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No time to kill but why do we save it?

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POSTED June 12, 2014 12:40 a.m.

Why are we always so impatient?

We were never happy when the speed of the mimeograph machine — (for those under 55, it was how prehistoric people made office copies) —  took 15 minutes to set up to get ready to make reprints.

Then photocopies came out. It took 5 minutes to warm up machines that were the size of Mini Coopers just to make one copy. That wasn’t fast enough. Then the world left Xerox in the dust with copies that warmed up in less than 15 seconds and cranked out copies at the rate of four per eye blink. Still it isn’t fast enough for us.

Automated call centers where the initial screening is done by a computer is another example. We use to moan and groan about being kept on hold for 10 minutes until the next available customer assistant came on the line. Now if the computer somehow doesn’t understand us after the first try and we have to go through the prompts again we are ready to scream even though less than a minute has passed. And, in many cases, the computer can take care of what we need without needing to talk to a human and does it in three minutes or less as opposed to 10 minutes or so the old-fashioned way.

Text a message to someone today and if they don’t respond in the next minute, we get irked. Yet long distance written communication back in the days of 80 cent per gallon gasoline would take five or so days at best by the time a letter reached someone and they replied. 

That’s back in the Dark Ages when the anticipation of something you ordered through the mail would come within several weeks as opposed today when we get downright nasty if what we order over the Internet isn’t delivered in some cases with eight hours.

We don’t want to smell the roses any more. We want to plow right through them but still we’re not happy.

The problem with instant communication is the same with instant coffee. It’s not the same as the real thing that takes longer to brew. Its flavor isn’t as rich nor is it as satisfying. If it were Starbucks would be replaced by vending machines.

We used to savor replies to our letters and — to a degree — our emails. We now act more like we are stone-faced stenographers dutifully texting away absorbed in communication as a task instead of something to enjoy.

Technology has made us more impatient.

We want the world and we want it now.

Of course you know where that sentiment got Jim Morrison — dead at age 27.

Who is Jim Morrison? Do the Doors ring a bell?

That was a band back when 8-track tapes were starting to edge out vinyl. You actually had to drive to a quaint thing called a store and browse through the stacks looking for tunes to buy. Today there’s an app for that.

Sure it’s more convenient to download all known music since the dawn of civilization in 15 seconds and not have to pay for 80 percent of it in the process.

But a lot is lost. There was something about physically searching through labels — that’s old fogey talk for records — in bins searching for a desired album and getting sidetracked by a cover that catches your eye. And instead of touching an i-Pad screen to make selections you did it in a store full of other people.

In your wanderings you’d occasionally come across a music genre or an artist you’d never considered listening to before. Boots Randolph left me cold — think saxophone — but trips to the record store got me hooked on Frank Sinatra among others.

Today chance encounters with music or anything that doesn’t fit your tastes molded in part by your peers doesn’t happen because we’re impatient.

That’s right. There are apps that nicely craft music selections for you to try that a programmer somewhere determined you’d be apt to listen to based on your current music tastes.

It’s all done to save us time in browsing for music.

It saves time but is that a good thing?

Comcast now has a voice command TV menu system that selects movie choices based on you saying “ Tom Cruise”, “Stephanie Powers” — if you don’t know who Stephanie Powers is then you don’t know class — or “Austin Powers movies.” While the archaic way of clicking from screen to screen can be time consuming you miss the opportunity of becoming intrigued by a movie that you never would have considered watching.

That’s what happens when getting there trumps the journey.

It’s all about not wasting time.

And that’s a tragedy.

Killing time can often be the most productive part of your day. 

It gives you a chance to take a breather, let your mind wander, or take in new experiences.

Shaving time off processes such as making copies only leads us to expecting even faster reproduction of copies.

It becomes how we play life.

Look how many of us vacation. We take it with us and then we dutifully record our vacation in  real time and send images of it as we are “taking a break” from the hustle and bustle” of day-to-day life.

There is indeed no time to kill between the cradle and the grave. (OK, so I listen to Clint Back and country music.)

The problem is how many of us use technology to make it all about saving time and not enjoying time.

There is a huge difference.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or 209.249.3519.

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