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Tombstones for Busy People
By Barb Hansen
July
1, 2005

This nation has a big problem. I call it The Big O.

No, not obesity.  Overscheduling.

Simon and Garfunkel diagnosed this ailment years ago with their Feeling Groovy song.

Slow down, you move too fast. Youíve got to make the morning last. Just kicking down the cobble stones, lookiní for fun and feeliní groovy.

The problem was clearly evident 40 years ago when that song was popular. Itís much worse now. We try to do too much in not enough time. To get more done we even cut back on sleep. I read that 100 years ago Americans averaged 9.5 hours of sleep a night. Today, we average 7 hours and many ďget byĒ on much less than that.

Why do we do this to ourselves? We do it, psychologists tell us, because it makes us feel important. We are sending a message to others. "Iím 24/7, man. Notice how busy I am? I am really important."

Now we donít even do just one thing at a time. We multi-task. We carry on a phone conversation while typing an email message and also keeping an ear cocked for breaking news on the cable channel. Even the TV channel is multi-tasking. Thereís a split screen showing two things going on at once, plus an audio track, plus text of news bits crawling across the bottom of the screen.

But it gets worse. Some too-busy people overschedule their vacations, too.  As the chief cook and concierge at a certain yacht chartering firm, I have seen The Big O disease reach problematical proportions. Power cruisers are the worst. They are more point A to point B types. Crank up the RPMs, get me to the marina on time, and all that. Sailors are much more patient. They know you canít depend on the wind and while they donít mind starting the auxiliary from time to time, theyíd really rather be sailing with no particular place to go. Thanks Chuck Berry

I wonít name names but we had a customer, an accomplished boater, who was qualified to skipper one of our trawlers without a captain. Heís a fast-charging, get Ďer done, check-it-off kind of guy. He arrived four hours late and missed his appointment to get checked out on the boat and was miffed nobody would stay late to do it. After his check out the next morning, anxious to get back on his self-imposed schedule, he pulled the vessel out of the slip and navigated right into the teeth of a heavy rain storm.

The best prescription I know for The Big O is cruising. Your hometown paper is not delivered to the aft deck. Cell phones donít always get a signal. The TV screen is small; reception is poor. If you don't get the message, you're listening too hard. Tap, tap, Mr. and Mrs. Chronic Busy. You. Turn off the phone and the TV. Pick up a novel instead of a newspaper. Close your eyelids and drift into a delicious nap. Get that groovy feeling again.  Just last week a charter client asked if they could take the TV off the boat for their cruise.  Thatís the idea.

There is another way out, not so groovy, not so inviting. Itís called The Big Sleep. Itís very popular among The Big O set and if you are one of those overscheduled types you are most welcome to engrave one of these sayings on your tombstone for use at the appointed time, fast approaching.

Notice how important I am.

I've got so much to do.

Or (with apologies to Emily Dickinson) this paraphrase of one of her famous poems:

Because I would not stop for Life-- He kindly stopped for me--

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