We’re a Culture Moving Too Fast
And we’re sucking all the joy out of life.
I was in SeaTac airport waiting for my flight and sitting in an overpriced airport restaurant to get a bite to eat. A woman came in frazzled and plopped her duffel in the seat next to her and sat down next to me.
No sooner had she sat down did the bartender ask her if she was saving that seat for someone. She took it as I took it. He wanted her to move the bag. She let him know, kindly but firmly, that sometimes travelers need a minute to compose themselves before such requests were made.
I welcomed her and she exhaled for what seemed like the first time in a little while. Her accent was heavy but beautiful.
She was from Peru. A journalist taking a year off to travel. She was half way through her sabbatical.
It was interesting watching her order and interact with the bartender serving us. She was very concerned about coming across as a picky patron. She was indeed picky but apologetic.
She sent her first dish back and when she wanted to order a glass of wine wanted to look at the actual bottles to choose between the two.
She explained to me that there are major service differences between where she comes from in the states. We, she said, are not invested in service or in each other for that matter. She finds it off putting.
She was also very turned off by how she was presented the check and how the bartender refilled her water. Where she comes from, you would never hand something to someone without looking them in the eye and acknowledging their request and its fulfillment.
You would never drop off a check at a table and walk away, especially if it was not requested. It would be considered rude in Peru.
Interestingly, as Americans, I don’t think we care. What we value is not service and connection, it’s speed. Efficiency. How quickly can someone get us something that we want. How fast can they return an email. How swiftly does an answer come.
It occurred to me that we are far too hurried of a society. We are always moving and not sitting still. We don’t take a moment to appreciate good things in life.
When we go out to restaurants we complain about how long service takes and about having to wait. In other countries, service is part of the experience and you understand that part of that experience means it’s going to take some time.
We only enjoy things on a surface level, like if something doesn’t serve a function and a purpose in our lives, we don’t appreciate it or need it.
It perpetuates an idea that it’s not about what we can experience and what we can be part of, it’s what can people do for us for our own betterment.
We’re trying to take the fastest route between Point A and Point B regardless of whether or not the route is enjoyable. We don’t carve out time to get simple pleasure from existing in the world.
Our hurried state is making us detached. We run the risk of growing colder the faster that we move. When we move too fast, we miss the nuances of an experience.
I’ve watched bartenders make amazing concoctions with far more care given to the drink than the patrons. I don’t blame them for it.
We don’t care about the work being done or who does it. We care about the product. The end of the road, not the journey.
So what happens if we change this? I’m not talking about a revolution but a small personal shift in thinking. I’m talking more joy. Simple as that.
Slowing down allows us to uses more of our senses. We have more space to clear our heads and reflect. The noise inside our heads get quieter as we take in parts of the world that serve no other purpose than bring that joy.
We become better people. More kind. More compassionate. More feeling. More connected. All because we slowed down.
It sounds like a gross oversimplification. I get that and maybe it is. But, right now our focus on ourselves, instead of our surroundings and our experiences, is doing nothing for us. I want a little more than that out of life. Scratch that. I want a lot more.