Graham Dukes contemplates Life in the Slow Lane
It was not very long ago that I realised how much the slice of the world with which I am in contact was speeding up; it was positively running away from me, but also attempting all the time to drag me along with it. Not, you understand, that I feel concern about speed as such. I have no wish to share the reputation of those folk who scoffed at Stephenson’s Rocket, maintaining that, if the human frame were to be pulled along at twelve miles an hour, misery and damnation would ensue. No, the point at which I begin to get worried, and perhaps a little irritable, is when I find that I am being pressured to speed up myself. Why should I?
This very morning that problem thrust itself vigorously into my octogenarian consciousness. I had just taken my seat at the data machine and switched the thing on when an uninvited message leapt onto the screen. “Hurry!” it screamed at me. “Your data machine is SLOW! Think of what you are missing! In just three minutes you can speed it up with the help of EXSCREENER……!”
Now I admit that my venerable home computer is not all that fast, but what of it? I come down after breakfast every morning and press a switch to start the thing up. Then I take my seat. I adjust my cushions; I scratch my head to remove the cobwebs and I rub my chin to clear away any traces of shaving soap. I wipe my spectacles and adjust my collar. I lean over and turn down the radiator, since it is generally much too warm in here. Perhaps I get up and open a window to let in some fresh air. Then I sit down once more, adjust my cushions again and….well, you get the idea. By the time I have done all this to my own satisfaction, my computer will have woken up as well and together we shall be ready to move. I wouldn’t want it any other way. This is how things go in the morning when I arrive at my desk, but I could tell much the same story about other situations in which I need my time. No, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with my head, but when it comes to action nowadays I want to move at my own pace. I also gladly admit to the conviction that life was rather easier when, instead of sending an e-mail, we were required to write out a telegram that would then be transmitted verbally by a postmistress equipped with a telephone and subsequently delivered by a telegraph boy on a bicycle.
It is not only the computer world that urges me to hurry. I encounter the same malignant trend in messages from a veritable choir of travel agencies and airlines, all seeking to convince me that my fortune and happiness can only be assured if I gird my loins, cast aside any niggling doubts, and run to take advantage of their bargains before their offers expire.
So what are we going to do about it? I am clearly not unique: plenty of other people who have served society in one capacity or another for decades now feel that they should be protected from this prodding and pushing that would have us live more rapidly. Society has already provided us with pensions and prescriptions; now all that we need is a trifle more understanding of our aversion to haste and hurry. May I make some suggestions?
Firstly, as I am reliably informed, there is now something known as Walking Football, devised for people who are content to play but who do not wish to run. An excellent start, but there should be more in the same genre. Why not complement it with Walking Cricket, played with a large and fluffy but weighty ball which, if batted sufficiently hard, will move sedately towards its goal while the batsmen stride between the wickets? After that it should be possible, with a little thought and understanding, to make provision for Slow Ping Pong and Sedate Boxing. An analogous approach could provide new computers and television sets with speed controls so that they start up more gently; older data units, such as mine, could be fitted with apps capable of filtering out messages calling for Haste and Hurry.
You see: it is not all that difficult. We have some good starting material already, and more is to be found. What about tackling indecent haste in urban traffic by introducing gated pedestrian crossings and……. No, for the moment I believe we have enough. I have simply provided the message and raised the starting flag. What we need now is a decent slogan and a team to get the thing into slow motion. Come along, everybody. But at walking pace, if you please.