07 November, 2010

When the World's too Busy for Vowels

I am ashamed to say that a few weeks ago I was the epitome of irritating busy business person in a busy hurry, who busily orders non-fat xtra-hot grande skinny lattes, thx.

There I was, London St. Pancras @ dawn, freezing, perched at a table in a cafĂ© full of suits, suitcase by foot, Blackberry in hand, tea in other hand, hand bag in other hand, meeting notes in other hand, tickets in other hand, waiting for the train that would earnestly carry me to client meeting folly. I was that person that day, and I almost didn’t realise it. 

UNTIL amidst the stress of my mental (and actual) juggling act and internal monologue of “6 hours until the weekend, 6 hours until the weekend, 6 hours until the weekend”, I received a lovely, supportive text from a sweetheart friend telling me it was indeed nearly the weekend. Ordinarily such a text at such a daunting hour on such a taxing day would steer me into smiling spirits, but on this occasion it was all I could do to groan at the inconvenience that this gave me another task in texting them back. When I found myself frowning, whilst hurriedly checking the time, standing to retrieve tickets from one of my many hands and simultaneously absent-mindedly sending a heart-felt reply, I had to take a look at myself. My ‘heart-felt’ reply that morning had me for the first time in my literal life abbreviating “thanks” to “thx” and ,worse still, to someone I actually care about.

As I pressed send and scurried off through the ticket barriers, tea splattering on my tights, the internal monologue took a breath, and my conscience got a word in edgeways – “when did I become too busy for vowels?”

The above described moment was always a ‘when’ not an ‘if’ of the future I’m in such a hurry to meet. For we live in a society with an ever-accelerating ‘fast-pace’, the need for not 1 but 8 coffees ‘on the go’ (to a very particular description or else we just cannot function), we’ve no time to queue in supermarkets (oh no, we’ll serve ourselves thx), we’re too busy to update both Twitter and Facebook stati of a day so we use an app that synchronises them, we’ve too little time to set a wake up alarm so our iphone sets them a month in advance, we’re too frantic to enter our friend’s BB pin so we have an app to scan a barcode that inputs it for us, too pushed to push so we opt for a c-section that can guarantee what time we’ll be discharged so we can tweet about it at optimum tweet time. Aged 24 and just jumping into my social media career, the busy in business was always going to catch up with me, but at what cost did I clamber aboard that bus?

Over the past 6 months, 2 years since graduation and a year or so into proper jobs, I have noticed myself and an increasing number of my early 20’s friends showing serious signs of “just so busy” syndrome. Other than eliminating vowels, we’ve put time limits on lie ins, planned our one free Sunday of the trimester 7 weeks before it arrives, felt panicked in the first week of November that we haven’t done any Christmas shopping, got up at 5am on a Saturday just to get it all done before we can ‘enjoy’ the remainder of the weekend…the real low point was when I recently agreed with one friend that we were both free for a phone call at 14.30pm on Wednesday lunchtime. In two weeks time. It’s no life when the close uni friend who’s bed you once lay at the foot of for hours on end of a weekday afternoon has become little more than an appointment in your mid-week diary and a reminder in your outlook.
Iphone, iwork, irun, iplay – the irony of the iness in business that leaves us so self-absorbed in our own hectic schedules.

What’s more, it is all so unnecessary. High speed trains to Birmingham from London – what because we absolutely have to be at New Street in 49 minutes and the extra half an hour would just break us? You can send a text 4 ur nxt bus from a bus stop to find out when the next bus will be to the minute…because the electronic display and manual timetable just don’t quite cover it? You can voice-dial people, because speed dial and having to press 1 button just doesn’t cut it anymore (though I have to say voice dial really does not save time when your best friend and your sister are called Abbi and Abi). And now even those time-saving abbreviations have come full circle and started to elongate. I am a self-confessed culprit of this crime, but when we’ve started pronouncing OMG as “oh – em –gee” and thereby omitting no syllables from the original expression (that’s ‘oh my god’ for those who weren’t around in pretextoric times) we’re in trouble world.

Since that fateful day of “Thx” a few weeks ago, I have watched myself intently for signs of “just so busy” syndrome so as to nip this in the bud, because it’s not cool, it’s not likeable and it’s not fun. So when I was on yet another train last weekend and found my finger hovering over the “doors open” button five minutes before my stop, ready for pressing the instant the lights came on, I carefully retreated, stepped back and smiled sheepishly at the old dear who was still rummaging to find her seat reservation 1 mile from the final stop. We could all take a leaf out of her dithering book (except on market days, that’s just annoying).

Not only will nipping this syndrome in the bud save me time in the long run (you know, when mid-30’s they tell you you’re going to have heart attack if you don’t slow down and work extra hard at relaxing and you wind up putting in a good few hours of mediation every day) but also mainly I don’t want to see the demise of Countdown. “Another consonant please Carol…another consonant please Carol…another consonant please Carol…anthr cnsnnt pls crl…” doesn’t have the same ring really does it?

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