Mar 29, 2024

The Fast and the Curious: Finding One’s Sense of Pace

Slow cooking v. takeout: you be the judge

By Ed Goldman

Lucy Van Pelt, the opinionated little girl in Charles Schulz’s never-been-topped-and-never-will comic strip “Peanuts,” looks at a drawing one of the other kids has quickly made and sniffs, “A true work of art takes at least 45 minutes.”

For some reason we often assign more value to something that’s rendered slowly—a pot roast, the construction of (ironically) a high-speed train, a home addition or, in the 1950s, an epic movie (five years in the making! A cast of thousands! A budget just north of the Pentagon’s!).

Edgy Cartoon

Curve ball

Then again, when our order of fast food doesn’t arrive fast enough we feel entitled to a discount or even a complete refund. 

CUSTOMER: I could’ve stayed home and made this fried chicken myself

EMPLOYEE: Why didn’t you, sir?

CUSTOMER: Who has that kinda time?! Is your manager here?!

EMPLOYEE: I am the manager, sir.

CUSTOMER: You? You look 18 years old!

EMPLOYEE: I am 18 years old, sir.

CUSTOMER (After a brief pause): Well, then, let me speak to your parents.

Which do we prefer, fast food or slow-cooked? Instagram or snail mail? Instant coffee or an espresso that arrives with its own hagiography (“This coffee started out as a small bean in a small Colombian village which nevertheless had its own newspaper but could afford only part-time drug lords”).

When our elected leaders approve a bill to fix our potholes, we don’t want to hear, “Construction is slated to start in the spring of 2038.” When our email will take more than a nano-second to reach its destination (possibly because we’ve attached 17 large pdfs) and our texts aren’t answered 13 seconds after we hit SEND, we grow cranky. 

This impatience used to happen even when we communicated largely by fax. We’d send a 40-page document to someone and forget that it’d take just as long for the recipient to unload it, page by page, as it took us to send it—longer if we were able to stack-send it, which took very little time on our end and, on one or two occasions, might even arrive at its destination with all the pages accounted for.

To digress: Are you old enough to remember when a fax would arrive as a long, continuous document, not as separate pages? I got one from a client once when I was out of my office and when I returned, it looked as though the room had been vandalized by a team of disgruntled mummy wrappers. The message ran out of the machine, across my desk, onto my carpet and got stopped at the built-in bookcase, though not before making an earnest attempt to scale it. I fell down twice trying to unravel it.

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On the website Quora, contributor Nate White describes a fast-paced lifestyle like so: “People use it to mean modern urban life in cities—where everybody is in a rush and everything is designed to be as fast as possible, from transport to serving coffee to browsing the internet.

“The idea, White goes on, “is that, since industrialization, our environments have been turned into highly efficient machines—and everything around us has been fine-tuned … to provide maximum speed.”

Meanwhile, a Reddit website dedicated to Unpopular Opinion, provides this uncredited entry: “I feel that the entire world needs to slow down. It’s not necessary to produce new phone every single year, or new car model, or game version. The whole globe could relax a bit.

“Everyone could take it a bit slower,” the comment continues, “and maybe take time to perfect the products, get longer vacations and improve personal life and just quality of everything.”

It’s interesting, to me at least, that most of us think of retirement as when we’ll finally get to do things at a more leisurely pace. Yet many people I know have retired and found themselves so missing the frenetic pace of work that they load up their days and evenings with volunteer activities (including pickleball and its resultant ER visits, which do fill one’s hours).

I decided long ago that retirement wouldn’t be a good idea for me: even though the hours would be great, the pay would suck. So I just keep plodding along as a freelance everything, making sure that whether I’m writing columns, plays, books or songs, my life will feel full only if each effort takes at least 45 minutes. 

Don’t forget! A new Goldman State Podcast drops every Friday!


Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).