The rush

Escalator
Escalator (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

Speed. The world we live in is built on it.

It’s a fact that’s been made more obvious to me since I’ve been hobbling heavy-footed around Melbourne city streets during peak hour, a crutch in one hand and my determination not to be pushed out of the way firmly in the other.

Returning to work after 7 weeks away from the madding crowd was something of a shock. I hadn’t noticed how quickly people in our city move. 90% of the population is in a frightening hurry while the remaining 10% is getting in its way. Knee surgery has forced me from the 90% into the 10%, and I’m getting a taste of life in the slow lane.

Getting onto a peak hour escalator has become an extreme sport for me. I have to deftly calculate the exact moment I can step into the fast moving queue without causing people to back up behind me, then I need to get exactly the right foot ready at exactly the right moment to step onto the escalator without going A over T (look it up J).

Most people politely move around me. With some I can sense their frustration bearing down on my back as they come up behind me. I can also sense the flood of relief as they shuttle past into the mainstream current of pedestrians.

This is what it’s like to be old. This is what it’s like to have a body that doesn’t work at the same speed as the 90%. The world waits for no one. If you can’t keep up you’re gonna be well and truly left behind. It’s bewildering. And terrifying.

I can’t help but wonder if this frantic rush isn’t driven by our technologically-dominated lives. The rate at which we receive and consume information has increased exponentially in the past decade, and I think it’s making us all a bit manic. It’s evident in our addiction to e-devices. We can’t imagine life without God Google or time-wasting Facebook. What did we do before these things dominated our lives?

I’ll remind you. We read newspapers from cover to cover. We hand wrote letters and used the postal system. We looked forward to the supermarket and toy catalogues arriving in our letterbox. We had patience and we waited for answers that weren’t immediately available. We looked things up in libraries. We remembered things.

Managing the rate at which life happens now is a constant challenge. I can barely comprehend the deluge of unsolicited demands that land in my 3 email inboxes, my letterbox, in-tray, phone, Facebook updates, and Twitter account.  I find myself besieged by community groups to corporations, causes to politicians, beggars to bandwagons, all screaming ‘Pay attention to ME! Listen to what I have to say’.

Finding the information I actually want, rather than the information everybody else wants to give me, is like looking for a pearl in a sea of jaggedy oysters. It means I scan, take information in on an ‘inch deep, mile wide’ basis and I never really know much about anything that’s going on, while knowing a little bit about everything that’s going on (which is vastly confusing).

Having to physically slow down has made me realise that mentally I’m travelling at 200km/h – and it’s time to put on the brakes. My brain and body will be better off if I take a breath, relax and pay closer attention to the things that matter – like sending a friend a hand written card and getting on the escalator without falling over.

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