William DeSouza
 
SF Author and Fictional Short Story Writer

Home Blog Short Stories Sample Chapters Quotations
& Prose
Bookstore Gallery Links Contact
 HOME > SHORT STORIES > THE FAST FOOD GENERATION
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Fast Food
Generation

An Essay by
William A. DeSouza © 2005

 

 First 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 after all).

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 laundry.  

OK, it's Saturday morning, there's still time to salvage a beautiful weekend if you rush the cleaning. So much for relaxing. 

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 race? 

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 for food. 

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 story). 

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 begin.  

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…

 

Copyright © William A. DeSouza 2010 / 2011
All rights reserved. No part of the novels or short stories may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without written permission from the author. The only exception to this is the sample chapters that may be provided from time to time. Any sample chapters or short stores provided may be printed for the users personal use only and may not be reprinted. Electronic copies may be stored but only for a limited time period, sufficient to finish reading.  Although every precaution has been taken in the preparation of this web site, and the materials provided, the author  assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. Neither is any liability assumed for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein.