I've never watched synchronised swimming before. Of all the olympic events, it's probably the one in which I feel the least affinity for. But when the plane I was on touched back down in London, I saw a similar act of unison unfold before me.
As the captain switched off the seatbelt warning sign, a whole group of individuals who I imagine have never met or conversed before engaged in a truly remarkable act of synchronicity; they all stood up, reached into their pockets, extracted a rectangular block of plastic and filled the cabin with the simultaneous melody of voice mail beeps.
OK, I used a bit of artistic license in the above passage but in essence the described events did occur. When we landed, one of the very first thing that most of the passengers did was to turn on their mobile phone. A minor thing really but it is quite indicative of the society in which we now live in. We are significantly more interconnected than at any time in history and we're moving much faster than we ever were.
Email has crossed the threshold of network effects and reliability 1 allowing us to converse readily with people anywhere, anytime. Likewise, with 97% of the UK population have a mobile phone and nationwide mobile phone coverage, you can get in touch with someone wherever they are. In the few instances when you can't reach someone, there's always voice mail and text messaging.
It's the same with news coverage. I remember a scene in Star Trek IV where they come across a newspaper stand and decry that the news "must be hours out date". It's amazing that to a large extent, we can empathise with the sentiment as via RSS feeds, we can check and read multiple sources of news and information within minutes it being posted. Wherever a major event happens, we can flick on a channel/browse to a site and get live coverage as it happens. Even when you're at the epicenter of the event, you're not out of the loop when it comes to news coverage.
It's strange thing to say but quick and easy access to information is addictive. We become used to having information at our fingertips. We become used to doing things quickly. And as it bad as it sounds, I wouldn't really want it to be any other way.
Strolling through life
That said, I take a certain pleasure in taking my time. I'm perfectly happy to skip a train if it looks full. I enjoy just walking around, looking at the trees and the clouds whilst everyone's hustling around2. I love being able to fully immerse myself into a good novel. And I probably haven't worn a watch in the last 10 years because I'm not particularly worried about time on a per minute scale.
We're rushing around a lot nowadays. Sometimes, I think if we slow down a bit, we'll be able to enjoy the world around us a bit more.
Paying the customer
I generally find myself in WHSmiths fairly often and as with most stores nowadays, it's a rare occasion indeed when there isn't some sort of promotion running. "Buy one, get one free", 20% off, 50p off a chocolate bar. That said, I was pleasantly amused to find that when it came to paying for my copy of Edge magazine, the lady asked me if I bought a copy of the Times for 60p, she would give me a pound off.
I've had cheap purchases but it's not often that I pay negative money for a product.
- Does anyone else remember the dark ages when you weren't necessarily 100% sure if an email had been sent successfully? [back]
- I think videogames and comic books have given me an immense understanding of the majesty of the beauty of the world around me. [back]