Take Your Time by Daniel B. Rundquist
SPECIAL TO THE CALDWELL JOURNAL (By Daniel B Rundquist)…I didn’t expect that living in North Carolina in the 1980’s was going to be much different than in my home state of Minnesota, except for the weather. I was a teenager and I was so mistaken. North Carolina was indeed really hot in the summer by comparison. Minnesota has summer, too and I always enjoyed both days of it every year—July 4th and 5th. While we suffer the occasional onslaught of cicadas here, the mosquitoes in Minnesota are large and predatory—they are known to carry off small children and dogs. Here it’s a pop or a Coke, not a soda. A Midwesterner transplanted to the heart of the sunny south—I had no idea just how different indeed it would be.
Yes, there was sweet tea and biscuits here (thank God), and it was impossible to miss the different language of the south, but there was something else that permeated all throughout the culture here— the different pace at which life happened. In Minnesota, everything happened fast all the time everywhere you went. People even talk faster there while here we might tend to add extra syllables to some words.
I think that my dad and I have deduced that because it is so cold for so long every year there, that people became accustomed to moving quickly all the time to simply avoid freezing to death. I suppose it’s some sort of Darwinian evolutionary thing so those that don’t freeze to death can survive to reproduce. Every year you see that story in the news there of some poor guy who froze to death because he sat waiting for a city bus and froze solid in twenty minutes. That won’t happen here in North Carolina. So, we came to believe that our theory must be close to accurate in the absence of any other plausible notions.
Life in Charlotte where we lived was quite slower paced then. I know, for instance, that we would typically wait an hour for the “30-minute” oil change. Take your car in for some other service and that would kill better part of a day. It was not “fast food,” but more like “bad food eaten quickly.” One time I waited so long for a burger I asked if I might go and help in the kitchen so I could finally get to eat. In fairness to Charlotte, I once had lunch at a diner in some tiny crossroad town outside Asheboro and the entire town shut down for lunch except the diner.
The folks at the Charlotte retail stores were certainly in no hurry—they had two speeds at which they worked, slow and stop. There were, however, two opposite types of drivers on Independence Blvd: those who had a hard time locating the accelerator and those who thought they were trying out for the pole position at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Some thirty years later, times have changed. The casual pace of the South is well, rather less casual than it once was. While it would be easy enough to generically blame a culture infection of “Yankees” for transplanting as I did, affecting the pace of the South, that’s not likely fair or accurate. Not entirely, anyway. It seems nearly everywhere we want to look these days, life just moves at a faster pace than it once did, and we are expected to handle it. We don’t seem to have the time like we once had and while all this makes for better productivity, I would argue it has done so at the expense of our southern cultural identity.
I do realize that the pace of life today now demands expediency. Even with this in mind, I encourage everyone to slow down just a bit. This Christmas season is our annual opportunity to take our time, to visit, to share and give some of our time to others. Those others could well include family, friends, and even co-workers who we see every day. This is a Christmas gift of time, and while it will cost you little it will go a long way for those with whom you share it.
I still believe it’s important for everyone to take our time. Take time to make a call or send a card; write a note to a friend or deserving colleague. Go and visit your neighbors. Parents in particular have to realize that each day we have with our young children is one less day we have with them. One day they ask for your car keys, and then soon after that, they move out. To be sure, the clock is ticking with these little ones. Please make time to spend with them.
It seems that the South of the 20th century was a pretty good place to grow up after all. I got used to all the waiting around, and it wasn’t really that bad. It built character; taught me patience. Today we might bear to learn something with a bit of a slower pace now and then. While that’s unlikely to happen, we can decide to take the opportunity of our holiday season to put on the brakes and focus on the things in front of us that are both valuable and important.
Dan is a local book author and here is a link to one of his latest books. (All net proceeds will be donated to the Disabled American Veterans, Chapter 6 Hudson, NC.)