Thursday, March 28, 2013

Busy Bee

When I first embarked on my second career as a freelance journalist, I would get very irritated by the patronizing looks and comments some of my lawyer and banker friends would give me whenever we caught up.
            “Oh,” said one particularly obnoxious friend whose name I immediately deleted from my phone as soon as I left the restaurant. “That’s a nice cushy life, isn’t it? Staying in your pajamas and watching TV all day?”
            “Freelance journalist?” said another as she air-quoted the words. “Is that what they call it these days?” I deleted her as well as I walked to the bus stop and tried to hide in the shadows as I watched my friends zoom off in their Mercedes convertibles.
            “They’re just jealous!” Amanda said soothingly when I came home venting. “I’d give anything to have your life! But I know I can’t afford my Gucci and Prada on what you’re making, so basically I’m trapped!”
            “I do work very hard, you know!” I yelled at no one in particular. “I’d like to see them go knocking on editors doors to ask for jobs and slaving over a stupid story about some stupid new restaurant and…”
            “Oh, you cannot give up that gig,” Saffy commanded as she walked into the dining room. “I adore being your plus one at those restaurant reviews! There’s nothing better than being taken out for a nice dinner and not feeling obligated to put out afterwards!”
            “I also say,” said Amanda who was at the time dating a string of losers on account of her being in the ‘off’ phase in her long running on-off relationship with The Cockroach.
            It was all so disheartening.
            Needless to say within a year or so, almost all the friends from my former life as a lawyer dropped away. And whenever I bumped into them on the street, inevitably, they’d say, “Oh God, I’m so incredibly stressed at work! I have to prepare for two trials, I’m pregnant, my mother-in-law is now living with us, I’m trying to gun for partnership at the firm, there’s just so much going on! So…” and here, they’d pause expectantly, “how are things with you? Are you still eating for free at restaurants and going on free trips?”
            It comforts me enormously to report that after all these years, yes, I’m still being paid to eat at restaurants and go on all expense paid trips to exotic locations where I meet and experience things my pregnant, busy, living with her mother-in-law, stressed friend will probably never be able to do, let alone find the time to do it.
            And that’s the thing. People are always so busy these days. Have you noticed? They’re always running to a meeting. Or running from one to another one. They can’t meet for dinner any day this week because they’re so stressed about a particular job, but maybe they could meet late next week, but could they confirm on the day itself?
It’s almost like they’re incredibly proud they’re so busy and have no time even for coffee with a friend.
            Even children are busy. One of my friend’s kids has a Blackberry to keep track of his piano lessons, appointments with Chinese tutors and gymnastics practice, and study time. And his entire schedule is backed-up onto his mother’s Blackberry so that she can work it around her week while dealing with her office workload.
            And when I told the kid that when I was growing up, my favourite part of the day was playing five stones with my friends during recess, he looked at me blankly. At first I thought it was because he had no idea what five stones were, but later, as I watched him drive off with his mother to his violin lessons, it occurred to me that maybe it was because he didn’t actually play with friends.
            “Or have any friends to play with,” Saffy observed sagely as she looked up from her iPad where she was checking movie times.
            “No one has a nice work and play balance anymore,” Amanda said. “We’re all so busy running around that we’ve lost the ability to just relax and not do anything. Which reminds me, I need to schedule a spa treatment for the weekend. My nails are a disgrace!”
            “So which movie are we going to watch?” Saffy piped up as she scrolled through her iPad.
            “Anything not involving vampires or old people dying of an incurable disease,” Amanda said. “Preferably something with exploding cars or Ryan Gosling. Or both.”
            “And after that,” Saffy said, “Jason can take us all out to dinner.”
            A thought occurred to me. “Can we just not take the bus to the cinema, though?” I asked.

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