March 17, 2000
As I write this my phone is ringing, I'm doing my Internet
banking and refilling the fax machine with paper.
How did we all get so busy? It seems like we're not happy
unless we've filled every waking moment of our lives with something
People eat their breakfast and check their voice mail on the
drive to work. The ATM line is the perfect place to call an estranged
relative or answer your pager. The opening credits for a movie
is a great time to place your order for mutual funds.
What we've done is successfully eliminated the concept of
I remember my father sitting on the big green couch under
a reading lamp for hours at a time, carefully going through the
newspaper. It was as if time stood still. Or he'd just listen
to music. It's amazing because all he was doing was listening
to music - not try to balance his cheque book, made a stock trade
on-line and become a real estate mogul with no money down, all
at the same time.
Now, we're wasting valuable time unless we're doing six things
Technology has given us some terrific benefits. I'm not knocking
vaccines, airbags or N-Sync CDs. But there's something wrong
when everyone has to have a website. (I'm guilty as charged.)
Everyone feels they have to be an expert on the high tech stocks
- otherwise how can you expect to be a dot-com millionaire by
the age of twelve?
Electronic appointment books are being marketed for children,
so they can schedule their play dates. No doubt they can also
keep track of all the other six year olds' e-mail addresses and
cell phone numbers. There's a TV commercial on right now where
a little boy puts his playmates on a conference call. Probably
good practice for the day when he has to eat his lunch at his
desk with a phone in his ear.
Some of my best times as a kid were days when I had nothing
planned. Nothing was sweeter than the first day of the vast summer
holiday, without a single thing to fill it. My mother tried valiantly
to get us off to camp, but I refused to go. I took goofing very
seriously. Much to my mother's dismay, I never had any interest
in hockey, soccer, or any other organized sport that made you
get up early or lose any teeth.
Now when I get a few days off, it's so packed with errands
and obligations that I'm worn out by Monday morning. Maybe it's
just part of growing up. If it is, I don't recommend it to anyone.
Don't get me wrong. I like to be busy. But we've forgotten
the need to slow down. We feel need to be connected all the time.
At the grocery store, I see men wandering around with cell phones
in their ears. They didn't have time to make a list, so the better
half at home is saying yes or no to every item he picks up. The
same with people in video stores, trying to pick a movie while
the critic is on the other line.
So go ahead. Turn off the phone and have a nap. I guarantee
the world will still be there when you wake up.
And it will look better too.