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.

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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).

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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.


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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?

Heck, no.

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.

****************

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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?

Nope.

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.

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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:

“Busy!”

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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.

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26 Comments on “Riding the Busy Bus”

  1. Brett Legree Says:

    I’d leave a longer comment, but I’m too *busy*!

    🙂

  2. Deb Says:

    @Brett: You stole my line. Thanks a lot. You know how busy I was? Now I have to take time to think of another one and I don’t have TIME!

    @Friar: As always, beneath the snark, there is great wisdom.

  3. Kelvin Kao Says:

    And they say people don’t use public transportation anymore…


  4. I think you should make a busy badge! Then you could bestow it, a la the Order of the Deep Friar, on its most deserving recipients. Or make it a little parking sticker thingie that they could put on their mini-vans and SUV’s.


  5. Oh dear,

    I hope that bus has good brakes otherwise their demise might come sooner than they planned.

  6. Friar Says:

    @Brett
    Yeah..you better get your kids to their Yogurt- making class… 😉

    @Deb
    Heh. I bet you Brett stole a lot of everyone’s thunder, with his first comment.

    @Kelvin
    Yeah, but the Busy-Bus comes with a higher price then even driving your own Hummer.

    @Betsy
    Maybe I can attach them to a “Busy-Ville” game on Facebook. And watch everyone scramble and “get busy” trying to collect them. 🙂

    @Barb
    Well, they could have gotten off sooner…they knew what they were getting into. 🙂

  7. dave1949 Says:

    Luckily I was born without an ambition gene and so was able to get off that bus early in life. Now I’m poor, except for all the time I can spend cycling, walking, reading and pursuing all the other things I do none of which costs a lot of money.

  8. Friar Says:

    @Dave

    Same here….if I want to be able to afford things like (fishing, skiing, hiking, etc), I have had to occasionally get on the Busy-Bus.

    But I’ve only ridden it as far as I’ve had to. And not ONE kilometer more.

  9. Friar's Mom Says:

    @Wee Friar,

    You forgot to mention that occasionally the Busy Bus crashes before the end-of-the line.

    Hmm . . . but that crash makes it the end-of-the-line.

  10. eyeteaguy Says:

    I’m busy, but I watch the busy-bus from the park. That’s where I’m busy playing with my kids.

    I’m also busy on the weekends watching F1 racing and playing with my kids.

    In the evenings I’m busy playing with my computer learning new things.

    I like to be busy, idle hands are the devils playground. Too much time on my hands and I tend to go off the rails. Good thing I have fun things to do to keep me busy!

    I love watching the busy-bus drive by with the people in it with “the dead in their eyes”. They are dead and they don’t even know it yet.

    Nice post by the way, spot on as usual.

    Eyeteaguy

  11. Ken Says:

    You’re getting off the bus?

    Great – I could use the extra seat 😉

  12. Friar Says:

    @Friar’s Mom
    Yep…heart attacks, the Big C…sudden deaths in the family…etc.

    You never know what will derail the Busy Bus.

    People assume it never will…but sooner or later, it always does.

    @Eyeteaguy
    Fun things that keep you busy, by definition, don’t necessarily qualify you as a rider on the Busy-Bus.

    And that’s a GOOD thing.

    I like what you say about the “dead in their eyes”.

    That’s exactly what I think when I hear a Busy-Rider brag. They’re sold their souls. They’re dead to me and the rest of the Real World, and they don’t even know it.

    @Ken
    Take my seat…you’re more than welcome to it! 🙂

  13. Friar's Mom Says:

    @Ken,

    Howcum you can use Friar’s extra seat?
    Do you need it to be more comfortable?
    Do you want a window seat?
    Do you have extra baggage?
    Or would you like to share it with a friend?

  14. Mike Goad Says:

    I was lucky. My job really didn’t require me to be busy. I was allowed to be creative an innovative and mostly do the fun stuff…, at first.

    Then the company became a corporation which evolved into a larger corporation and a corporate bureaucracy developed and we started having to do extra things at our site because people had made mistakes at other sites. You know the tune.

