I remember a time, not so long ago, when to buy the newspaper on a Sunday morning we needed to wake up early because the stationaries only had a limited permit to operate on the holy day, and only to sell newspapers at that (obviously to be perfectly in line with our Maltese traditions, the more esteemed clients could also buy the occasional loaf of bread, wrapped in the newspaper from under the counter).
Failing to leave the milk bottles on your doorstep would leave you without udder honey for the rest of the day. Most of you still remember the days when we rushed and endured endless queues to fill our cars with fuel on Saturdays because stations did not have the automatic dispensers. Before the days of ATMs, payday came with eternal waiting in the bank’s lobby before hitting the shops, the same applied for paying bills. Now all of this is done online with direct debit or whatever buzz word the financial institutions decide to call it, the waiting applied to every service under the sun; retail hours were from 8 until midday and from 4 until 7. We were used to it, we adapted and life went on with its ups and downs. It was not perfect but it was all we had and with its limitations, the system worked, so might as well say that it was not so bad either.
Times change, realities change with them as do routines Working hours have become more flexible, family structures are not as rigid as they were a few decades ago and many more women are venturing into jobs that are not necessarily start at 8am and finish at 5pm. Society is changing and with it the trends, the needs and the expectations of us citizens, we have become more demanding and consequentially we want to wait less, want faster service at any given time. A section of our society has even given up the joy and thrill of high street shopping, replacing this with online purchasing, from the comfort of home(one might add) This is transforming our society into a restless one, one case in point – TV series or soap operas as we used to call them in the eighties. I remember my mother waiting eagerly for the next episode of Dallas on Sunday evenings, then discussing it with my aunts all week long and speculating on what was to come next. What do we do now? We binge – we want to watch the whole season in the shortest time possible then move on to the next without a blink of an eye forgetting what we had just seen in an instant all this while my mother and aunts still remember what Victoria Principal wore in episode 4 of Dallas.
It would be very hard to go back, and maybe even if we could, we wouldn’t, however it would not be such a bad idea if for once we took time to sit back, take a time out, and for a day or for a period of time stop being time obsessed. I know a large number of people who were avid readers who simply do not read anymore. Once considered a joy, reading has become a chore for many and that is most unfortunate, maybe we are afraid to be transported into the fictional worlds that the books we read took us to, maybe it is just a matter of not having enough free time, or it could be that we have filled that time with other things. So in all this cacophony of progress and better standard of living, we have ended up with no or little time for ourselves, to do what we please, to read what we want, to simply go for a walk.
I dare say that we have compromised our priorities. The rat race to the top has transformed the epic Charlie Chaplin movie “Modern times” into reality. Let us be honest, we have even stopped talking to each other! How many times have you been to a café and the persons next to you are smiling at their smart phone instead of making conversation? I took the bus from Valletta to Qawra last week and I noted that the first thing almost every commuter did after sitting down was pull the smart phone out.
The sad reality is that Social media has made us unsociable, with all the technology and accessibility there are, we are probably calling on our parents and our elderly less and less. We probably know more about our online friends then we do about our next door neighbour.
We need a reality check. Let us take more time to do the things we really want to do and not what society is dictating to us. We only have one life and we should really make the best of it.