8.19.2006

Making Time

I was at the Olympia Eastside Coop yesterday and when I went to check out, there was a new volunteer cashier. She made a minor mistake and accidentally charged me a small amount too much. She quickly got a staff member and he told her how to correct it and went back to his work. But he did not walk her all the way through the process, and she accidentally charged me the amount again, rather than voiding it. Another customer got in line, and she apologized to them, and told them her line would be a bit held up. She wrang for the staff member again. Another customer got in line. Fixing the problem went on for a few minutes, and all the while she seemed to get more and more flustered by the whole situation, and kept apologizing profusely to me, the staff member, and the other customers.
Meanwhile, the staff member kept calmly assuring her that it was fine, and courteously apologizing to other customers. I just kept thinking about how much I value having a worker-member coop, and how much I appreciate people showing consideration and friendliness to one another, which is one of the hallmarks of the coop.
This girl felt so horrible that she dared not know how to do everything perfectly, and that it was taking up an extra five or so minutes of my precious time. Why do we live this way?
My friend recently told me that he thinks the new measure of prestige is not money, but busyness. In our increasingly bureaucratic and corporate society, people have started to measure their value not by results or money, but by how busy they are. What we are busy with is not the issue.
That is why many people do not have time to have a trainee cashier, or a volunteer anything interrupt their most important schedule. If the schedule is interrupted by some poor person on their first week in a service job, they are met with outrage. Slowing up a transaction is tantamount to stealing in this day and age.
I am so much better of a person since I stopped being "busy", i.e. too important for daily life.
I am still busy, of course. Life fills every minute of every day.
But now I value being busy with unbusyness. I am busy being generous with trainee cashiers. I am busy listening to canvassers talk about their issues. I am busy being available for my friends' unanticipated crises. I am busy making time to stop and loan out jumper cables. I am busy having thoughtful, rambling conversations with my child. I am busy checking my blind spot before I merge. I am busy making time for my mistakes, and for compensating for other people's. I am busy taking time to know my husband's daily thoughts. I am busy making time for people who can't make it across the crosswalk before the red hand stops flashing.
The push to cram more and more work into the precious hours of our days is robbing us of courtesy, gratitude, peace, and love for our neighbors. Each time we slide another meeting or shift in another slim column of our day, we are ripping ourselves and the world off. I suggest we take a new approach to time, where quality leads, and we cushion our schedules with time for the spontaneous and untamed, the methodical and painstaking, the contemplative and generous-all the pastimes and qualities that make a life a good one- let's fill our planners with those.

4 Comments:

Blogger Rob Richards said...

Word.

Well said Jade.

4:44 PM  
Blogger Andrew said...

Sometimes I think the most important part of my day is when I can answer one of my kids with, "No, of course I'm not too busy to help you."

To Love, Honor and Dismay

5:12 PM  
Blogger Purplefireweed said...

Thank you for articulating what I too love (and sometimes get impatient) about the Coop, and busy-ness in general. The world's moving way too fast and I can hardly catch up. So I sit down and breathe peace to those who don't realize the preciousness of that early morning pregnant pause before everyone's out the gates, or simply sitting and intently listening to a loved one talk story....

3:45 AM  
Blogger jen said...

Right on. I often ponder the competitive busyness our culture seems to nourish. I try and slow down as much as possible, and take time to smell the flowers, so to speak. It isn't always easy swimming against the current though...

9:44 AM  

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