I remember thinking—a few years back, eyes glazed by the million-mile-an-hour flash of a Hello Kitty DVD—that life had picked up too much speed. It wasn’t just me feeling my age, that downhill journey where you tumble faster and faster, days blurring, one into the next, until suddenly you’re at the bottom and there’s a cliff and you’re teeter-tottering at the edge. For decades I’d noticed that time seemed to be slipping through my fingers a little faster every year. It was just one of those things. But after a while, it actually started to slow down again.
I don’t know if that is just one of those things.
For a while, I seemed less busy. I slowed down. I stopped to smell the roses. Time stilled around me for a short while and it was nice. Then I got busy again, but the days didn’t always roll into a blur. I remembered to take time out, to make myself sit now and again. To spend days doing nothing, or next to it.
But none of that changed the fact that life, in general, continued to snowball, even if I had managed to sidestep the rush.
My daughter, along with millions, absorbs this frenetic pace every day. Kids’ shows are portioned in fifteen minute blocks. So short! And sometimes those are cut up into sound bites of story. The aforementioned Hello Kitty DVD is epilepsy on plastic. I have never seen anything so frenetic or disturbing pass itself off as entertainment. John Green does a series of history videos that are very entertaining but he speaks so quickly I can barely keep up. The videos are very short. You Tube is full of short videos. Vine, correct me if I am wrong, is a social media haven for super short videos. Snippets. Like Tweets, but in visual form.
Speaking of Tweets—actually, nope, I can’t do that in a hundred and forty characters or less.
Fast food, drive-through pharmacies and dry-cleaners, priority check-ins… I could go on and on. But that’s not the point of this ramble.
Much as I dislike the fast lane, I really, really don’t like the slow one. What’s in the slow lane? All these movies that are suddenly three hours long. Or longer. What happened to the eighty-eight minute slice of life? I can hold forty ounces of soda in my bladder for eighty-eight minutes. I probably finished my popcorn before the endless stream of trailers ended, but I can sit there, legs crossed, for another hour and a half. If it’s a really good movie, I can ignore the pain in my kidneys a little bit longer.
I have got to the point where if a movie is two and a half hours or more, I’ll wait for Netflix. It’s not really an issue of needing to use the bathroom in the middle. I happily watch movies without soda all the time. It’s more that I don’t like to sit still for that long. I get restless. I get bored. I really enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, but I got bored in parts. It all just took too long.
Remember when science fiction and fantasy novels weren’t serious if they couldn’t be used to hold open a heavy door? Epic tales of sword and sorcery that chronicled the life of a hero from birth (or before) to death (and beyond), stories of travel to far flung galaxies or Space Opera! The epic tale of sword and sorcery that chronicled the life of a hero from birth (or before) to death (and beyond), set in a different galaxy. With aliens. I liked those stories. I still do. But I also remember when books were slim. When a great story could be any length.
There was a series of posts on the Tor blog last year covering the delivery of Brandon Sanderson’s latest manuscript. They showed pictures of the beast and it was huge. Way huge. I looked at it and shuddered, and inside my head a small voice yelled: how can a story possibly need that many words?
I just finished reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. I hated it, but that’s another blog post entirely. The writing is fantastic. I love her dialogue and sentence structure. But I felt the book was too long. I started to skim. It’s not that I have a short attention span, that I’m restless or can’t sit still for too long. It’s that not every word, every scene, every moment is always necessary—to me. I either got it the first time or deduced that from the previous chapter, or already guessed that was going to happen. Sometimes I don’t mind all the extra words. They can be interesting, even when indulgent. I’ll forgive the author or director for including that scene because it was magical. But more often I just find myself tapping my fingers along the edge of the couch, book, beer bottle and/or itching for the remote.
I have fast forwarded the love scenes in movies. Or conversations I felt were unnecessary. I fast forwarded an entire episode of Teen Wolf this last season because they kept explaining the rules to the game Go. I didn’t care about the game. I wanted to know how they were going to get the evil juju out of Stiles.
Then there are the long, long rambling conversations people always seem to want to involve me in. I don’t have to be anywhere else and at one point, I might have actually been interested in what these people were saying. But lately, I just want to be elsewhere, somewhere that time doesn’t matter at all. Where I don’t feel the compulsion to absorb another book before midnight, or another episode so that I’m ten closer to finishing the series, or another game so I can tick it off my list.
I don’t understand why I’m in such a hurry all the time. Why I reject books that are five hundred pages long because I don’t want to sit still for that long and I can’t possibly imagine a story being that completely interesting. Sometimes even a You Tube video is too long. Way too long. Three minutes is too much to give.
Why is my impatience increasing with my age? Is this just one of those things?
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If you find the answers, will you let me know?