The other day we requested an Uber and the wait time said 7 minutes. “7 minutes!,” we exclaimed with profound exasperation. “Why is it so far away?!”
A few years ago, that 7 minute wait would have been a godsend. The San Francisco cab scene was tough when I first moved here. It was hard to hail them on the street, so I’d have to call a cab company directly and usually was given a wait time of ~30 minutes. An actual wait of 30 minutes meant you were lucky: sometimes they never showed up at all. I don’t really know why it was so terrible, because I didn’t have that many cab challenges back when I lived in Chicago. Still, it’s no wonder San Franciscans have so happily adapted the on-demand ride apps.
The thing is, now that we’re so thoroughly trained to expect “on-demand” service, our sense of time has shifted. We increasingly can order more instant goods and services, from manicures to groceries to package pick-up. It’s nice for so many reasons, but it’s also warping our sense of time. A 7-minute lull feels like a travesty, and injustice to our oh-so-busy and important lives.
We’ve being trained to think that every second needs to be used productively, and every action needs to be done efficiently. We feel like we’re “wasting” time when we can’t do anything with a particular sliver of moments. Think about how often you whip out your phone to “fill lulls” when you’re waiting or “not doing anything.” How often do you just stand still and WAIT for whatever it is that you need to happen- whether that’s waiting in line at the pharmacy or taking a 30-minute bus ride across town?
I’ve noticed myself much more sucked into my phone in the past year, and I am trying to stem it. I catch myself opening the Facebook app more often, reading my emails, checking the news. I’m trying to curb that, trying to curb the temptation to always be holding my phone, and always doing something.
For me, at least, I can’t blame it all on tech. I’m the queen of wanting to cram a lot into my days. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to do something, all the time. I brought books for every car ride my family took, even if it was a 10-minute ride to a restaurant nearby. Being absorbed in those books meant I wasn’t absorbed in the world around me- and I don’t think mental absence via reading is really that much better than mental absence via phone Facebooking, in the end.
I’m trying to resist the urge to cram every minute of my day with “something.” Not every moment needs to be productive, or fruitful, or “used.” In 2016 I’m challenging myself to put the phone back down, my eyes back up.