Do you know anyone with free time anymore? I don’t. Not really.
Even the people I know who are unemployed really don’t have free time – they rush around trying to find employment (which, I realize, is a politically incorrect observation in these hard-hearted right-wing times, where the unemployed are supposed to be lazy and sponging off the public dime – all I can say is that having been there, I wish) and generally have less time than the rest of us.
And that’s not an easy thing to do.
I teach three classes this semester – one face-to-face at Home Campus, another face-to-face at Not Quite So Far Away Campus, which is still an hour and a half of highway driving each way even if it isn’t quite as far as Far Away Campus was, and the last that odd hybrid of face-to-face and online that I finally got running last month. Teaching is one of those jobs that is hard to explain to those who don’t do it – most people look at the 3 hours/week I’m in class for each course I teach and think that’s what I work. No, no, no – the time I spend in class is the reward for the time I spend working.
I also run the performing arts series at Home Campus, at least the day-to-day stuff. I report to a committee that tells me what to do, but I’m the one that goes and does it. We had 150 people show up to our last show, not one of whom was a committee member.
Kim used to teach – she’s a very good teacher – but in the Peter Principle way of things she got promoted to Associate Dean and so cannot do what she loves and is good at. Instead she does what she finds no particular pleasure in, but is still pretty good at. For this reason they may promote her again. And in the meantime she is Doppler-shifted – sometimes blue, sometimes red, depending on whether she is coming or going.
And there are the girls, who take up much of our time because that is why we have time in the first place. We run around to Not Bad President Elementary a lot, because we are lucky that way and can arrange our schedules to allow us to do that. They have homework every night, and music lessons and 4H and Girl Scouts and a host of other things that require a presence at specified times and places.
It’s all so busy.
And nobody I know is any less busy, either. We'd sympathize with each other if we had the time to do so, I'm sure.
When I was about Lauren’s age, there was a company called “Jack and Jill” that ran ice cream trucks through the suburbs of Philadelphia. In those largely pre-central-air days the windows would be open throughout the neighborhood, and you could actually hear the little bell ringing as the truck cruised slowly through the streets.
Sometimes we’d be inside when it came by, and there would be an explosion of motion as kids ran out the door with nickels and dimes to catch the truck when it stopped. There were certain places it would stop, so you knew where to head to.
But other nights were different.
I grew up on a one-block-long street. Nobody – not even the furniture delivery people – knew where we were. So nobody ever drove down our street unless they knew someone there. The Jack and Jill people didn’t even drive down my street – they went up and down the cross streets. We had the street to ourselves, we kids.
Sometimes, when we would be running around in the summertime chasing bugs and waiting for the Jack and Jill bell to ring, our various parents and neighbors would gather onto someone’s lawn – sometimes with folding chairs and sometimes just in the grass – to pass time and talk, the way grown-ups do. Those were slow, graceful evenings, with nothing to do and all night to do it. And if the ice cream truck didn't make it that night, there would be other nights to sit up and wait for it.
I can’t remember if I’ve ever done anything similar since I became one of the grown-ups.
Maybe a couple of times.
This is not progress.