Survivor in a Hurry-Up World
Last week, as the first tribal council met in Africa, my daughter and I experienced a Survivor episode of our own. My wife was out of town, and we were left alone to fumble our way through meals.
Written by: Dr. Michael Weiss
"Dad," my daughter asked, "how do you make baked potatoes?"
Fortunately, I was at work when she called, so I passed the phone to someone who knew.
"Scrub them, poke some holes in them with a fork, then put them in the oven," I heard my co-worker say.
"Sounds great," I thought, as my stomach started to rumble. But when I got home, there was no smell of dinner to greet me at the door.
"Where are the potatoes?" I asked.
"Everyone knows you can’t make potatoes in the oven," my daughter said. "They go in the microwave. Your friend was obviously mistaken. There’s nothing for us to eat."
Starving and dejected, I could have foraged for twigs and berries in the back yard, or plucked rice and fish from the nearest koi pond. But I’m not really a survivor, so I ordered a pizza, with delivery promised in 30 minutes or less.
Compared to the vast and infinite continuum of time, half an hour is nothing. But when you’re in a malnourished stupor, seconds pass like eternities, and all you can think about is the end to your suffering.
It’s the same antsy, impatient feeling you get when you’re waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Or when you wish the commercials would stop already, so you can watch the rest of the football game. Or when you page someone, and it takes him a full 22 minutes and 49 seconds to return the call.
Then, just as you start to get annoyed with the fact that it’s not just the pizza delivery which takes too long, you have a rare moment of introspection, and you realize that your impatience has nothing to do with your malnourished stupor. Rather, it has everything to do with the society in which you live and the way you’ve been conditioned.
You grew up dancing The Hustle, eating instant pudding and wearing Speed-Os. You’re used to driving through fast-food restaurants before you swing by JiffyLube and QuickWash. In the grocery store, you grab some minute rice on your way to the express lane and one-hour photo lab. You put zip codes on your letters and appreciate a phone company that calls itself Sprint.
You exist in a world that is always looking to pick up the pace.
A world where regular Internet connections soon gave way to high-speed DSL lines, which then gave way to Extreme DSL. A world in which full-service gas stations have been turned into more efficient self-service stations, which then have been turned into even more efficient pay-at-the-pump set-ups. A world in which regular traffic lights look pretty slow and dumb in comparison to smart traffic lights.
This is not necessarily negative or sinister - much technological progress has arisen from our desire to do things better and faster - but survival in a hurry-up-and-get-it-done-faster world exacts a price.
The biggest of these is that your entire perspective changes. Things that you were once perfectly content to wait for - traffic lights, film processing - now make you annoyed when they don’t happen fast enough.
But stress isn’t the only outcome. We pay a price in other ways.
For one, your children may not know that potatoes can be baked in an oven - it takes too long, so you never showed them how. Or, when there’s absolutely nothing to eat for dinner, you may find yourself becoming irrational, impatient and antsy when a pizza takes 30 minutes to get to your door.
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