One pleasant spring day, I drove into town to watch our high school team play a baseball game. I like to watch baseball, and to my mind, a high school or college game is just as enjoyable as a pro game – also less hassle and a lot cheaper.
I had just bought a bag of popcorn and sat down in the bleachers when someone behind me yelled out, “Where you been the last couple of games?” It was my neighbor, Catfish, who has a farm just down the road. He is older than I – maybe 90 – and seems never to miss a home game. I explained that I had been busy with some chores. He paused until he had my full attention, then said, “Here’s my mottot: when there’s a game, chores can wait?”
I was reminded of Catfish’s motto the other day when I was riding with a friend who said he needed to stop at the supermarket and pick up a couple of things. He grabbed a cart and hurried off while I compared the price of various imported beers. Soon he was back with several items in his cart. “Come on,” he said, “let’s get out of here.” I asked why he was in such a hurry. “I want to get home,” he answered. I asked what he had to do at home. “Nothing,” he said, “but it’s better than doing nothing here.” As we drove out of the parking lot and down the interstate ramp, I wondered why people always seem to be in a hurry to get to the next place to do the next thing, even if they’re going nowhere to do nothing. I guess it’s the American way.
Few would deny that our culture is speeding up. Several of my friends do not shop for groceries anymore; they phone in their list, then make an appointment to pick up the items without leaving their cars. Perhaps merchants will soon devise a system like the railroads once used for mail – they will hang the groceries on a pole, and the customer’s car will have a hook that grabs them as it goes by at 50 mph. Carry-out restaurants are considering delivery by drone – decades of aeronautical engineering combined with Bernoulli’s principle to bring us a still-hot pastrami sandwich.
Mathematicians, who once spent hours solving an equation, now bang on a computer if it doesn’t return the solution in a matter of seconds. In light of such situations, the people who assemble computers keep striving to increase the speed of next year’s model. Now we have computers whose main function is to feed information to super computers because we humans can’t keep up. Today’s automobiles come equipped with circuitry that reacts much quicker to hazardous situations than do human drivers. It also will slow the car down when we don’t because we’re busy talking on the phone.
The other day I decided that one wall of my basement poolroom looked bare, so I got on line and, after perusing many paintings that might have been suitable, ordered one titled “Dogs Playing Pool.” It features a tough looking bulldog lining up a shot at the 8-ball, while in the background a pack of various breeds, hold bets or beers ... but I digress. My point is that the picture was delivered the next day. In my mind, I pictured several warehouse workers hustling around like emergency room nurses to get my doggy picture to me within 24 hours. I’ve never ordered anything I needed in 24 hours. Speed, once a means to an end, has become an end.
Still, as I once heard someone say, “Death is just nature’s way of saying, ‘Slow down!’”
So, there it is.
Chuck Avery is a retired teacher who grew up in Connersville’s Bucktown neighborhood.