A Sideways Glare at Contemporary Society
Our lives are governed by time – that artificial construct that measures everything we do. We divide our days into minutes and hours. We multiply our days by weeks and months. And we commemorate our years with an annual cake-and-candles celebration. We work by the clock, sleep by the clock, arrive and depart by the clock and even play games by the clock. Our language is full of references to time. We say things like “fast food,” “running late,” “split second” and “give me a minute.” These phrases mean more than their literal meaning and everybody understands that. Yet, despite our apparent obsession with all things temporal, there are lots of occasions that we don’t bother to measure or even name. These are regular events that happen to everyone, so it seems weird that we treat them so casually. Here are just a few examples — and I’m sure the world would be a better place if they had names. Feel free to offer suggestions!
The time we spend waiting for doctors. Every doctor, from Boston to Beirut, has a waiting room, and it’s called a waiting room for a reason. It’s where we go to wait until – I don’t know — your name comes up in the lottery? And this doesn’t just happen once in a while – it’s every time. Personally (given this kind of regularity) I think we should have a name for the time we all spend rehearsing our symptoms and looking at out-of-date magazines.
The length of time between when the repairman says:
“No problem! We’ll get this taken care of in a couple of hours.”
“Nah! We had to order the part from the manufacturer in Borneo, and we have no idea when it’s going to get here.”
There should be a name for that feeling of gathering doom.
The length of time it takes to get rid of a headache. I guess we could just call it “to infinity and beyond” and get it over with.
The time between when we buy the gym membership (and swear by all that’s holy we’re going to go 3 times a week) and the time we take the membership card out of our wallets to make room for the Cupcake-of-the-Month card.
The time we spend in a traffic jam, between when every car within 10 kilometres (6.21 miles) slows down to a crawl, and when we discover that there was no road construction, no collision, no dead pedestrians: in fact, no reason whatsoever for traffic to come to a standstill. Frustration should have a name.
The time we spend with the remote control, dancing through the Netflix’s selections, trying to find something really, really good to watch.
The time between now and never. This is a negotiable unit of measure that lasts from the time we say something like, “I’ll never drink tequila, again” and the time we think “What the hell” and pull out the Jose Cuervo.
The time between when the computer guy (it’s always a guy) starts telling us what to do to fix the problem and the time we realize we don’t understand a word of this gibberish and start jamming the keyboard — like a Rhesus monkey looking for a food pellet.
But my favourite is:
That situation when something important is going to happen in the near future and we’re completely ready for it. We’ve done all the prep, got dressed, gathered our stuff, been to the toilet, etc., etc., and now … and now …. Suddenly, there’s not enough time to do anything but too much time to do nothing. Seriously! This needs a name.