My husband and I are speeding down an interstate as I write this, several hours of car time under our belts and several more to go, crisscrossing all over the state to pick up my daughter from college, take her two hours away to the burn center at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield for follow-up, then back to her dorm and then back home. In all, it was a little more than 10 hours just in driving time. So here I am writing about my desire to live more in the slow lane, even as I am literally in the fast lane.
My husband and I are speeding down an interstate as I write this, several hours of car time under our belts and several more to go, crisscrossing all over the state to pick up my daughter from college, take her two hours away to the burn center at Memorial Medical Center in Springfield for follow-up, then back to her dorm and then back home. In all, it was a little more than 10 hours just in driving time.
This follows the drive back to school Sunday night after her weekend visit, slowed by the blizzard-like conditions we hit part of the way, and getting us home around midnight. Of course, the alarm set for 5 a.m. feels even earlier after all these hours in the car.
So here I am writing about my desire to live more in the slow lane, even as I am literally in the fast lane.
We’ve eaten multiple fast-food meals today on the road, without which I don’t see how we would have eaten at all. Oh, I know, one could pack a lunch of sandwiches and so forth, but when one is getting up at 5 a.m. it’s hard to stomach getting up at 4 a.m. to prepare a picnic breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I never wanted to live in the fast lane. Years ago, while staying home to care for my young children, I reveled in baking all my own bread and making very nearly every item we ate from scratch.
That was before resuming my career in newspapers and beginning a job that takes tremendous hours out of my day. Like everywhere else, we’re doing much more with much less. I remarked recently to a friend of mine that “I bet Barack Obama isn’t as busy as I am.” When he laughed, I conceded that while old Barack does have a few more pies in the oven than I do, he at least has a whole army (literally, in fact) of people to take care of things.
I, like many other working mothers, do not have an army or even a maid at my disposal. I don’t imagine an aide ever says, “Mr. President, Sen. So-and-so is here to see you” and hears Barack wail, “But I can’t possibly see him now ... I don’t have any clean socks! Michelle was supposed to throw them in the dryer after the state dinner but she got busy cleaning the bathroom and forgot.
Also, we’re totally out of bread and the milk has gone over. Tell the senator I’ll call him on my way to the grocery store ... once my socks are dry.”
I asked my European husband how they avoid eating fast food on the run back home. My husband’s home town of Heerlen, The Netherlands, has two McDonald’s and two Burger Kings.
Only one of the McDonald’s has a drive-through. This, in a town comparable to Peoria in size.
But now that he lives here, my husband eats fast food quite a lot, and would no doubt eat even more of it if he were not a vegetarian. Why? Because life is faster here. People work vastly more hours here than they do in Europe. Europeans have less overtime (and incidentally, in many cases less unemployment) and less stress. Thus, there’s little demand for fast food.
Rather than eating fast food, people take time to enjoy their meals. Here, we talk about the Slow Food movement. But slow food demands a slow life. What used to be universal is now something reserved for the privileged class.
All of us know that fast food is not good for us. Almost everyone would rather have a well-prepared meal. We don’t eat too much fast food because we are too stupid to know it’s bad for us, or because we’re clueless about the number of calories in a cheeseburger. We eat it, dear experts, because in many cases we have no hours in the day left to cook, and if we did, we’d probably just waste them catching up on sleep.
So requiring calorie charts to be posted in restaurants and thinking up new initiatives to help keep kids from gaining weight is really a waste of everyone’s time, though of course that is much easier and tidier than fixing the real problem.
In spite of this, on Monday I made a batch of homemade mozzarella cheese. It cost me nearly as much to make as it would have cost to have just purchased it, so it didn’t save me any money. It was good, but not overwhelmingly more tasty than what I could buy. So why go to the trouble?
For the half an hour it took me to make the cheese, I had the illusion of living a slow life. Arguably, I’d have been better off just buying a pound of cheese and spending that half an hour taking care of the hundreds of un-crossed-off items on my to-do list.
But sometimes, just the illusion of having a slow life is worth the extra trouble.
Pekin Times editor Michelle Teheux can be reached at (309) 346-1111 or at email@example.com. This column is the opinion of the writer and not of the newspaper.