I’m waiting for a flight to begin boarding, and am being forced to bear witness to an incredibly particular brand of douchebag.
You know him well. (If not, rest assured that a facsimile is waiting impatiently at the airport for you.) He’s that Blackberry-clutching, hostess-harassing, self-entitled twat asking for a free upgrade, who thinks he’s the first person to wear a linen blazer. (And for the record, it’s a shitty linen blazer.)
The pinnacle of his obnoxious panache will be charging to the bridge as soon as boarding opens, then, post-landing, wheels barely kissing tarmac, climbing over my lap to fetch his oversized carry-on. The prick.
It’s as though it never occurred to him that the return on his unabashed investment into assholery is entering a terminal 30 seconds faster.
Somehow, though, his assholery is worth it. Like those human parasites who barge onto a peak hour tube before other passengers can get out, there’s something deeper driving it: the fear of being still for a second. The fear of, god forbid, doing nothing at all. Have we become so horrifically in need of constant stimulation?
It’s the oh-shit-I-forgot-to-bring-headphones-for-this-commute. It’s a rush to do the next thing and the next thing and the next, an irrational fear of missing out; that a second can’t be squandered when you could be scanning the Standard, tapping out a few proactive emails or making more of that Netflix subscription that you never, really, sussed out.
We're leading monotonously frantic and distracted days. And no, this isn’t some affliction unique to Oxford fucking Circus.
For all the Clooney-branded romance of the Italians and their long lunches that stretch into longer dinners, you can be damned sure that Milan central is a shitstorm at peak hour, that every Stefano and Francesca is buried in their iPhone, worried about deadlines or bunga bunga or whatever.
Look, I’m hardly some stuffy, smartphoneless neo-Luddite. But fast is ruining everything. Really.
Fast fashion means we’re meant to buy new tees every month.
Fast journalism means we’re meant to tolerate inaccuracies.
Fast dating means fast kissing, fast screwing, fast ditching.
We're not giving things their due time – and they're turning against us.
Hell, are we not thinking faster thoughts? Instead of incrementally building knowledge and piecing together neural superhighways, we’re doing rushed scans of a wiki or a Google – inhaling information for a moment, then disposing of it like a plastic fork.
See? Fast is even screwing with our thought processes.
And then there’s the bastard counterweight to all of this: the fetishisation of Slow. When exactly did ‘slow’ become subversive? Slow food? Screw you. That’s regular goddamned food.
Maybe the very worst part of Fast is that you can both loathe it and take part in it. We race to the quip, to the point, to the sale, to the seat, to the tweet. And for what? To sit for maybe three stops? To be first onto a plane that won't leave any sooner? It's pointless, but it’s compulsive.
It’s not that I don’t appreciate rapidity. It’s that there is no give without take. Sure, we can take more news, maps and Breaking Bad than ever. But, for all the ceaseless taking, we’re forgetting what we’re reflexively giving up. Serenity. Respite. Joie-de-bloody-vivre.
We all need to slow the hell down. Take a breath. Stay in the present.
All of this really is best illuminated by travel. Lord help those who are stuck dating the type with a pathological need to project manage a holiday, as though some elusive state of nirvana reveals itself after stomping around the last of fifty-something crowd-bloated tourist traps.
Try picturing a different holiday. One with all the noise stripped back. One without a minute-to-minute itinerary. The little things would take on greater meaning, right? The lingering sun-drunk gaze of the girl across the bar, the way the ice melts into your cocktail and softens its punch a little, the way you wake up late morning, roll over and fall back asleep. The way you wake up again.
Simple. Content. Precisely the type of holiday that constantly rushed, linen-blazered douchebag in line in front of me would never take.
God, I wish he’d get out of my fucking way.