Monday, June 1, 2009

"And Make It Snappy!"

Why are we always in such a hurry? I know that Type-A New Yorkers are especially susceptible to the need to do things fast. We talk fast, eat fast, and drive as if our very lives depend on getting to the next red light faster than anyone else. After a while, we can't function any other way, not only that, but we lose patience with others who don't move as fast as we think they should. I do a lot of shopping in New Jersey, and sometimes I feel like screaming when the cashiers take what seems like forever to complete your transaction. New Yorkers, when they return from vacation to anywhere else in the world all say the same thing: "God those people are slow. I'd go crazy living there!"

Every day on the radio I hear a commercial for speed-reading. "You can read ten books in the time it takes someone else to read one!" Reading is supposed to be a pleasurable activity; when did it become a race? One of the most enjoyable experiences in life is to sit quietly with a good book and let the author capture your imagination. I remember as a kid discovering the joy of reading and how it could enlighten, entertain, excite and even anger you. Reading was your ticket to places and times you would never know in any other way. The objective of reading a good book should not be to get to the end as quickly as possible, but to be affected in some way by the experience. Don't be deprived of this by the need for speed.

I drive into Manhattan five times a week. The main route to the Verrazano Bridge, our way off Staten Island, is via Hylan Boulevard. This is a good secondary road with the traffic lights timed to allow commuters to make their way to the bridge without stopping if they travel at around 40 miles an hour. Nice easy ride, right? Wrong. Every day, without fail, there are morons trying to pass you on the right, tailgating, making high-speed and risky lane changes to get the next light which is still red because these jerks exceed the speed at which the lights are timed to change. As I get onto the bridge, I see the same jerks next to me because, unless they are prepared to run red lights, which some do by the way, they can't get there any faster for all their zig-zagging. My solution...warn them once, if they get caught a second time, lobotomize them.

One of the funnier comics around is a guy named Brian Reagan. He does a dead-on impression of a New Yorker on an elevator waiting for the doors to close. The guy stands there fidgeting and jabbing the "Door Close" button muttering: "C'mon, c'mon, c'mon, CLOSE dammit! This is not a made-up joke, but rather an astute observation of Type A behavior. These nuts will also sometimes pass their hand back and forth across the elevator threshold, or bounce up and down in the car trying to "fool" the elevator into thinking more people just got on, and that it's now OK to slide the doors closed.

Domino's Pizza has a policy that states: "If your pizza does not arrive within 30 minutes, it's free." Is this plasma the guy's delivering? Should we put a siren and flashing lights on the delivery car so some fat f**k won't have to wait more than a half-hour for his pizza? Maybe the police need a new summons type: "Failure to yield the right of way to a Domino's pizza truck". Memo to Domino's: Stop endangering lives by trying to honor this stupid policy. Take your time, make a better pizza and, what the hell, take up to an hour to deliver it. I'm sure Vito can snack on some Ho-Ho's while he waits.

Remember going to the bank and speaking to a teller who knew you and your family? You exchanged small talk about the weather and your weekend plans while she cashed your check or accepted your deposit. The wait wasn't that long because the bank had plenty of tellers. Then came the dreaded ATM. I'll admit that ATMs are convenient after hours and on weekends when banks don't have hours, but that's all they have going for them. It started slowly...the banks rationalized the elimination of personal service by claiming that not having to pay tellers would save customers money. Then they started charging ATM fees or demanding minimum balances to avoid them, so where's the savings? Now people don't even get out of their cars, they lurch up to the outdoor ATM, snatch their money and speed away. No more pleasant smiles at the teller window, and thousands of jobs eliminated when we need them most.

I know New York will never be Mayberry, but sometimes I think we've gone too far in our quest for more and more speed. The pace of life seems too hectic, what with e-mail, cell phones, fast food, fast-forwarding through the commercials on a TV show you DVR''s insane. We need to slow it down a bit and restore some of the civility that went South when we forgot about small courtesies and how to enjoy little things like having a word with your neighbor or the mail carrier. Someday I hope to have a house with a porch, to me, the very symbol of slow and easy. A porch is sitting in the rocker enjoying a glass of lemonade on a hot day, maybe reading a book while listening to the ballgame on the radio. If I could, I'd just dive into one of those classic Norman Rockwell paintings of Americana and live there.


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The Whiner said...

Come live in Portland...we have houses and things sure do move slowly around here. Hell, we don't even have a Dominos!

The Whiner said...

I meant to say we have houses with porches...see I was typing too fast!

Jim Pantaleno said...

I could live in Portland...I like it there. Maybe I could open a genuine "Eyetalian" Salumeria and show those WASPS what real, artery-clogging food tastes like.