Impatient with Impatience
Terry H. Schwadron
Got a minute? I want to consider something. That’s right, I don’t have an instant answer — or even a need to answer it Right Now. Relax. Chill. Consider.
Increasingly, I’m running directly into the renewed Need for Speed, that everything before us must be resolved instantly, from purchases and entertainment to sports contests and court decisions. This mania for now-decisions and now-actions is making me, and maybe you, a little crazy. Rationally, we may recognize that we really don’t need instant fulfillment, but the constant messages of sales and ads, the color commentaries that deliver expected results before the event, the pressing for electronic solutions, the constant sounds of bells and whistles makes instant resolution seem the expected result.
Take the news about Amazon buying Whole Foods for a gazillion dollars, apparently an effort to make new piles of money by changing the dynamics of food shopping — all on the premise that spending a half hour or so in the grocery store is too long a time commitment. Instead, says the argument, we should drop by a smaller version of the store (or visit digitally through ever-present phones), wave the phone over sample goods and leave. While we’re out amusing ourselves in another instant round of gratification, robots will gather the food, arrange for delivery to electronically pre-registered addresses by driverless cars or drones and a bill will be processed, all without human intervention.
They talk about it as if Amazon is going either to tame the grocery experience or simply find a new route to making more money. What they really are selling is impatience insurance.
This outbreak of impatience is nothing new, of course. It probably was with us back in the cave days. Hunger prompted hunting. It probably represented a wild amount of human progress to get humans to understand that they would be hungry again tomorrow, and think today about acting on the understanding by planting crops or preserving food.
So, too, understanding of the dangers of climate control requires thinking ahead. Cutting budgets for health and food stamps should mean thinking about the consequences rather than celebration of this year’s reduced spending. Retaliating for a North Korea from mistreating the young man who returned in a coma and died this week will bring about unintended results, of course. The instantaneous decisions by a sizeable number of police officers toward unarmed black citizens without a single finding of guilt will have long-term effects on the social compact. Shooting down a Syrian jet, an instant act, will replay for years in our relations with Russia.
In a Pennsylvania courtroom, a jury talked for a few days before agreeing that they could not agree on criminal charges against comedian Bill Cosby. The response — immediate, of course — was not only that the jury was wrong, but that there had been no real need for jury deliberation. Facebook judges were persuaded without even considering the actual testimony that Cosby was fully guilty of this crime, something obvious it right off the bat. I don’t doubt that the prosecution should have been able to prove its case, but they didn’t.
The President reacts on Twitter to news events of all kind with what appears to be the barest of understanding to anything he perceives seeks to wound his thin political hide.
Thankfully, on some level, last night’s election for a Congressional seat in Georgia was considered too close for the pundits to be able to call it ahead of time or even at the close of polls. Perhaps the experience should remind us that we can wait a few hours for the actual event to unfold.
So too with sports events. I enjoyed the back and forth of the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers without having to know the outcome in advance. It was about the basketball.
As a musician, the last thing I want is for the pieces to end. I feel alive and in the moment while I am playing, not while I talk about playing music, or worse, when someone else talks about the music that I am going to play or hear.
I’m pretty sure I will hate the Senate health care bill, but I am curious to see what the Republicans have done and how they have tried to thread the political needle required to get a bill passed. I will read about the bill, and summaries of its components if not the bill itself, before I draw a full conclusion.
My big complaints about politics and public affairs is that the decisions are coming faster than the thinking. Whether foreign affairs (We may defeat ISIS by bombing Raqqa, but then what?) to health care crafted in secret or firing James Comey from the FBI, the decisions often seem arbitrary, quick, even emotional and impulsive — like presidential tweets.
So, I’d tell Amazon that I welcome them to bring lower prices to Whole Foods, and I wish them well at using the food chain as a laboratory for new patterns in groceries. But I like picking my fruit, and I don’t always know ahead of time exactly what I need. I don’t mind spending a few extra minutes deciding between competing brands to find the better choice. Of all the things I may do, I don’t need instant gratification at the supermarket.
Now the line at CVS or getting the subway, those are wholly different. I’d welcome a little instant gratification in case Amazon is listening.