Life in the Fast Lane

by Steve on May 23, 2006

We do it to ourselves. No one else to blame but the one in the mirror. We scurry around in a mad dash to get to our next appointed task rarely appreciating the small joys we blast through. If life is the journey then why is everyone in such a sprint to get to the finish? It doesn’t make much sense if you stop long enough to think about it.

Having just returned from my annual decompression on my favorite little island the contrasts are still painfully fresh. Admittedly my wife needed the stress relief far more than I but we both refreshed our souls for another stretch in the battle that has become commonplace in the American lifestyle. Our society demands instant gratification. The pace of our lives has intensified with each generation and each passing year. It’s all about speed and convenience. Why are we in such a hurry? After all, once you’re there it’s done.

Mid week into our escape I was amused by the rude arrival of the ugly, demanding American. Never got his name but no matter, the stereotype doesn’t require one. We had fully adjusted to “island time” and were peacefully enjoying the early morning as the island came to life. Slowly as is the nature of the place. I had already been out on the water, watching the sunrise under the pretense of fishing, and had returned refreshed to collect my wife for breakfast. Sitting patiently in the screened-in dining area, we were waiting for the coffee to finish brewing enjoying the rising sun and breeze contemplating what the day might hold. Shouting punched through the morning air coming from the direction of the office. The source of the offense made his way across the deck demanding to no one in particular that his needs be satisfied. Where was the staff? Where was the coffee? Didn’t these people realize that he had a schedule to keep? Apparently he was due to meet up with his guide to go bonefishing that morning. Pity the poor guide who I new from observing the local patterns was not going to show for at least an hour yet.

Later in the week I witnessed this same deluded self-important individual berating his wife who seemed entirely too sweet to tolerate the fool. They were both headed out with a guide again and it seemed that the departure time of their afternoon charter flight was still unsure. The wife attempted to quietly remind him that they had still not finished packing. His astounding response assured her that the couple they were traveling with (specifically the other wife) could handle the remaining chores. His own wife quietly protested while the other remained silent and I immediately understood she was attempting to tell him that it was not an appropriate request but he missed the point and persisted by stating that he had complete trust in his friend’s wife to finish his packing while he fished. Poor bastard, the friend that is.

My wife and I shook our heads in disbelief. How could someone be so self-absorbed. Rude. Ugly. The American that gives us all a bad name when we travel.

The book I took with me was Pat Conroy’s Beach Music. I read it years ago, far enough back that it was time to enjoy it again. There is a line somewhere in the midst of all that great writing that sums it up nicely:

Throughout his life, [his] greatest fear was that he would be buried alive in that American topsoil of despair and senselessness where one felt nothing, where being alive was simply a provable fact instead of a ticket to a magic show.

Yes, by all means necessary, slow down and enjoy the show.


Kelly May 23, 2006 at 9:38

There’s always got to be one rotten apple to spoil the bunch, unfortunate that he felt the need to subject everyone to his “superiority”. And what a wonderful quote…I’ll have to go track the book down!

Anonymous May 24, 2006 at 11:26

What a great insite to our trip.

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