Slow Down

We're living an increasingly frantic life.

My friends don't have time to go out for a beer anymore; it's work, work, work every waking moment. Car traffic is getting absurd; on most days, I'm waiting for minutes to cross each and every street. My retired mom has business in two-three different places on most days.

It's eating us alive. Look at people in the street: they look straight at you and don't even see you. Some never seem to put their cellphones down. Others nearly bump into you then just stand there, as if trying to remember what they're supposed to do in such a strange situation.

And to what end? Just to accumulate material goods we don't even have time to enjoy anymore, because we're too busy paying off the debt we got into in order to acquire them?

No wonder that in recent years there have been various movements for a return to more natural rhytms. You may have heard of the slow food movement, which (as the name suggests) preaches a return not only to healthy food but also taking the time to enjoy a meal. That sparked an entire range of immitations in other aspects of life. And it was just the beginning.

More recently, typewriters of all things have been experiencing a revival. Turns out, news of their demise have been greatly exagerated. And while most bloggers praise the physicality of typing on them (and you know what I think about that), others point out how typewriters force you to slow down and carefully consider your words, because it's very hard to correct a mistake. Much like in real life.

And now, the same basic concept is being extended to cities. This isn't exactly a new thing either. Ever since the financial crisis started, we've seen cities devastated by it, then being rebuilt on a more humane basis out of necessity. But even still-thriving cities can benefit from shifting their focus back to the people living in them, as opposed to cars and businesses. I see this trend even in Bucharest: a small park here, a plaza there, or the occasional pedestrian street -- which I assure you is exceptional in a city (and nation) obsessed with cars.

It matters more than you think: in the streets, everyone is distraught, people shout at each other and lone, crazed parents are dragging along crying children. While in the park you see whole families playing and socializing together, enjoying life at its natural pace.

If only we could retain that attitude once we're back in the dust and noise and smell of exhaust gasses. But it's hard when you keep running into zombies with expensive neckties and bluetooth headsets.