The View From Here: Speed!

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I was hastily hard at work the other day, when a friendly regular customer related this story to me. He had gone out to eat at a fancy Parisian restaurant with his wife and some European friends, and throughout the course of the meal, he had to slow the pace at which he was eating in order to keep from finishing before everyone else. He took note of how slowly and casually his friends consumed their meals. This story led us both to the conclusion that Americans are not only just fast eaters, but our computers must also be quick and that our cars must speed over the freeways. It seems no matter what we’re doing, it’s always in a hurry.

This is the land of bigger, stronger and faster. We want things to be quick and orderly. We try to rush through everything so we can go somewhere else to rush through something else. Try a little experiment: go to a nice restaurant and watch how long from the point of ordering it takes people before they ask when their food will be ready. Or better yet, go to a small cafe on a busy weekend and see how long they take. Most people start getting impatient after about fifteen minutes in a fancy restaurant. On average, Americans don’t want to spend more than a half hour to forty five minutes at a meal, which may result in a generous tip to reflect the promptness of the service and the food. Maybe that’s why Europeans never tip. And maybe it’s the caffeine surging through the air that makes people swoop in and out of cafes. There is even a commercial mocking the impatience of coffee shop patrons, which ironically was created by an internet service.

The internet is a great place for Americans to go fast: information, music, movies and all sorts of entertainment at the click of a button. It’s instant gratification. The internet helps everyone easily obtain their guilty pleasures, and at lightning speed. These days, people don’t wait for a movie or cd to be released, they just log on to the internet and download it in advance, all while instant messaging “friends” because we are in too much of a hurry to spend time talking to them.

But the only way to multitask in such a way over the internet is to have the fancy new high-speed doohickey service, for just $19.99, and delivery better be within a half an hour or installation is free. Which means the delivery truck driver better speed down the street.

It seems driving fast is the one thing Americans and Europeans have in common. The traffic jam is the bane of both our existences. Everyone likes open roads and flexible speed limits. I hear Europeans remedy this by driving less in cities and neighborhoods. What have Americans done? Built more cars and roads? Or are the increasing gas prices actually supposed to work as a deterrent? Well it ain’t working. There are more and more cars on the road everyday, thus creating the dreaded roadway congestion.

The obvious solution is to build more roads, so now we can drive fast and happy again.

But what really perplexes me is why we are always in a rush to go and do everything? We procrastinate and manage our time poorly, pushing everything to the last minute so we are forced to hurry through it. Cause if not, something else is going to be late.