So as the days behind me are far greater than the days ahead of me, I’ve become more aware, more protective of my time. The hours – even the minutes sometimes – we spend in any day on things add up and, for most of us, there are never enough of them to deal with everything we need to. How is it that the more technologically advanced we become, the less time we have? (This may be a self-serving question because I’m sitting here using my limited time to write this and then hope that you will take your valuable time to read and maybe get something out of it). Remember the days when we were young when we didn’t have access to 24/7 news and entertainment channels, and didn’t have computers (and, honestly, didn’t even know or dream of what a computer was), and didn’t have cell phones that not only let us call people but now also allow us to watch videos and listen to music and read e-mails and surf the internet and pay bills and do laundry. (OK, I’m only kidding about the laundry but a phone is not really a phone any more, is it?)
And I’ve not only become more aware of my time but also sensitive, perhaps hyper-sensitive to how much of it other people feel they can waste because their mindset is – in my humble opinion – that their time is far more important than mine. And the consequences be damned.
In late January, my great kid and his friend were traveling home from a school event on a Friday evening when they witnessed a car driving erratically. They suspected the driver might be impaired and, when they rounded a curve, found a car on the side of the road that had been hit by the car they had seen. They stopped, helped the young man in the car (who, fortunately, hadn’t been injured) and waited for the police to arrive. The police showed up, took my great kid’s name and phone number and said if they needed him, they’d be in touch.
And they were, the very next day. They’d caught the driver of the car and planned on charging him with multiple things and needed my son to testify in court. He actually was sent a subpoena with all kinds of vaguely menacing things in it, advising that failure to show up to testify would subject him to arrest. Really? Maybe dial back the threat level, Mr. Small-Town-Attorney-Who-Drafts-These-Things, if you really want people to cooperate. You get more results with honey than vinegar, or some other phrase that was always being tossed my way when I was much younger. But I digress.
So, even though it was a school day, we showed up at the appointed hour of 8:30 a.m. (me accompanying him for moral support), stood on-line for 30 minutes to check in and then proceeded to take a seat in the court room, where the judge finally strolled in about 9:45. Already I was a little annoyed but it was all for a good cause. We’d talked to the prosecutor who said they’d try to get us out early so that my son could head to school and because witnesses for the town apparently were supposed to be given higher priority than those poor souls sitting all around us, there to plead for leniency on their traffic and/or drug tickets.
So we waited. And we waited. And then we even waited some more. And suddenly it was 11:45 and the majority of the other folks who had paid their tickets or asked for a delay or requested a court-appointed lawyer were all gone. I went out looking for the prosecutor and he told me that neither the defendant, nor his attorney, had bothered to show up. When I returned to the court room, the judge asked what we were doing there and, when we told him that my great kid was only a witness, he called the prosecutor in post haste and wasn’t that happy with him having us cool our heels for no reason at all. Go home, he said, and we’ll reschedule. And they did, and we went back 3 weeks later, and after the same process, the defendant’s attorney – but not the defendant – showed up at 11:00 a.m. to plead the case out, after assuring us that the defendant was a fine, upstanding citizen who abandoned his car that night (thereby excusing his charge for fleeing the scene of an accident) because he was disoriented from the crash and walked to a hospital. I’m not a genius but the nearest hospital is something like 15 miles away so I’m guessing he didn’t walk anywhere except maybe into another bar.
But my point – which I’ve taken the off-the-beaten-path way to get to – is that my son was told he’d be arrested if he didn’t show up and he was the good guy in this scenario. And the bad guy, the guy who drank and drove, who hit another car, who fled the scene and who didn’t show up for court – well, that guy had no repercussions at all. And his attorney, apparently from the law firm of Dewey Cheatem and How (that’s for all you Three Stooges fans out there), decided his time was far more important than our time which is why he hadn’t come to the first hearing and then showed up 2 hours late for the second hearing.
Yesterday, I had a phone hearing – or I was supposed to have a phone hearing – with the NYC Taxi Commission over a complaint I’d filed last summer. After seeing a great play with my Mom, my wonderful cousin and her friend – who was terminally ill – we attempted to hail a cab that would bring my cousin’s friend home. We had the cab door open and when we told him where we wanted him to take her – not the outer boroughs, mind you, but about 40 blocks north in Manhattan – he said “no” and roared away with the back door slamming shut as he accelerated. I was instantly outraged enough that my superpower x-ray vision engaged and I was able to get his medallion number and, when I got home, found the Taxi Commission’s website and filed a complaint. The hearing was finally scheduled – 8 long months later! Be ready at 8:30 a.m., the attorney for the Taxi Commission told me, and make sure you’re available for at least an hour. So I was, sitting there, cell phone in hand at 8:30. And at 9:00. And at 9:30. And finally the phone rang at 9:45. The attorney for the taxi driver just showed up, I was told. He’s thinking of a plea agreement. How much more time can you give us, she asked. I told them they had me until 10:30 and went back to sitting and waiting. As I’m sure you’ve guessed, 10:30 came and went and no call. Finally, at 10:45, she called again. By the way, she said, the cab driver is out of the country so the attorney has asked for a postponement and the judge granted it. We’ll call you again in a few weeks and get you to testify. Oy.
So if I hadn’t been available to participate, the complaint would have been dropped. But the cab driver, that despicable person who wouldn’t drive a terminally ill woman home, can leave the country and not show up for his hearing and he gets a free pass. And his attorney, whose time is clearly – at least in his own head – far more valuable than mine, or the Taxi Commission’s lawyer’s time, or the judge’s time – also gets a free pass. And lawyers wonder why people hate them so? (Not you, Mr. Doyle, if I’m lucky enough for you to be reading this. We love you!)
And, deep in my heart, I know why the first lawyer in the car accident case and the second lawyer in the taxi case did what they did. Because they think people like me or my great kid will get disgusted and discouraged with having their time wasted and eventually not show up or not participate in a phone call and their client will be cleared and face no consequences. Guess what? That doesn’t work with me. I don’t give up on stuff like this, stuff I consider really important. I’m willing to invest my time in making sure wrongs are righted and justice is served. (I realize that I sound like some kind of superhero-in-training and I’m willing to accept that.) But it burns me that people think they can abuse my time – or your time or anyone’s time – because it serves their purpose.
I don’t think enough of us place a value on our time. For the last 12 years or so, when I started living as a single parent raising my great kid on my own, time was my currency. Driving 100 miles a day to a job I loved, getting my son on to a bus for school when he was younger, running errands, paying bills, cleaning, cooking, laundry, you name it – there weren’t enough hours in the day. And it made me realize that, many times, your time is as valuable as your money. Who among us hasn’t had a thought, probably more recently than not, that if I only had an extra hour today, or if I could just schedule a day off to catch up, think what I could accomplish. And even with extra hour, even if we take a day off, we don’t ever really catch up or do all that we have to – or at least think we have to – in a day, a week, a year, a lifetime.
What’s the solution? I don’t pretend to know. But as my days slip by faster and faster (like sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives, for all my soap fans), I’m more keenly aware that I probably won’t ever have enough money to not totally worry, or likely will never be as well tomorrow as I was yesterday, or will never accomplish some – or maybe most – of the things on my bucket list. And that’s OK because that’s the very nature of life. But oh how I wish I had another hour with my beloved Dad, or a few more months to share our little mundane life with my great kid before he flies the nest. My time is not just my most valuable commodity these days; my time is priceless.