Instant, Always, Now!

I am still, and constantly, puzzled by the attitudes of people around me. And much of it has to do with modern technology. Mainly the mobile phone and the internet. They have made “tempus fugit” like a bat out of hell …

Now don’t get me wrong … I actually work “on the web” (as they say) and I think that the internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Heck, even better. True, like sliced bread it can go off and you can be conned, but in sober and intelligent hands the internet is a great resource. And as to mobile phones, yes I have one and do not leave the house without it. Mainly because if you get stuck somewhere, anywhere, it’ll be easier to walk home than to find a public phone. Otherwise … well, let me tell you that my expenses for the last two years were around twenty Euros. And that I receive about one meaningful text message per month. And send even less.

Temopus fugit indeed (art installation at Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow,) - © Bernd Biege 2015
Temopus fugit indeed (art installation at Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow,) – © Bernd Biege 2015

But then I see other people. Every day, for instance, the same selection of mums on the school run. Many of which are on the phone while driving with kids in the car. Morons. What can be so important as to risk penalty points or a painful death? Nothing. But still. These stupid cows would have to have their mobiles surgically removed I guess. And don’t you dare being in their path when they swerve around bends, tenuously holding on to the steering wheel … the glares you get.

Always on the phone, always jabbering away, always rehashing the same stories as nothing new could have happened in-between. I talk, so I am. Or something like that.

Did you ever sit down for a nice meal or a pint with a friend, talking … and then he or she suddenly wrings their phone from a pocket to check a text message that came in? Or even starts to talk inconsequential stuff with somebody who just happened to ring? What message is that conveying? Basically (unless, of course, your friend is a transplant surgeon and on call) it says “nice meeting you, but you are so f*cking unimportant and boring”. I always want to stab these people with a fork and then ram a knife into the innards of their phones, which will then be drowned in the soup. Obviously I never do that. I smile and ignore the rudeness. And go home seething. Because, trust me, even mentioning the impoliteness of their behaviour in the most conciliatory terms will get you a. the glare and b. the end of a friendship. Or a dismissive laugh … after all, you are the eejit that lives in the middle ages, aren’t you?

On the other hand, that message or phone call could have been a life and death situation … like an update on an online order. Because getting the thing you ordered within a few hours is paramount these days.

It might now be said that you could have simply gone to the local shop, forked out some cash and carried the goods home immediately, but that would have been two Euros and twelve Cents more expensive. So an online order. And that at the lowest possible price. But with the fastest possible service. And the expectation that a parcel sent off from Outer Mongolia in a snowstorm with a strike of Russian cargo pilots and all Asian air traffic controllers to boot … well, it should be here tomorrow, shouldn’t it? Because I REALLY NEED IT!

Again, most of these orders are not transplant organs or so, they are everyday stuff people lived without for eternity. And then they crave them. And then the craving must be filled. Now. Faster. Instantly.

We have become a “Just-in-Time-Society”, where we do not care that products are only cheap because of next-to-slave labour, Byzantine tax avoidance schemes, unnecessary long transport routes, no regard at all for ecology … that’s what we want, isn’t it? Guys, what do we care if half the shift at the Chinese plant jumps off the nearest ridge … as long as our new smartphone is here in time. And cheap. though cheap does not even come into it in some occasions – witness high-price clothing made in dark and dusty, jail-like factories somewhere on the Indian subcontinent.

As I said … I am puzzled by all this. Maybe because I am an old fart.

I still remember my first mail order from the UK to Germany. It was a batch of Minifigs, 25 millimetres high metal figures from a fantasy world, late 1970s, many from a range called Valley of the Four Winds by name … well … for my sins and all that. But here’s how the deal went down: I picked models that were shown on a badly printed list (which arrived after sending in three IRCs, as stipulated by the company’s ad in “Battle“, which weirdly enough was available at the railway station shop in Itzehoe), then sent in my order. After two weeks or so I received a “pro-forma invoice”, complete with calculated postage and packing. Off I sent a registered envelope with cash (*gasp*). About three weeks later a slightly battered parcel arrived, with the small goodies. I was delirious. And the only owner of these models for miles and miles around. And happy how quick the whole thing went …

Were they really better times? In many aspects not … but we lost a lot of innocence. To technology.

Though myself, I have no problem with ordering stuff from China on AliExpress, and then waiting a few weeks for it to arrive. Maybe I kept my innocence. Making the best of the internet as a tool (Who knew in the 1970s what was produced around the world?), but not expecting instant gratification.

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