Thursday, April 3, 2008
Does Time Equal Money?
Kieran Kane--"He Never Knew What Hit Him (mp3)
So I'm in TJ Maxx as often happens on a weekend, killing time while my women look at clothes, looking for some kind of upscale bbq sauce at a cheap price that I'll put in a cupboard and forget about until long after its expiration date. Armed with a mango-ginger-habanero dipping/grilling/sauteeing/marinating sauce, I drift over to the clearance aisle way in the back by the layaway counter. TJ Maxx claims that it's a different store every time you come in, but that particular aisle always seems to have the same kind of crap--pots without lids, candles with gouges in them, opened boxes of key lime cookies, obscure utensils, and imitation African masks that didn't make it into anyone's living room.
"I don't have time for that," I overhear.
There are a couple of black women there with me. They're picking up items and looking at the prices. The shorter, thinner one says, as she sets each one down, "I don't have time for that." Her friend agrees. "I can get that cheaper at Big Lots. I don't have time for that," she says.
I don't have time for that. In the language of the day, has the expression has come to mean 'I'm not paying that kind of money' or 'I can't afford that?' I had no idea that connotation had come into being.
But now the connection is made in my head explicitly: time and money are the same thing. I don't even have to ponder anymore if it's true.
See, what I'm grappling with most specifically is this idea of a pay raise. I don't want a pay raise. Or at least I don't want to raise my pay in the traditional way. Instead, I've decided I'd rather that they keep the money and give me an extra week off in the summer. That is a pay raise, too, isn't it? Pay me the same amount of money, but give me an extra week of free time. Now it isn't that I've got some whompin' huge salary and don't need the money. I do need the money. But I don't know about your raises; mine kind of suck and have for years, don't even keep up with key costs of living. So what it comes down to is this: if you could have $100 each month after taxes or an extra week off in the summer, what would you pick?
Me, I'd take the time. Let them keep the hundred bucks. That's nothing more than a big afternoon at Bud's. Well, a really big afternoon, maybe.
There comes a point, and it doesn't have to be driven by age (though my perspective is beginning to be) when most of us would rather have time and freedom than money, wouldn't we? How glorious would it be here at the beginning of April to have an extra week of no obligations to walk around the yard, trim this, plant that, clear out over there, and paint everywhere? How nice right now to walk down the hill and watch soccer for as long as I feel like? But that's just the start.
Time is a scarce resource, but few people mind taking it from us. They snatch it in small increments and big chunks with equal facility, and we usually give it away willingly. We trick ourselves into thinking that we can give up time in order to get time. Huh? Here's an example--your job requires you to work a Saturday night that you don't normally work, but you tell yourself that if you can just get through Saturday, you'll have earned the luxury to take your wife to lunch on Sunday or to go watch football with friends. So Saturday's gone but you've earned Sunday? Are we so short of time these days that we talk to ourselves in terms of earning time for ourselves?
We don't challenge the fact that we allow the people we work for to consume inordinate amounts of our time as long as we can stash just a little, just enough, away for ourselves. Maybe there's no way around that. And let's face it, in the modern world, there are a lot of other people who also want to take control of your time. It isn't just the delivery guy who gives you a 4-hour window when he might show up or the professional who bills you by the hour, but doesn't mind keeping you waiting. It's also the church that wants you to teach Sunday School or your son's sports team that needs a coach or the out-of-town wedding or the latest Walk for Everything and Anything or any number of other perfectly legitimate and valuable claims on your time.
My point is simply this: if you're going to give up so much of your time, you're going to have to find a way to take some of it back now, even for perfectly legitimate and valuable uses like doing absolutely nothing. If you don't take back the do-nothing time, you won't regain the do-something time. I used to spend a lot more time playing guitar, writing, even cooking than I do know. Now, I spend my time working and the time when I'm not working doing nothing but passively not working.
Here's the key difference between time and money: money can go into the bank for future use. It can be saved and spent later or even passed on. Time can't. It's not a renewable resource. When it's gone, it's gone for good.
I don't have time for that.
Kieran Kane's song "He Never Knew What Hit Him" is from his CD, Dead Rekoning.