In my mind’s eye: Life in the slow lane

posted in: Columns by Mark Chester | 0

WOODS HOLE —
In Beijing last August during the 2008 Olympic games, Usain Bolt ran the 100-meter dash in 9.69 seconds. Not only was it a world record, it is the first time a human being ran that distance in under 9.7 seconds. And then this August 2009 in Berlin, he beat his own record, running the 100 in 9.58.

This is the ultimate of “life in the fast lane”! Bolt is from Jamaica. How is it that the fastest man in the world comes from Jamaica, the quintessential place to “take it light, mon,” in Caribbean patois? Is there a disconnect here?

Bolt’s achievement is phenomenal, an incredible achievement of prowess, athleticism, discipline and training.

I hail from the life-in-the-slow-lane school. I like to stop and smell the roses. I hate to rush to get to some place. Why do people always rush to beat the rush? I don’t get it.
“Take it slow” is my mantra. I chant it slowly every morning

One of my all time favorite, hilarious comedy sketches is Bob and Ray’s “Slow Talkers of America”. Just the concept of their bit is cracking me up now; I feel some serious chuckling coming up. Let me calm down so I can quote Wikipedia:

“…Ray Goulding interviews Bob Elliot, who is playing the President ‘and Recording Secretary’ of the Slow Talkers of America. Instead of drawing his individual words out, Bob speaks the words at a normal speed, but leaves long pauses between them.
Ray starts guessing what the next word will be, and speaking his guesses out loud during the pauses, in frustration at waiting. At first he is fairly successful at guessing what Bob is going to say, but soon Bob starts intentionally changing his responses to make Ray’s guesses wrong. Ray’s frustration increase until he can’t take any more, and brings the interview to an end”.

Author Nick Laird, Glover’s Mistake, recently wrote in his column in “The Guardian,” “To read poetry now is to be part of a Slow Language Movement…Poetry needs quiet to be written, and is resistant to speed both in composition and comprehension. It is not for a fast life…”

A slow talker measures our patience. A fast talker taxes our mind. Recently, Charlie Rose brought his roundtable interview show – sans table – to Boston’s Wang Theater to talk with James Carville and Karl Rove. Maybe it was to instigate and embroil. Some billed the event as the “Raging’ Cajun versus the Mangy Rovin’”. Carville talks faster than it takes a Maserati to reach 0-60 mph in less than 5 seconds.

I wonder if fast talkers are fast drivers? Are fast drivers obsessed with fast food?
One alternative to the McDonalds, Burger Kings, Wendy’s and Taco Bells of the world, is the “slow food” movement.

The Slow Food USA’s Web site describes it as “an idea, a way of living and a way of eating. It is a global grassroots movement with thousands of members around the world that links the pleasure of food with a commitment to community and environment. Food is a common language and a universal right. Slow Food® USA envisions a world in which people can eat food that is good for them, good for the people who grow it and good for the planet.”

Recently, driving off Cape to Boston, I inadvertently got caught in commuter traffic. I always try to avoid this so as not to become one of those raging drivers who raise your blood pressure. It was a test to stay calm; it was an insight into my tolerance level for staying patient and coolheaded. I was driving solo, but oh, how I wished for another passenger so that we could breeze through the 12-mile HOV lane onI-93.

I knew cursing out the man who drives that mechanical zipper-like vehicle that spews out concrete blocks to make an additional traffic lane was useless. But it did almost rile me to see him sit smug and content in the cab of that monster machine oblivious to the thousands of cars moving at a snail’s pace.

Crawling along with others in a vain attempt to keep my mind busy, I thought of my photograph from Quetzaltenango in Guatemala. Two men on a deserted roadway are “walking” in syncopated rhythm, personifying life in the slow lane.