Some of my favorite parts in Sam Jones' documentary on Wilco, I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, involve Rolling Stone senior editor, David Fricke. In one particular clip, Fricke explains that we live in a culture where there are people standing out on a sidewalk talking on cell phones and the gist of their conversations are, "I'll be there in five minutes." Fricke's response to someone doing this is to quit standing around and "just be there in five minutes." Even though Fricke's statement was made on September 10th, 2001, his words still ring true in our post-9/11 world.
I'll admit it; I'm guilty of being impatient with people by calling their cell phones if they're late. I don't want to be hung out like a clown so since the technology is handy, I give in from time to time. The deal is, you can be a little too impatient with the kind of technology cell phones allow. If someone is five minutes late, I wait it out. If he/she is thirty minutes late, I give him/her a call. The funny thing is, I heard a "I'll be there in five minutes" conversation while I was in Chicago back in October.
I was walking down Randolph Street and passed by a guy filling up his truck with boxes. He's on a cell phone, walking around his truck and the only thing I heard him say was, "I'll be there in five minutes." He was in motion and sounded like he was gonna be there in five minutes, but I couldn't believe I had actually seen an almost exact recreation of Fricke's description. My father once told me about people he rode on the bus with that would call his or her spouse with a conversation about he or she would "be home in ten minutes." It's one thing to give people a heads-up on your ETA, but when it becomes this habitual timekiller, I think it's a statement about our technology-bound culture.
In the '80s and '90s, cell phones were things that mostly rich businessfolk had. The thought that you could carry a phone around with you wherever you went sounded cool, but it didn't seem like a necessity. Now that I'm hard pressed to find someone who doesn't have a cell phone, we can make calls whenever and wherever. While I love how I rarely miss a call and how I don't have to pay long distance to talk to friends and family, I try and catch myself before falling into the dark side of impatience. Is it really gonna matter if I take a call now, ten minutes from now or ten hours from now? Eventually a conversation will take place.
I understand that some calls can't wait, but isn't a part of multi-tasking doing something over saying something? I know time is precious, but if it's spent burning up cell phone minutes to state the course of action planned in the next ten minutes, should we really be wasting our time by talking about it?