the call button. I turned, smiled,
and quietly wondered if pushing the button repeatedly really makes the
elevator come faster?
Of course I already know the answer, but
still I stand in amazement at the site playing out in front of me.
Inside the office, the next deadline
looms as I quickly scan my Blackberry, others checking their paper
calendars seeking the same enlightenment to what's ahead. A crystal
ball of sorts on how we can speed up the day, allowing us to return
home to - wait for it - quickly get supper ready for the kids and our
partners. Next comes homework, the fight about doing homework, then
bed time, only to begin the cycle all over again.
We seem to want to rush through the week,
as if it wasn't fast enough.
When the work week is over, it's time to
relax and take life easy. But let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves
because we still have to clean the house. You didn't think the toilets
were going to sparkle on their own, did you? And let’s not forget the
OK, it's Saturday morning, there's still
time to salvage a beautiful weekend if you rush the cleaning. So much
At least the kids can relax a bit from
their busy life at school. They’re on the computer chatting with the
cousin in Edmonton or some other far off place (down the block or
across the street). HRU? IC. LOL SUP? GR8. OIC. PLZ G/F, LOL.
Did you get any of that? It's at the
point where even our kids’ daily speech and text is in short hand. A
new lexicon for speeding up their pace of life. Speed after
all, is vital to this new form of communication. Even our children are
not immune. By the way, if you want to know what the kids’ were
saying, its - How are you? I see. (laugh out loud). So, what's up?
Great! Oh, I see. Please girlfriend! (laugh out loud). I’m still
not sure this isn’t a new language but I’ve been informed that I’m
just ‘not cool enough’ to understand it.
We start our lives in a rush from the
second we're born. Let's face it, what new mother about to give birth
hasn’t shouted, "Get this kid out of meeeee! NOW!!"
Maybe that’s when this goal for a hurried
life really begins, at birth. It’s akin to the chicken and the egg
really; which came first? Was it the adult mother or the infant child
at the moment of taking that first breath of air that begins the
Talk about being in a rush. Mind you, who
can blame that mother for wanting to be in a rush to give birth?
Trying to push something the size of a bowling ball through a vagina
is enough to make the most stoic of us want to do it in a hurry.
Dragging out child birth just isn't an option.
The act of giving birth by the way is
really the first time we see the beginning of the parent child
conflict. A parent wanting to hurry along their child who does not
want rush, but takes his or her own sweet time moving through the
birth canal. You'll see similar scenarios playing itself out many more
times while the child is living at home. This is of course the only
time our children will take their time. But I digress…
As I was saying, from birth, children are
born with the gene to be in a rush. As babies they want their food
right away, whether it's breast milk or strained prunes. When it's
feeding time, they let you know with a set of lungs that break the
decibel level of a sonic boom. If they want their diapers changed
right away, the signal for this is very similar to the immediate need
As our children grow, the need for speed
also grows exponentially. Except of course in their teen years when
you're trying to wake them for school or some other event you’re late
for. This is part of the parent child conflict which I will not dwell
on - that's a topic best left for another short essay. I know, I
strayed off the point again, sorry.
Let’s just say that our children learn
from us, the parental units, the need for instant gratification.
Fast cars, fast women and fast food, it’s
all the same. Even music is getting faster. If you’re over forty, you
can remember the vinyl record playing hits from the Beatles, Jimi
Hendrix, or Led Zeppelin. The average song time for most musical
groups ran four to six minutes. Today the average running time for a
compact disk or MP3 song with words you can’t understand because they
sing too fast is two and a half to three and a half minutes. It’s just
not the same thing.
Record companies want to sell more songs
to make more money and radio stations want to play more songs; also to
make more money. The only way to do that is to shorten the songs; but
that leaves the artist with less time to convey any message he or she
may have in the lyrics. So the only way to remedy that is to speed up
the tempo of the songs. Sometimes I get nostalgic for the slow pace of
the past when I could really enjoy the music, and of course understand
what the lyrics meant.
Music videos have changed as well. I
remember watching the pop music groups in the late 70’s and early 80’s
when music videos were in its infancy and I’d sit back on the recliner
and gaze at images as they flowed across the floor console television.
In a thirty minute time slot I’d see maybe ten groups and the visual
rendition of their hit songs. Now, my children are bombarded with as
many as fifteen or twenty videos from hit songs in the same period of
time. What gives?
