Monday, September 10, 2012

Tick tock

In this age of instant messaging and mobile communications, waiting has ceased to be the fine art of self-expression that it used to be. Yes, I believe it is a form of self-expression - as ridiculous as it may sound.

Back in the day, before mobile communications, there was the need to keep true to your calendar. Heck, I even lived phone-less during the dark days when only one out of five households had a landline, which sorta doubled the pressure. As you can imagine, setting appointments and keeping them were quite the challenge. When you told someone to meet you at one o'clock in front of the bookstore on Saturday, you damn well had to be there. Your ability to keep the appointments you make was a measure by which you were judged in all other aspects. Thus, people learned to be accountable for themselves at the risk of everyone having a negative image of you.

As communications improved with technology, accountability took a backseat to convenience. People now had the power to cancel and postpone their appointments and dates in no time, and without the prejudice. The term "something came up" became an acceptable excuse, that stood to mean there were other more urgent matters to attend to, thereby sending the subtle message to the other party that they were inferior to you.

This irritates me no end.


In a way, we have lost respect for time in this world of instant everything. People seem to have forgotten that time is something that is given, and once it is committed there is no getting it back. The relative convenience of texting someone that you can't make it 10 minutes before call time or that you will be late is alarming.

For instance, when you set a date for 4o'clock and the person texts you to make it 5o'clock at 3:45, that's just rude in my book. So imagine how it feels when someone tells you to wait for their text to meet them. While they are doing tasks relevent to them and at their own schedule, you're stuck there trying to guess whether you still have time to darn your socks or you should get moving already, anticipating that text message.


Maybe I'm just old-fashioned. It is true that technology has allowed us to accomplish a lot more in an hour than what we could have done in a day, say a decade ago. But it just bugs me at what price we have to pay in terms of respect and consideration to others for all this efficiency. It bugs me that people today tend to keep everything hanging, and have done away with setting definite dates and deadlines. It bugs me when people rearrange their calendars on a whim, not considering how it affects other people's schedules.

Of course, I could just be turning into a grumpy old man. I mean, a lot of things still get done and people are getting better at compromising to move forward. Maybe you lose an hour here and there, but the time you gain with all this progress might have just made it up and more anyway. But I just like to romanticize the concept of giving due respect to the time that we commit to ourselves and to others. There certainly is nothing wrong with keeping things on a fixed timetable, I'm sure there is always some room for flexibility if we give due contingencies to them.


In the end, what I'm truly harping about here isn't really time per se. But rather our commitment and recognition of others and their importance to us. You can always earn more money, eat at that fancy restaurant any other day, play that computer game another time. But the time that we waste on people who do not recognize the same amount of importance for us, I don't think we can ever get that back.

Which reminds me of a true story which I find encapsulates how I feel about waiting. This story about a dog in Japan who waits each and every day for his master at the train station, even after his master's death. The dog waited at the precise time each day until the day of his own death 9 years after.

For the dog, the exercise of waiting for his master was certainly not a waste of time, but rather a tribute to the man who cared for him all his life and an extraordinary display of loyalty. The act of waiting, even in futility, can be the highest form of respect one can give. If only others can learn to use their time to show respect and consideration for the time of others, I'm sure the world would be ticking forward in harmony, like clockwork.