Gustafson: Breaking with patience | AspenTimes.com

Gustafson: Breaking with patience

Britta Gustafson
Then Again

In a world of information overload I’ve had my moments — from searching for my parked car, to (oh yes) looking for the glasses on top of my head with smartphone in hand — it’s easier than ever to be distracted.

In fact, I recently asked my daughter where my 6-year-old son was, when she nearly fell over laughing because I was carrying him on my back. That would make me sound slightly out of my mind — if it weren’t for the fact that he has a broken leg, so I’m used to him clinging to me baby-Chimp-style. But one thing I fear losing in this new insta-era is my patience.

The word patience means the willingness to suppress restlessness or annoyance when confronted with delay, even-tempered care or diligence. Can we manage to maintain patience with today’s fast pace?

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it,” said Arnold H. Glasow, humor journalist and author.

The need for patience can take many forms and traveling over spring break offers up yet another opportunity to practice its art.

Recently having returned from a family vacation, I’m back reflecting on the experience. Spring break in the 1980s for my friends and I was an opportunity for simple and very budget-conscious adventures, usually with our immediate families and often relatively close to home. We typically journeyed within driving distance: camping in Moab, visiting the big city of Denver, couch-camping at a relative’s, or some Griswold-style quest for commercialized amusement.

California seemed pretty far and east of the Mississippi was rare. Still there were always some who took a flight to somewhere exotic, but perhaps their manicured travels didn’t offer up enough memorable tales of roadside breakdowns and truck-stop sleepovers to leave a lasting impression.

Maybe it is simply the nature of a road trip, with its slow and steady build up to gratification, that used to make a weeklong vacation seem to stretch on and on. Or perhaps it is in the nature of a child’s point of view where living in the present allows the wonder of every moment to stand out. Or maybe we just used to be more patient.

Still, I find myself wondering if our new era of technological dependency and instant gratification might be penetrating every aspect of our lives.

Today, even vacations can feel overwhelmingly fast-paced. We can no longer put miles between ourselves and our worries. Sure, flying seems like a far superior mode of transportation, but in some ways the whole nature of the here-to-there journey is dulled by our efforts to speed up the process. Being shuttled through line after line, schlepping too much luggage, navigating crowds, filing past hundreds of blinking commercial signs — the Starbucks and McDonalds all looking the same on every corner of each gray gate. The flicker of neon lights, the corduroy sound of wheels on moving walkways, the airplane’s white noise, the rental car smell; it all seems to add up to an equally over- and under-stimulating but certainly mind-numbing day. It definitely requires patience to stand in so many lines, but the journey is shorter than ever before.

Looking around at fellow vacationers and seeing that same entranced look washed over their faces at hotel check-in or lobby bars leads me to believe that I may not be alone in missing the days on the road patiently awaiting arrival and feeling peaked, not drained. Are we even designed to experience this life at such an accelerated pace?

I’m not sure if it is because every experience seemed almost happenstance before smartphones, but without much more than a road map you really can’t plan too far ahead and adventures are inevitable; you looked up and learned the lay-of-the-land. Making thorough reservations, plotting detailed daily itineraries and researching down to the type of pillow fill were recently unheard of.

Travel without technology feels more organic, we are patiently pleased with our discoveries. The likelihood that you may stumble upon a favorite place or find your way back to somewhere memorable and worthy of a future return once made travel feel somewhat like a treasure hunt.

I think we can learn a lot as a resort community by realizing that so much of what our visitors experience, up to their arrival at our doorstep, is an indoor human-made, lineup, a follow the leader to the tram, bus or elevator while background music lulls them into oblivion. If they’ve lost their patience, maybe we need to be careful not to lose ours.

The expectations probably are higher than ever, something we have created with immensely engaging marketing filled with emotionally appealing photographs and poetic copy on every ad. The age of instant gratification coupled with mindless travel makes for a uniquely unpredictable response to opening that hotel room door. We may expect to be shaken from the trance, but if our expectations fall short we may not have the patience or even the comprehension necessary to know what we are dissatisfied with.

Here in Snowmass, we can work to wake up the senses by minimizing those corridors, blinking lights, over signage, in-your-face commercialization of our indoor culture, leading us down the moving walkway to consumer-based satisfaction where we are only happy if we got and posted the selfie, purchased the souvenir, ate at the recommended restaurant and made it back with all of our luggage.

A combination of minimizing aspects of vacation travel, as well as a substantial dose of patience, might make for happier more satisfied visitors — and maybe residents, too.

Thank you, Dean, who once said to a particularly ornery customer while checking him through at the grocery store: “My mother used to tell me that you must have patience or you will be one.”

Let’s exchange a piece of my mind for a little peace of mind; after all, if we always agree what will we talk about? Britta Gustafson appreciates an open mind; share yours and email her at brittag@ymail.com


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