Whatever Happened to Spare Time?
The make of watch I’m wearing ends with “EX,” but begins with “TIM”, not “ROL.” The difference in the prefix saved me a bundle of money! I’ve had this Timex for many years and the light colour is where the silver coating has worn off, but it has never let me down. Whether or not your watch is reliable, however, don’t you find that time just seems to evaporate these days? Why is there so little spare time? Why are we constantly so busy? I have a few theories.
If the brightest minds in the world got together to find a single way to rob us all of our spare time, they could not have come up with anything more efficient than email. An observer from another civilization might think that our main purpose in life is to exchange messages electronically. Don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful for email and I find it as useful as the next person, but like water spreading out over a sidewalk, email appears to fill in every nook and cranny of spare time we might otherwise have. (The irony of posting or emailing this electronically has not escaped me!) I’m convinced that email is one reason why our spare time has vanished.
Doing everyone else’s work, I believe, is another. It all started many years ago with gas stations. In the (very) old days you would pull into a gas station and two or more people in uniform would rush out, fill your tank, check your oil, check your radiator, check the pressure in your tires, and clean your windshield and rear window. Have a look at the 1985 movie Back to the Future. Now we do everything ourselves. At most gas stations there isn’t anyone who could even jumpstart your car if you needed it.
This transfer of work from the “service provider” to the client is now occurring across the board, all of which takes away from our spare time. We check ourselves in at airports, we obtain our own boarding passes, we act as our own tellers when we bank, we book and print our own theatre tickets, we book our table at a restaurant online, we update records of companies we deal with ourselves, also online. On top of all that, we are asked to fill out surveys on virtually every transaction we do. I can hardly get my own work done, let alone do anyone else’s.
It’s also more difficult to get from A to B these days. Traffic congestion in our cities has reached an all-time high. We used to joke that there were two seasons in Canada – winter and construction. By “construction” what is meant here is “digging up roads.” What we realize now is that digging up roads is not a temporary occurrence that will result sooner or later in everything being “done.” It is a permanent pursuit that affects life in the city year round and sitting in traffic burns up a surprising amount of our time annually. Observing the digging everywhere here, one visiting American comedian said, “I sure hope they find what they’re looking for…”
These are at least some of the reasons I believe we are constantly on the run, with no spare time. Please let me know if you can come up with others. On the subject of time, here is a tune I wrote called “Still Awake at Four,” performed by Brian Gagnon. I hope you enjoy it. Gotta go...