Sunday, June 15, 2008

Slow Your Roll

I'm tempted to write that headline with an exclamation point but that's the old me. I see this article as less of an admonition and more of a statement. I'll explain, as I've been thinking of this topic, at least peripherally, for a little while.

A couple of weeks ago, I heard about a new beverage being sold in Southern states called Drank. It's a play on words for the hip hop drink of grape soda and alcohol. Seems that the hip hop stars of today need to mellow out a bit, to keep from shooting one another.

Last week, I brought my bike in for service and had my teenager follow me to the dealership, for a ride home. I noticed how cautiously, carefully and S-L-O-W-L-Y he drove, in comparison to my riding style. Several times I had to wait for him to catch up. That's when it dawned on me. What's my hurry? Maybe we all need to slow down or Slow our Roll?

For years, I've tried to do anything and everything as fast as I can. Somehow I saw that as a sign of efficiency/quality. I've always felt superior to slow thinkers, slow drivers, slow service providers. What a dick! I'll admit to a need for speed and there is nothing more exhilarating, to me, than blasting down an open stretch of road. But what I'm referring to is the feeling of the need to get somewhere as fast as possible, especially when you're boxed in on the interstate with thousands of other vehicles. And we've all seen the uber-idiots in their Mercedes, or other high-end sedans, self-importantly speeding down the highway for no apparent reason. I don't want to be that guy.

I spoke to an old friend this week about my pending ride to Sturgis. He's made this journey several times and is a font of good information. He reflected on one ride when they had started the journey with a nearly 700 mile day. On the last day of their ride out, they found that they only had 200 miles to cover. He said that they made a point of stopping frequently to enjoy the view, explore and just relish the beauty of their environs. Sounds like this is a good philosophy for everyday living.

Working in New York City will do this to you. For years, I adopted the fast walk, the rush-rush mentality of "get it down quicker" and rushed through my everyday life. I couldn't wait to get up, get out, get to work, get it done and rush home. Whew! I'm tired just thinking of how I used to live. I've been in NH nearly 10 years and the realization has finally dawned on me that I'm losing my old habits. Sure, some of it is age, maturity, call it what you will.

I can remember actually running through the halls of Newport News (where I was a Production Manager). Back when I was called "The Kid" by the likes of Bill Willett, our CEO. I can't imagine what a tool they must have thought I was, those men, then the age of me now, watching me tearing around the building. It's not like I was getting paid by the job. But I was an eager beaver, the "little bulldog" racing about, working on the Penske file. See what I mean?

I'm glad this dawned on me before the Sturgis trip. I want to soak it all in, document my ride, shoot lots of photos and take a lot of notes. I've decided to not blog during the ride as I don't want to lug a laptop to worry about losing or damaging. I want to travel lighter, physically and mentally. This could be a turning point in my life, a life-changing experience, if I allow it to be or, if I don't speed past it on the highway. I plan to slow down, chew slowly and savor the experience.

Maybe this could become a more than a personal lifestyle choice. I could take a cue from Arlo Guthrie's famous song Alice's Restaurant, and start a movement. It could be called the Slow Down for Progress Movement and all you have to do to participate is to sit still. We'll bring back sit-ins, Transcendental Meditation and Tai Chi. And maybe we can all finally learn to surf, legalize marijuana and rediscover the Grateful Dead. Yeah, I'm gonna do this.

They say that if you knew you only had 24 hours to live, you would live your life differently. We all took note of the death of journalist Tim Russert, who died suddenly at age 58 of a massive heart attack. I wonder how he might have spent that day differently, had he known it was his last.

Take a cue from this. Slow down, smell the roses (or the lilacs and the occasional manure truck). This is your only life. Don't rush through, just to get to the end.

A low, slow wave,

Joe Rocket

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