In today’s world we seem to always be behind in time. There is a sense there are not enough hours in a day to get everything done we need to do. Why is this, when did it happen, how real is it? Time management is not a hard practice, however as anyone should know, if you plan it… it will never happen or something else will pop-up and throw the entire schedule off. What seems odd to me is not the perceived lack of time we have, this is usually our own mismanagement or lack or proper planning, but the increasing urgency we impose on ourselves over this time crunch.
Case in point, driving. Where else but in America can we have the social phenomenon of road rage? There are not armed militias running the roads imposing tolls on people using road ways, yet the violence can be just as fatal. Throw the road warrior worker in his mobile work center, on his cell phone, with the wireless laptop and GPS going so he can find his way and receive emergency email, and you get people halfway paying attention while doing one of the statically most hazardous things we can do… drive a car. What seems so odd to me is not the trucker speeding down the interstate at 75 or 80 mph, this is hazardous but they are professionals with thousands of hours of driving under there belts, but the urban drivers who have to pass on the right, weave in and out of lanes (usually without using there turn signals), rolling through stop signs, running yellow lights, and cutting you off only to make a turn in front of you 20 feet ahead. Is there a fire at home? Emergency meeting called at 8:50 AM?
Now I was horrible in math in high school, and only took two math classes in college so bear with me for a second… One train is leaving Cleveland traveling south at 45 miles per hour, no wait… wrong kind of math. Most cities have speed limits on surface roads of 35 to 45 MPH and signal lights every 5 to 8 blocks to help keep traffic from becoming congested at bottle necks. Now in these conditions people are only on the roads for 10 miles or less, otherwise there are interstates and primary roads to handle higher speeds and longer distances. Ok lets say you are traveling 5 miles across these secondary roads, to work, hair dresser, pet store, gas station bathroom, whatever… doesn’t matter. 5 miles and lets say there are 20 red lights evenly spread along these 5 miles, and being a secondary road there are bus routs running every 30 minutes. Add this to 5:10 PM afternoon traffic. Now if you hit every light perfectly and maintain a speed of 30 MPH this trip will take you 10 minutes (Speed = Distance/Time, in our case Time = Distance/Speed, so T = 5mi/30mph, T = .167 multiply by 60 seconds in a minute and T = 10 minutes). Now saying there is moderate traffic flow, your speed is reduced to 20 MPH average. Over the 5 mile journey the same journey will increase by 5 minutes, that’s right…. your 10 minute trip is now 15 minutes!
Let’s say a person who is late wants to ‘make’ time by speeding and driving like a jerk. Let’s say, for arguments sake, they can speed for 2 miles, without catching any lights or traffic. This means the driver will travel 3 miles at the slow 20 MPH and 2 miles at the new speed. The three mile portion will take 9 minutes alone, leaving 2 miles and 1 minute… well that means the driver will have to travel at 120 MPH for those 2 miles to make up the lost time. Go ahead, dust off the calculator and try it. Even if the driver can manage a 50 MPH speed for those 2 miles there total travel time will be 11 minutes and 40 seconds. Now add the traffic light’s cycle, averages very by location but this site sheds light on the issue, and assuming a complete light cycle lasts for 60 seconds, if the driver catches just one light they will have to add 1 mile to there speeding distance to make up the time. So in all practical aspects, speeding on secondary and even some primary road ways with traffic lights for short distances will save you only a few seconds, and not more then 2 minutes.
So why do these idiots feel that cutting you off, passing through empty parking spaces, I have seen it, and running a single light will make a real difference in their time? Who knows because they are delusional if they think they can erase the time deficit they are in by doing this? If they were traveling from Detroit to Chicago then yes, going 80 in stead of 65 over the 300 mile trip will make up some time…3 hours and 45 minutes verses 4 hours and 35 minutes, for a net savings of 52 minutes… that is if you can make it non stop and at a sustained average speed. So city speeders are doing nothing more then causing unsafe driving conditions, wasting fuel, tires, and breaks all to make up a mere 30 to 45 seconds! I feel the people who do this are ones who feel out of control of there lives and do not plan accordingly. I have been running late before and have sped to a destination, but never by running red lights, cutting people off, weaving in and out of traffic. If we are late, a vast majority of the time it is our own faults. We lost track of time, forgot about a meeting until the last second, get pre occupied with the news or radio to realize we are late, can’t find the silly car keys, etc. These are all conditions of our own creation and we are basically the ones to blame for these situations. Why we feel it necessary to try to cheat time by driving faster is merely an illusion, like hopping up and down or tapping a foot will help us hold our breath longer. The reason we speed and drive like idiots is because we are trying to regain control over a situation we created yet feel out of control of and need to conquer again.
Unfortunately this has bleed over into all aspects of our lives. We have become a nation of procrastinators, all with ADHD/ADD, and no way to get past it. We have become so accustomed to living in the fast lane we have failed to realize the exit ramps are disappearing, and fast. We have to have instant results everywhere and for everything. Stock tickers, instant alerts text messaged to our phones, blackberries and it goes on and on. We have lost our ability to accept and practice patience. We do not want to wait for our food; we want it waiting for us at the drive through window as soon as we get there. We want our prescriptions filled by the time we get to the drug store. We want 1 hour photos, instant coffee, instant pudding, and instant results in our jobs, relationships, families, communities. We can not take the time to wait around for any thing any more. I believe we are all being held hostage by the very conveniences we created to improve the quality of our lives. We no longer appreciate the time and effort it takes to get goods and services any more. If we break something we can go to a store and buy another one at 2 AM if we want, and some do. We can’t stand it when the coffee shop worker takes 3 minutes to make our coffee! I would rather have a good quality cup of coffee, made with care then something whipped together by a minimally trained employee who knows nothing more about coffee then what the employee manual states.
We no longer like to wait for our food to be washed, carefully prepared, cooked, and served with care and pride. No we seem to always be in a rush, and sadly we do not know why we are rushing! Granted most things today are mass produced and are essentially disposable products, but this does not mean our lives are now disposable. If we need to make it to work or the bank or where ever on time then we should plan accordingly, and add a 5 minute buffer for good measure. We should stop trying to get things to move faster or top the last progress we made. Just because we have kids, soccer practice, piano lessons, car maintance, groceries, laundry, day care, etc. does not mean we need to get it all done today and try to cram 30 hours of chores into a 16 hour period! This fast paced one ups man ship is not doing us any favors. And we wonder why stress, bad diet, cholesterol, sleep ampheta, are all growing. We are overtaxing our selves and for what? If there is no real reward then all this speeding up of our lives and culture are all in vein. All this instant gratification is eroding our ability to appreciate quality and craftsmanship. Speeding and rude driving are a symptom of a much more complex problem. As with other health care issues, we need to identify the root cause and treat that, not the symptoms. We need to realize there is only so much we can do, and once we know our limits, say no to adding anything on top of our selves. It is ok to say no to adding all this stuff, espically if it is introducing negative effects to our lives and not really rewarding us when compared to the added frustration we have. Decompress, take a breath, watch the grass grow… it will be ok because life will go on, just as long as we let it and do not try to confine and redirect it. Doing this is as futile as damming a river, sure it will work for a few years, but eventually the dam will be undermined and the river will break through, it is easier to work with the flow of life then trying to control it.