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Monday, April 05, 2004

Down Time

I often wonder if we get our money back at the end of our lives for all the time we spent doing nothing. It doesn’t really seem fair that we have to pay for all of the time we spend waiting for traffic lights to change, sitting in front of computers while they boot up, listening to Muzak while on hold, and, my favorite, staring out into space while your brain receives enough coffee cells in the morning to begin work. The average American life expectancy is only like 76 years for women, 72.5 for men, and 27 for rock drummers. That doesn’t leave a lot of time to waste on anything but things that are exciting and fulfilling.

Life should be compressed so you only experience the fun parts. I’ve never bungee jumped before but life should only be like the part where you jump off the bridge and you sail down until you go BOING, BOINg, BOIng, BOing, Boing, boing. You shouldn’t have to pay for the parts where they haul your ass on a bus out to the bridge with a bunch of tourists wearing bad clothes; make you sit through some boring lecture about the safety requirements; make you eat a crappy brown-bag lunch; make you wait your turn and you have to pee really badly but there is no bathroom so you just go off the bridge and someone yells at you; and then, after you jump, you have to get carted back to town with a group of people you thoroughly hate by now.

That’s what being rich is really all about: taking cuts in line. Rich people work their asses off their entire lives just so they don’t have to stand around doing nothing. Take business class on airlines for example. Sure the seats are a little bigger but it’s mostly about not having to wait in line. If you have enough money you don’t get beat up or get a wedgy for taking cuts. I think this is my single greatest talent as a writer: I can take a dumb-ass essay like this and turn it into class warfare.

About 99% of the technological advancement we have experienced over the past fifty years is the moral equivalent of taking cuts. We just want to do things without waiting: faster computers, microwave ovens, TiVo, Polaroid cameras, 5 minute ab work-outs, you name it. In the old days of porn, in the days of slow dial-up internet connections, you had to pull your pants down before you even reached puberty to get off sometime before your 18th birthday. These days when it takes 15 seconds to download a bootleg mp3 you get pissed off; I mean what are you supposed to do while you wait, read War and Peace?

Take Michael Jackson. He sees a boy that he finds attractive. Do you think the King of Pop has 10-12 years until that kid reaches the age of consent? He's got a nail appointment at 3. You do the math. Do you think a filthy rich movie star like Tom Cruise can waste two minutes waiting for his burrito to come out of the microwave? Hell no, he pays someone to do that so he can concentrate on making movies about hotshots. He has servants download all his bootleg mp3’s. Having servants is the same thing as paying someone to wait in line for you.

If I were rich I could pay somebody to drink coffee for me so I wouldn’t have to waste time thinking up pointless essays while my brain boots up. I wouldn’t exactly file writing these essays under “sucking the marrow out of life.” Writing these essays is more like staring at the microwave oven until the timer goes off. And then you die. I know that sounds pretty grim, but before you die you get to eat a beef and bean burrito that thoroughly burns the hell out of your mouth because instead of waiting for it to cool down you eat it while it is still so hot it is on the brink of actually bursting into flames. Rich people pay people to cool down their microwave burritos so the inside of their mouths don't get as blistered as a Marine recruit's feet--lucky bastards.

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