Visit my show at the PSCCU Credit Union, Vashon, Washington May, June 2024 

Who ate your time?

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Every day, an army of invaders enters your house; they’re called the conveniences.

Each is disguised to save you time, when in fact…

They’re the computer that allows you to be your own secretary and graphic designer, the software that turns you into your own accountant, the online access that means that you’re now your own travel agent. The do-it-yourself (DIY) or have-to-do-it-by-yourself (HDIBY) possibilities are endless!

In this week’s episode of up-close-and-personal, I’m going to give you an example from my recent experience of buying a pair of shoes.

The old world: How we used to buy shoes

Remember shoe stores? Not glitzy stores at the mall serviced by pre-pubescent clerk wannabes, but the dowdy old store on Main street that smelled of leather, serviced by equally dowdy shoe-salesmen (a career position).

You’d be greeted by the slightly balding Mr. Chinchester who welcomed you in and ushered you to your seat while you waited for him to bring out his magic silver plated measuring slide. Then, he slipped your princess-like foot into it, declared your size, and scurried into the back to gather up two prize selections to offer you.

Of course, they were ugly, but those were the days when your mother insisted on sensible shoes. You picked the pair that worked the best and left. Total time: less than an hour.

The new world

Now we have instant online access to shoes and so much choice. Has that made it easier? Consider the time I’ve spent (to date) to buy one pair of shoes:

  • Talk to sister and three friends about best travel shoes. 40 minutes
  • Internet research on above. 40 minutes
  • Google “best travel shoes” and research top suggestions. Read reviews.  2 hours (at least)
  • Get distracted by click bait and read news about Jared Kushner. Why? (Doesn’t count.)
  • Talk to sister and friends again. 15 minutes
  • Check out “best price” on each model. 30 minutes
  • Attempt to buy shoes online to try at home. (Zappos, Amazon,, etc.) Try to order. Sit online 45 minutes with customer service working through a glitch.  1.5 hours.
  • Receive shoes with enthusiasm, unbox, and try on. 45 minutes.
  • Try again with less enthusiasm, hoping to figure out why they don’t work.  30 minutes
  • Rebox shoes to mail back. 30 minutes
  • Travel to the Post Office to mail back. 30 minutes
  • Give up online and travel to REI where real people can hopefully help me.

That’s over seven and a half futile hours before the trip to REI. Of course, I’m going to end up with the perfect shoes.

Isn’t it wonderful how “convenient” life is?

Sacrificing time and connection for the illusion of convenience

Once we’re captured by the spell of “convenience,” time becomes almost impossible to manage.

Take this little episode and multiply it over the dozens of activities that we “get” to do for ourselves. (Like trying to figure out all of what doesn’t quite work with the software, computer, telephone, cell phone, external hard drive, plane reservations, etc.)

Once we’ve been captured by the spell of “convenience,” time becomes almost impossible to manage.

We’re in a tidal wave of change and our sea of expectations is rising.

I don’t have a magic wand on this one.

If I did, I’d sell it to you with slightly deficient instructions so you’d spend two hours figuring out how to use it, before putting it aside for the right moment when you had time to try again.

Not to leave you hopeless, but here are a couple of things to do:

Have compassion. When you run out of time, realize it’s not your personal deficiency. (ISS — It’s the system, silly.)
Calculate the real time involved in learning and using something. My husband and I are still befuddled by the clicker on our new TV. (My technique of randomly punching buttons is not working.)
Lower your standards.  When Bill Moyers asked the great poet William Stafford how he could possibly write a poem every day, Stafford replied simply, “I lower my standards.” Perfection isn’t possible. Maybe you don’t have to try so hard to get the perfect pair of shoes.

Who ate your time?

He’s probably staring at you with a cute, chirpy smile on his face, deceptively suggesting “here’s something you’re going to love” as you stare at the next can’t-do-without or how-to-do-it-faster-by-yourself convenience.



4 Responses

  1. It seemed so convenient to have a smart phone … so many things I could do so easily and efficiently… Like read all my email while still in bed in the morning, even though I promised myself I won’t do that anymore — that I’ll meditate and do my writing first thing — in slips that convenient access to the world. Same with texting while doing errands. It’s just so damn convenient. All at once it feels like the most important thing. And definitely so convenient! (Can you feel my tongue deep in my cheek here!?)

  2. Sally, this post is so insightful and so true. I do find instacart helpful for getting my grocery shopping done. But I generally love to pick out my own vegetables, so what’s the gain? It gives me time to get work done. But there are always trade offs. I appreciate the paradoxes of the oh so convenient life. Thank you for highlighting them in such a wise wry way.

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