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Where Speed Takes Us

A man spends the chilly November night on a sidewalk, cradling his four-month-old daughter. Homeless? No. He's waiting in line to buy the new Play Station--he and thousands of others across the country. We almost needed the National Guard to control the crowds.

To understand the barbarism of thousands camping outside stores for 72 hours, including those who skipped school and work and those who brought their children along for this great quality-of-life experience, there's no need to latch on to the pros and cons of video gaming. The cause is our nation's addiction to speed.

My second-grade teacher Mrs. Wood taught us: "Good, better, best. Never let it rest. Change the good to better and the better to the best." We now live in an environment summed up by "Later, Soon, Now. We don't care how. Just change later to soon and, quick, make soon into now."

Later, there will be more (many more) Play Station 3s issued, but we want them NOW. And if we don't want them for ourselves, we can find someone else who wants them NOW and will pay up to $10,000 to have one in time for that annual consumptive holiday we continue to call "Christmas."

What about the 3 days of Now that people lost standing, sitting, and camping in line, waiting on the stores to put these black boxes on the shelves?

Flashback: My family and I are traveling through Alabama on a stiflingly hot summer day. We drive nearer and nearer to a maroon Cadillac with a black vinyl top, traveling ahead of us. The car has seen better days. The top is pockmarked, the paint has the dullness of old fingernail polish, the air conditioning is not working, and all the car windows are down. Inside is a numerous family, everyone's hair flying every which way, each with that half-affectless, half-irritated expression that unrelenting heat and traveling winds put on one's face. Ours is just one of a stream of cars passing theirs, which is going perhaps 45 miles an hour on a 60-mph freeway. As we pull around them, I spot a bumpersticker on the back of their car. It says:

"Speed on, brother! Hell ain't half full."

When my wayward instincts make me think I must arrive somewhere or purchase something RIGHT NOW, I remember that exasperated family in their old beat-up car, grateful for the good-humored wisdom they made available to all those who found themselves "behind."

Speed on, brother. Speed on.

Text and image, Copyright 2006, Ysabel de la Rosa. All rights reserved.

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