Thursday, October 19, 2006

Taking, or wasting, my time?

I went to speak to a Lincoln College class last night about my no-driving experiment. They read my Grist story, talked about it, and had a few questions.

Mostly run of the mill stuff. Why would I do this? (Got me?) What were some bad experiences I had? (How come nobody ever asks how awesome it was?) What did my girls think? (Carolyn likes buses, cars, trains, walking, riding in the stroller, going to the grocery store, going to the library, getting ice cream, going to the doctor. She hasn't learned to hate anything yet.)

One student asked about the value of my time, something I hadn't really considered. She wondered the value of spending two hours going to Meijer, and even said the car can be a good place to bond with your children, if only you turn off the radio and talk to them.

I've been thinking about this for a full day, which is why I'm a writer and NOT a public speaker (Off the cuff not my strong point. Strong point? Rambling). I do a lot of things that don't have value in society. I spend hours wandering my neighborhood. I bake things I could buy. I sit in thought a lot.

It's discouraging, thinking about how productive I could be. There are all kinds of ways to waste time. Listening to NPR (or Dr. Laura!). Watching television. Blogging. Sleeping.

When I was trying to decide about a two-hour bus trip versus an hour driving trip, I thought back to living in Washington D.C. At one point, I had an hour commute by car each way. Another time, I had the same commute by train.

Hands down, the train was a more valuable experience. I could read the paper (by read, I mean do the crossword puzzle). I could sit and think. I could work. I couldn't do anything of those things in a car (anybody sitting in District traffic knows coherent thought isn't an option).

So, maybe some view a bus trip as a waste. The greater the number of activities, the fuller a life? But I hate to think I’m viewed by the value of my hours, or how many things I can cram into a day.

My time is worth only time. Nothing more.


At 9:07 AM, Blogger Excellent Walker said...

I have almost, not quite, but almost, come to believe that those hours on the bus are not wasted, even if they aren't filled with reading or writing. If I've got a window seat, I can happily look out the window at the life on the street. Or daydream. When you live in a busy city, it's easy to think you should always be busy, but the longer I do (and the older I get), I find it's even more important to have unstructured downtime, to -- to continue the computer metaphor -- recharge the batteries.


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