    At home, we did things the old fashioned way. Our kids never were into all the organized activities. I “worked” and Karen stayed home, except for a few years when she did have a job. We live in the house we bought in 1981 and paid off in 2007. We don’t have all the stuff that other people seem to need. We put as much money as we could into savings so that I could join Karen in not working. And, yes, I know, I did go back to work as a contractor in my old job, but I only do it 6 months out of 18…, and I really do get to do the fun part of the job and don’t have to do the mickey mouse administrivia that goes with the in-house job.

    Two guys I know recently retired from the same place I did. The next month, they were working as full time employees for a similar facility in Arizona.

    That’s crazy!

    Right now, we’re busy camping near Paducah, Kentucky, where there is a quilt show Karen wanted to attend.

  15. Friar Says:

    Mike

    I’m seen your photos. We seem to like the same places.

    Reminds me of a monster road trip I got to do when I was laid off once. It was such a great time…I can’t wait to do that again, like you are.

    Speaking of crazy guys who don’t know when to let go.

    We got a bunch of old retirees who show up once a week, in the cafeteria to hang out and have coffee.

    Okay, I can understand wanting to stay in touch with your former work friends.

    But for the Life of me, I can’t figure out WHY they’d want to do it in a dingy, circa 1967 depressing basement cafeteria.

    As opposed to going to the donut shop 2 minutes away. (Or better yet…the local PUB!)

    If that’s what I do when I retire, please shoot me.

  16. Brett Legree Says:

    Though I agree pretty much with what everyone’s saying, there’s one thing I have to add.

    If you are having fun doing what you do for a living, why do you have to retire?

    I mean, maybe you can stop doing it full time, or volunteer or teach or mentor or something, but what I don’t get is the idea of working at something I don’t really want to do for 35 years…

    …so that I can then stop doing it to do what I really want to do, like play golf, or whatever.

    If I wanted to play golf all the time, I’d somehow have figured out a way to do that for a living. Maybe not a really high-paying living, but a living.

    I guess I feel this way because where I work, we’re surrounded by a variety of folks who are 5-6 years from retirement, who bitch and complain all the time about work, and then say, “when I’m retired, I’m gonna do this…”

    But the thing is, you know that the only thing they have in life, is that job they bitch about all the time, and once they leave it, they’ll die within 6 months out of boredom.

    So I say, find something you like to do, don’t ride the busy bus, make sure you’re riding the party bus, and never get off the damned thing.

    Ever.

  17. XUP Says:

    I think I wrote a post a lot like this a while back. I don’t understand all this busyness either. I work as little as I possibly can and hope to reduce that even more in the next few years. I’m passionately in love with my free time

  18. Friar Says:

    @Brett

    That’s the problem with the busy-bus riders. They aren’t doing what they’re passionate about. They’re just spinning the hamster-wheel.

    I mean…how many people do you know really ENJOY filling in those ReAct forms and and memos budget report…to the point that it doesn’t even feel like work to them?

    There probably are a few…maybe 0.001% of the population.

    @XUP
    Wouldn’t surprise me that you wrote something like this before. We often think of the same stuff.

    I’m totally with you. I do the bare minimum work…and not one speck more.

    I keep my house clean, but not immaculate. And I do enough at the office to fully meet my requirements at my performance reviews. But my house isn’t spotless,and I don’t “exceed” anything I’m not supposed to.

    Call me lazy, but that’s managed to keep me off the bus so far, and have more free time.

  19. XUP Says:

    Okay, you’re lazy. Nuthin’ wrong with that. All those people they interview that live to be 120 or so? None of them ever worked a 16 hour day or were CEOs of anything or owned a McMansion. Ever notice that? They’re always regular folk who attribute their longevity to stuff like taking time to smell the roses and a stiff bourbon every night.

  20. Friar Says:

    @XUP

    you make a good point about CEO’s never living to be 100.