Mind you, the amount of violence you see
in some of today’s music video is blasted by them on the screen so
quickly the kids don’t get a chance to see what just happened.
Sometimes quickness could be a good thing.
Life is full of short cuts and quickies
today. Which brings me to – well, you know. You knew that we had to
brooch the subject sooner of later, didn’t you? Sex! There, I said it,
and now all of you puritan individuals or young children may as well
skip down the several paragraphs that you may find offensive. After
all, you’re already saying to yourself, ‘Is this guy going to get to
the end and some point anytime soon? I have things to do!”
OK, it’s just us and the naughty bits for
the next few paragraphs. I’ll try to keep it short – no pun intended.
Sex, the act of and subject of, is a two headed issue. Again, no pun
intended. In one hand we have the male member (I swear I'm not trying
to be funny) of society and on the other we have females.
Both male and females have very different
views on how they see their role on this particular subject and each
one has a valid observation. In this case however, we’ll look at only
the issue of speed, tempo, velocity or momentum. There are far too
many other issues between the sexes to review at this time and since
we’re only looking at the pace of life we now lead, most of those
topics really don’t fit (but it would make for another great short
I visited an adult ‘superstore’ not that
long ago and to my amazement were hundreds of sex aids and toys of all
varieties for both men and women. When you read the labels of these
‘toys’, you see one main theme (it’s not what you think you dirty old
man), its how to give yourself, or your partner, pleasure in the
shortest amount of time possible.
When did the act of sex become so rushed?
I’m in my forties and only just beginning to see the pleasure of
taking things slow and the manufactures and purveyors of these ‘toys’
are trying to sell me ‘fast food’. Nothing is safe from the need for
instant fulfillment anymore. Never mind the stereotype joke about the
man finishing his bit while his partner is still waiting for it to
Nothing is safe anymore; even death has
become ‘fast food’. I recently read an article about a drive through
funeral parlour. How do you speed up burying someone? I can see it now
– you die in your sleep at a ripe old age and around the city is your
family’s choice of drive through burial stores. They rap you up in
plastic and shove you into a giant paper sack and bring you up to the
take out window.
“Will there be flowers with that?” The
smartly dressed clerk at the window asks. Your relatives respond with,
“No thanks, but do you give air miles?”
Each car in the funeral procession will
speed through the viewing area where you’re propped up against the
glass like yesterdays donuts on display. The fastest funeral on record
– sounds silly doesn’t it? But we’re almost at that stage in our need
for more speed. Once you begin to have drive through funeral parlours,
who’s to say what comes next? Drive through circumcisions? Ouch!
You’ll notice that I’ve left out fast
food, other than to use it as a metaphor, and I did that on purpose
because whether it’s drive up or take away, or boil in the bag, drop
in the oven or nuked in the microwave, food is too easy to pick on. I
think that we’ve all seen this area of our lives get faster since the
1950’s when the first TV diners were introduced. Manufactures are
selling the latest conveniences in food preparation to anyone that has
a kitchen at an alarming rate.
Turn on a television on the weekends or
late night and watch a one hour commercial on how to cook a pot roast
in ten minutes; or how to juice twenty apples oranges, mangoes and old
shoes in less than a minute. It’s no longer farmer’s selling us our
food, its corporations. They don’t grow food anymore, they manufacture
it. And along with food, these same companies also manufacture
televisions, stoves, cars and some even drill for oil. I’m having some
difficulty in seeing the connection between food and oil, but we do
have eatable oil products, maybe that’s it? We also have refrigerators
with built in televisions and internet connections and I’m still
trying to make that connection as well.
Our need to rush thought life is, in my
humble opinion, getting out of hand. We’ve forgotten how to relax and
enjoy life for what it is, a wonder of taste, sight, sound and
imagination. We’re more stressed, get sick more often and sleep less.
Daily routines have become chores and excitement is no longer
savoured. It’s ‘do it fast’ and move onto the next event. I
think that we’re missing the boat on life when we forget to take our
time and the present
becomes just a bookmark for our future.
When we rush from one task to the next we don’t see the life we’ve
missed around us and that is unfortunate, because we really can’t
appreciate what life is when we don’t take our time. Pity really…