Riding the Busy Bus
Ask any 25-year-old “How’s it going?” and they’ll probably say “All right!” . And they’ll tell you about the weekend at their friends’ cottage, or recent party, or their boy friend or girl friend.
But ask anyone over 35, and you’re almost guaranteed to hear “Busy!“, invariably followed by a litany of how they just don’t have time, the next three weekends are booked at the cottage and Justin has his karate championship next month and they’re getting their new roof put in and things are just SO “busy!”
And they seem proud of this.
But as you hear them talk, as your eyes glaze over and you resist the urge of throwing yourself into oncoming traffic, you feel sorry for these people.
Because you know they’ve crossed that middle-aged threshold: they’ve embarked on the Busy-Bus.
Yes, that famous mythical Busy-Bus, the mandatory mode of transport for double-income middle-class breeding-couples who have chosen to follow the path of get-married-have-kids-work-your-ass-off-till-you-die.
There’s never a dull moment, on the Busy Bus.
The one-way journey begins with overtime work that interfere with evenings and weekends and family time. But this is expected. Because the riders believe “If you want to make the Big Bucks, you have to put in the Long Hours”.
(At least, that’s what all the other passengers tell them).
And they need the Big Bucks. Otherwise, how could they pay for their SUVs, 2nd vehicles, the McMansion homes, European vacations, mid-life-crisis toys, Gigantor-Screen TV’s and $8000 bathroom fixtures?
In fact, a 2nd income is required to sustain all this, so their spouse must also work.
Hurray! Now the BOTH of them can ride the Busy Bus together.
But not before they wake up extra early every day, and rush through breakfast and transfer the kids to daycare. (Which, by the way, consumes most of their 2nd income, but that’s besides the point).
At work they attend seminars on their own time, called “Lunch and Learns”. They become soup-martyrs, working at their desk during meal-times while slurping their penance-bowl of broth. They attend long meetings without bathroom breaks. And they do this without complaining, because sustenance and bodily functions come second to putting in the Long Hours so you can make the Big Bucks.
And even THAT’s not enough. Because they can (and are expected) to use their Crackberry to multi-task and check their emails while listening to the budget meeting approving next fiscal years’ deliverables.
And when the workday is finally done, they’ll pick up some groceries, pick up the kids from daycare, cook supper, wash dishes, make sure the kids do their 4 hours of homework..and then, only THEN do they allow themselves to “relax”.
For about 15 minutes, before they collapse with exhaustion
Only to wake up the next day, get on the Busy Bus, and do it all over again.
For the next 30 years.
Until they retire or die.
(Whichever comes first).
And the sad thing is, the Busy-Bus riders can get off anytime they want.
Only they don’t want to.
Is it the weekend? Should we take time to sleep in? Go the beach? Go for a Sunday drive? Or visit gramma?
Heck, no. Let’s bring extra work home. Because it will show the managers we want to get ahead. So we can get promoted, so we can make more Big Bucks, so we can buy more stuff.
But if we DO have time for something fun, like going for a hike or fishing, let’s bring the CrackBerry along, so we can stay in touch with the office in case they call.
And it’s about time we got the kids involved in competitive sports. They’re almost five now, and it’s our duty to teach them to ride the Busy-Bus just like Mommy and Daddy.
Hey, kids! Now “Family Time” consists of your parents driving you back and forth to hockey games, softball tournaments, competitive horse-shoe league, and organic Tai-chi meets.
And don’t forget the piano lessons, Black-smithing lessons, and Organic yogurt-making.
If a Busy-Bus parent has done their job right, every moment of their childrens’ leisure time is filled, scheduled, structured and organized. (That is, when the poor youngsters aren’t stuck doing their 150 math problems and writing 800 page book reports)
Dont’ worry, though. If little Krystin is lonely, a “play-date” with a classmate can always be arranged.
We’ll try to pencil something in three weeks from now.
Let’s say the Bus-Bus riders have managed to survive the first part of the trip without having a coronary.
Their kids are now teenagers, beyond the age where they need to be driven around and supervised.
Is everyone done with the Busy-Bus yet?
Because that’s when the Busy-Bus riders decide that their perfectly acceptable house just isn’t good enough anymore.
So they rip it up and renovate, installing granite counters and stainless-steel appliances and Direct-Buy pretentious crap that cost more than their first home.
That’ll keep them occupied for the next few years or so: living on a construction site, dealing with contractors and mis-matched floor tiles and selecting the right color imported patio stones.
Not to mention, having to work extra hours to pay for it all.
And if that’s still too easy, well, then there’s always the option of buying a summer cottage on the lake.
Nothing like a second home 200 miles away that needs constant repairs and maintenance to consume the next couple of decades worth of summer weekends and vacation-time.
Eventually, though, the Busy-Bus riders will reach the point on the itinerary where the cottage is complete, the house is paid off and renovated, and the kids have finished college.
Their career’s ending…they can now retire on a full pension.
Surely, NOW, they’ll slow down and finally start enjoying the fruits of your labor?
Some riders STILL wont’ get off.
They’ll go back to the same lousy company they worked for, hire themselves out as a “Consultant”, and do the same lousy job they were so happy to have retired from.
Because they don’t know what to do with themselves, otherwise.
Not to mention that they’ll need the extra double-dipping money for that new fishing boat. And the condo in Florida. And that European trip they’ve been planning.
And even when they finally stop officially working, they’ll continue to ride the Busy-Bus.
Because there will always be something more important than just sitting down and enjoying life.
Never mind that these sad folks have forgotten what it’s like to just wake up on a summer weekend and let the day go where it takes you.
Or what it’s like to enjoy spontaneous, unscheduled visits from friends.
Or to let oneself be unconnected, off the grid, and just listen to the sounds of ones’ own thoughts.
That doesn’t matter to them.
Because if you ask them “How’s it going?”, they’ll beam proudly and tell you:
Is this what we have to look forward to?
Is this what riding the Busy-Bus is all about?
Then let me off at the next stop, please.
Because I think I’d rather walk.