Shaving time

One of the annoyances of working downtown is crosswalks. It always seems like no matter which way you want to go, the crosswalk lights will make you wait. It’s so tempting to cross against the light.

But what I don’t understand so much are the people who start walking the moment the traffic light goes yellow (or amber, for my friends Down Under). Don’t these people ever drive? Don’t they notice how people try to beat the light? It seems to me this would be the worst time to try and cross. But off they go! What does it matter if you have the right of way if you’re dead?

Last night as I was headed to the train station I stopped at the corner to wait for the light. A gentleman pushed past me and headed out into the crosswalk before the light was even yellow. He saved a few seconds at most, and put himself at risk. I thought to myself “A few seconds can’t be worth risking your neck. He’s putting his own body in the hands of others, assuming they will drive safely so he doesn’t have to look out for himself.”

I caught up with him at the opposite corner, now waiting to cross again. I suddenly realized he had his arm in an elevated sling like they give you to help heal from a broken shoulder or collarbone. I couldn’t help but laugh to myself. I doubt he was injured from being hit by a car, but he was hardly a poster-boy for “Jay-walkers United” in that condition.

It’s like the people who drive like Mario Andretti in order to get one or two car lengths further ahead at the next light. If they’re lucky they save themselves a few seconds at most. If not, they’re still stuck at the same light as you.

Are we so busy that shaving a few seconds off various tasks makes such a difference? Do we really get that much more done by hurrying? Is it worth risking our lives and the lives of others just to grab a few more minutes in a day?

There are certainly places where every second counts. Like the Emergency Room. But going to work? ToWORK?! They must really work someplace awesome!

Granted, I am not exactly the type to stroll along the lane. I have brisk walking pace. But more and more I’m coming to realize that going faster is not always the answer. Riding the train has helped me see that a little better. I used to time it fairly precisely. If I got to work a few minutes earlier on a given day I’d make sure I left a few minutes earlier.

Not anymore. Leaving work early, after a certain point, is futile. If I leave fifteen minutes earlier, yes. I can catch the earlier train. But after 4:53 rolls by, forget it. Whether I leave the building at 4:54 or 5:05 I’m just going to be standing on the train platform until 5:08. If I leave the building at 5:06–okay, then it’s a good idea to hurry. Otherwise it really doesn’t matter.

Relax a little. Slow down a little. How often do we hurry to get somewhere only to have to stand around waiting that much longer? Is it really worth the hurry and worry? I’m starting to think the answer is no.