By Terry Joseph
July 30, 2004
Hurry and worry, they tell me, not only makes an unhealthy combination while you're living but almost invariably leads to a deliberately slow drive in a hearse; this avoidance of speed deemed appropriate for those who no longer have a care in the world.
History is littered with accounts of those who treated life as a continuing sprint, whether routinely or in sporadic episodes of swashbuckling flourish. For reasons which remain unclear, Satanic imagery is frequently associated with quick movement, some of it clocked at a rate suggesting the devil himself was in close pursuit, others hastening egress as would a bat out of hell.
In his Nonsense Novels, Stephen Leacock (1869-1944) describes ultimate haste in Gertrude the Governess, detailing the exit of a defiant Lord Ronald who, he wrote: "flung himself from the room, flung himself upon his horse and rode madly off in all directions."
One imagines, given all the flinging of self, Lord Ronald simply didn't have a minute to spare but it was anger that propelled him, a response to Lord Nosh demanding he marry a woman not of his choosing. A good bargain available at the young man's destination would have had much the same effect.
Today, we are encouraged to get to everywhere at top speed. "Hurry, you must call now to cash in on this limited offer," intones the television voice-over. "Hurry, sale ends Saturday," argues another. Now add the many sayings of immemorial antiquity, although the early bird getting a worm for his punctuality is hardly inspirational imagery for those among us with more discriminating palates.
Nor is hurrying an open-ended proposition. For starters, it was always touted as directional. You were required to hurry "up" for some things and "down" for others. Ascendancy implied tasks like getting dressed, whereas gobbling food was a downer. The more adventurous have also been known to hurry across spaces or through things, capsizing the basic tenet.
So important was hurrying, it earned a private dictionary. Accelerating, scudding, fast-tracking, quickening, zooming, pell-mell, devil take the hindmost, trundling, scampering, barrelling, nipping smartly, going at a clip, scurrying and "down to board" are among the terms we developed to more properly define various degrees of haste, with "moving like greased lightning" reserved for special circumstances (as if lubrication would make a descending bolt move any faster).
Our preoccupation with getting to the other side at blinding speed determined lifestyle. Air travel didn't only carry us faster once in flight but taught us to rush to the airport. The cars that took us there were marketed on the basis of the rate at which they could reach cruise velocity. Photographs went from needing a full week for developing film to one-hour processing and in the digital age, no more than two seconds from capturing the image to public display.
Derived from the Middle English horien, perhaps variant of harien, in essence, "hurrying" meant to harass, a definition fully internalised by local sales personnel who do not wished to be rushed through the intricacies of their jobs; making me long for a return to the days when service was actually designed to swiftly please the customer.
It is a real "tabanca," one that might have already advanced through the various stages of the condition: tarangee, tabooki and the dreaded "bip", at which final plateau persons of hitherto calm disposition have been known to try dislodging God with a mere bamboo pole.
Bolstered by a few supportive sayings, like "more haste, less speed", the parable of the tortoise and the hare and old faithful "the race is not always for the swiftest," shop assistants have elevated sloth to a level of art that would no doubt puzzle anthropologists in centuries to come. For the most part, they move at the speed of abandoned molasses, daring the purchaser to complain.
Remarkably, they always seem to be starting fresh in-house conversation the minute a customer comes into view and, given the presumed depth and importance of their social interaction, you must wait until all queries have been reconciled between listener and storyteller before your matters can be attended. To interrupt the flow is to invite disdain.
Apparently contagious, as soon as the very customers are required to form a line, much the same style kicks in, with the person at the front moving up grudgingly (if at all) when his predecessor goes to the counter. In vehicular traffic it is even more vexing, with the delinquent driver assuming the role of victim, asking: "Yuh hurry, or what?"
Fact is, I am almost always in a hurry. Be warned. I hate waiting if the circumstances do not demand it and particularly where the delay is being dispensed as a punitive device; a facility apparently available to counter clerks nationwide. The introduction of shared gratuities has only worsened the situation as the more comatose among them can now goof off and wait to cash in on the effort of busybody comrades.
Most adults are aware of what a man with a serious tabanca can do, so be warned that I really appreciated and now miss Hurry to the point of .well, I'm sure you've read lots of stories about what men in my condition can do.
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