    When I was in University, we had the CEO of a local company come once to talk to our class. The guy told us you have to be willing to put in 80-100 hour weeks for the first while.

    He had spent years building his empire. He was worth millions. I remember someone asking him if he was ever going to retire. He told us it was “difficult” to get off the treadmill, once you get on it.

    And he didn’t seem happy or passionate about it. Just tired and sad looking.

    I think that’s the point where I decided I NEVER want to be a CEO.

  21. Rachel and Angus Says:

    Your Mum passes links to us, love reading them. In terms of the bus, years ago I read a comment that fits “You never see I should have worked harder on a gravestone”

  22. Friar Says:

    @Rachel and Angus

    True…nobody ever admitted on their death-bed “I wish I had put more time into the office”.

    How are you guys enjoying your summer? Feeling ski withdrawal yet?

  23. James Addiction Says:

    I realize this is months after the fact. This essay has stuck with me since I read it back when it was fresh. At first I thought it was a selfish diatribe from someone who wanted to remain unproductive except for his own personal endeavors, and I thought to myself, “That’s okay. He’s Canadian. Be unproductive!” Later I decided this wasn’t the case.

    I’ve read quite a lot of your writings now and the one thing I notice above all is that you are absolutely busy with a great deal many things. The difference – the one thing that keeps you off the Busy Bus – is the absence (as far as I can tell) of someone demanding your time. We don’t have to let work demand our time. I ignore the unreasonable demands of work very well. When you live for someone else by having a spouse and/or children… these are demands on time that you cannot ignore. Unless you choose not to have them. (Or you choose to ignore them and in so doing become douche-bag and wait for your appearance on Jerry Springer.)

    I appreciate the opportunity for reflection you’ve provided me. If you don’t have kids, that’s ok. I think now, “It’s okay. You’re Canadian. Be unreproductive!”

  24. Friar Says:

    @James

    Ummm…not sure what to make of the reference to Canadians not being productive (???). First time I’ve ever heard that associated with us. 🙂

    Yes, I know that it’s easy not being “busy”, if you have no spouse and kids. But up to a certain point.

    There are so many double-income couples with kids out there that fall into the trap of making every minute of the day count. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    When I grew up, sure, we demanded our parent’s time. But there wasn’t this huge rush to get off to day care, or have play-dates or go drive to a cottage every weekend.

    There was family time, and unstructured days, when we would just hang around the house, and play with the kids next door. Or lazy weekends lounging around the local swimming pool. There was time to stop and smell the roses.

    That’s what I think is missing today…we’ve lost track of being able to do that.

  25. James Addiction Says:

    Re: Productivity

    Just a playful jab. I wasn’t saying Canada IS non-productive, I was saying (on a competitive level, as a big-mouth American) that it’s okay to be less productive. If you were an American it wouldn’t be okay, becuase we’re full-up on un-productive Americans.

    Keep doing what you do, I like reading it.

  26. Alan Says:

    Hi there….I realise this very intersting article has been published for some time,and interestingly it was forwarded to me by my daughter I;m thinking because she saw in the article myself as a “busy Busser” and perhaps felt it was a great way to tell me to slow down a little, both of which are kind messages.
    Ive read all the responses with some interest and on balance I think its a “Half glass full .half empty” type of discussion.
    For me, its been good being a busy busrider,in saying this I have had many good friends that through unfortunate twists of lifes pathway now cannot be busy bussers even if they wanted too,I,m sure that most of my friends if they had a choice would want to ride still rather than undo a busy and productive life.
    Fortunatley my children have all followed in the same mould and because of this they are all enjoying a useful and self sustaining life style, busy of course.
    I think the key is to use the busy cread or habit in different ways ie if you have finished a main career in your life,get out and try to find another using all the intellectual property you have, it could be helping people who haven’t been busy bussers into finding an interest that makes them feel useful even.
    I’m a Capricorn by birth,but soon realised that there are actually lots of different types of Capricorns out there as there are people who have different views.
    I count myself lucky being able to be busy and hope that I can die with most a big list checked off as done!!!!


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