At Your Leisure

     The phrase “at your leisure” has lost all meaning in today’s impatient world. If there are more than two people in line at the grocery store, customers are wondering why the manager doesn’t open another cash register. Lots of people prefer self-check out for speedier service (unless I’m the customer in front of them).

     I’ve grown impatient like everyone else. I remember the good old days when getting a haircut was a half-day social event. People waited hours as the barber styled, shaved and powdered the necks of one customer after another. In the sitting area, people read newspapers and magazines, and chatted about goings-on in the town. Today, if there isn’t a stylist available as soon as I walk in, I’m doing a 180 degree turn out the door. I don’t even have time to add my name to the waiting list. Too much to do.

     I remember when you could spontaneously stop by a friend’s house for a cup of coffee (and coffee was actually brewed in a pot, not instantly compressed through a plastic K-cup). A knock at my door, once a sign of a welcomed guest, now prompts me to hit the triple locks and call 911 before I even look out the window to see who’s there. I know friends would never drop by unannounced. It’s just not done anymore.

     No one has time for the simple things. When the majority of people are working more than one job, leisure time is a premium commodity, if it exists at all. A movie and dinner? No time, how about just dinner? Tight schedule. Maybe we can meet for drinks, but just one. I have to work tomorrow. Next week? Sorry, no free days. Sometime in June between birthdays and graduations works for me. I think I have a few hours available after the Fourth of July but I need to check my schedule.

     There once existed something called Sunday Drives. My wife and I would spend the day motoring through unfamiliar towns, looking for antique shops and flea markets; a surprise at every turn. Today every destination is programmed into our GPS. We know our arrival and departure time down to the minute. No time to waste.

     I wonder how my wife would react if I suggested we take a ride to some of our favorite places from the past, just to spend some time together enjoying each other’s company. It’s been years since we visited 40-Steps Beach in Nahant. It was exhilarating to walk out on the dangerous outcropping overlooking the ocean, carefully stepping on the jagged rocks to see how far we dared venture before being drenched by a rogue wave. Another favorite place of ours was Lighthouse Point on Marblehead Neck. We would watch boats drift by in the harbor and clouds drift by in the sky. It seems more like a dream than a memory.

     All of these things existed in a time before the internet, before cell-phones, before DVRs. These devices were developed to enhance our lives. Instead, technology has done the opposite by stealing our free time and filling it with the endless stream of the white noise 24/7 news cycle.

     My life feels like a revolving obstacle course. I have messages I need to respond to and suddenly a month has passed. I finally got together for dinner with some close friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I wanted call them to tell them how nice it was to reconnect. A month has passed and I haven’t even texted them.

     During my annual medical exam, my doctor asked me if I was stressed. I gave him a rundown on my job, my part-time job and my freelance work, thinking he would tell me to slow down. Instead, he said, “It’s good to be busy.” Then he hurried off to his next patient.

     To unwind, I turn on the television and scroll through the DVR recordings I’ll never have time to watch. I flip to Netflix for a list of even more things I’ll never watch. After that, I check out Amazon Prime’s endless selection of videos. Something tells me I’m not missing anything.

     My favorite weekend activity used to be taking walks around Spot Pond, watching the sun reflect on the pond as I reflected on my life. Today I have no time for walking. And forget about reflecting. I’m consumed by all the things I need to do today. My walks around Spot Pond will have to wait another week or two. Maybe it will be warmer by then.

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