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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Speed Of Life

I'm currently sitting in the airport in Portland, Oregon, waiting for my flight. It's already been delayed by an hour, and may get delayed even longer, which is never a fun thing. I'm frustrated by that, and I haven't even gotten on the plane yet. It's especially hard considering how long I'll be traveling. A straight-line trip from here to my home is about 2200 miles. For perspective (especially for non-Americans), that's about the distance from Perth to Brisbane, or from London to Beirut. A pretty long trip by any means. I'm going to finally make it home about 2AM local time, and that's assuming no further delays. Yeesh!

This is not the first time I've been delayed in an airport, though. I've traveled enough that I've had to spend the night in the airport on two occasions. It's never a desired outcome, but to a certain degree you learn to deal with it. And honestly, it's pretty amazing that we have such fast, reliable travel. Just 100 years ago, it would have taken close to a week to sail across the Atlantic from London to New York (a distance of about 3500 miles). Now we can do the same thing in a matter of hours. Around the same time it would take days or a week to get a letter across the country. Now we can send an email in fractions of a second.

We in the 21st century have become very spoiled with the speed of our lives, and I count myself in that group. I have high-speed internet access and am using it multiple times per day. I have satellite TV, a cell phone, and a car. I am used to being able to go anywhere or get in touch with anyone pretty quickly. So when it takes me a full minute to download a web page, I'm feeling my blood pressure rise and getting ready to yell at the computer. If my wife can't get in touch with her parents within a few rings of their cell phone, she gets frustrated at not being able to reach them. When a 30 minute drive gets delayed because of traffic and turns into a 90 minute drive, we start to rant and rave about how horrible that is. And when a cross-country flight gets delayed by an hour or two, we start to pull our hair out and have to resist going and yelling at the completely innocent people at the airline's desk.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we should put things into perspective. We are so used to extremes in speed and convenience, that even a slight delay causes great frustration and anger. Rather than looking at how much things have changed even within our own lifetimes, we react strongly to such situations and can't stand a slower pace. Frankly, I think we could all benefit from slowing down a bit. How much do we miss because we're always rushing about in a hurry? Why do we really need that song to download in less than a minute? What's so important about being able to view a movie on-demand rather than going to the rental store? Are we setting ourselves up for even more frustration as our technology and speed improves even more?

So let's all take the time to take a deep breath and relax. Sometime today, stop what you're doing and look around. Take a pause from your hectic schedule and try to appreciate how easy we have things, even in hard economic times. Let's learn the often forgotten art of patience, and spread it around a little.

But even so....I REALLY hope my flight isn't delayed any further....