By Ron Marr
It's strange how the virtues of one generation are often the vices of the next. Not so long ago, uttering a strong and truthful opinion was regarded as a symbol of honor and probity. In our present culture, point-blank rectitude is seen as an offense against the feckless laws of political correctness.
Just a few years back, those who engaged in a slow and steady course, focusing on a singular goal and honing their craft to perfection, were revered for their focus and expertise. No longer. In the world of Google, Blackberries, high-speed this, and HD that, those who fail to multi-task with reckless abandon are eternally marked with the scarlet letter of the dull-witted slacker.
The list is endless, but as is true with all things, one day the pendulum will shift; that which is old will become new again. For the time being, however, many of the values, traits, and habits that once commanded respect lie fallow in the gutters of the technological revolution. I suppose this is fine and well, for as I say, life and thought are largely cyclical. Since I have little truck with the world, preferring to ignore trendy, populist mandates and simply pet dogs, cast lines, scribble meandering nonsense, and build guitars, I’m not terribly affected.
However, I do become a smidgen irritated that one important virtue, something I consider a touchstone of human character, has been jettisoned to the outskirts of the societal landfill.
Patience, one of the most commendable and hard-won attributes of the human race, no longer resides upon the ethical plateau to which Americans aspire. Quite the contrary, this meritorious ideal appears to be vying for inclusion in the list of seven deadly sins. In the ideological lexicon of the immediate, patience has been relegated to spending quality time with sloth, pride, gluttony, and their accompanying, much-maligned quartet.
I reached this conclusion a few years ago. My little cabin had been iced-in for over a week; I was unable to travel further than driveway’s edge. The gravel path that leads from my abode to the edge of nowhere was slicker than a peeled onion. The ice fell, the snow packed, and even the river requested mittens and a quilt. My pups, ancient though they may be, were casting looks of stomach-growling desire at my toes. Given a few more days of gnawing hunger, my ambulatory digits could have easily become an appetizer for my beloved canines.
Thankfully, the boys have an aversion to (sorry about this) Toe-fu.
Okay, I made that part up. Being ice-locked was not a big deal, as I keep plenty of grub on hand and rarely leave the property more than once a week anyway. All the same, the stillness in the air and the knowledge that the great out-there of frenetic humanity had come to a sliding halt gave me pause for contemplation.
It all started when, during the storm, I realized I haven’t heard a busy signal in years. I’ve heard voice mail, call-waiting tones, and answering machines. Mostly, phone calls are greeted with the odious, automated voice systems favored by large corporations that wish to sound friendly, small firms that wish to sound important, and your garden variety spawn of hell that wishes to sound like—well—your garden variety spawn of hell.
It hit me like a bucket of iced molasses. Busy signals are obsolete; folks have become too impatient to tolerate their cicada-like cadence. Most people are too impatient to tolerate being told that no, you can’t talk to anyone right now. Most become irate at the thought of a mechanical buzzer signifying that, sorry Charlie, you’ll have to try again later. They have to hear a voice, even if emanating from a silicon mannequin, that lulls them into thinking they’ll shortly be interconnected to the world of über-productive, nano-tasking Nirvana.