I’m sitting at a table in the food concourse (or whatever they call it) of the Delta-Northwest terminal at LaGuardia Airport, having stood in an awesomely long (but efficiently managed) line, removed and replaced my shoes, presented my shampoo for inspection, eaten breakfast, inserted my in-ear monitors, pressed play to listen to an mp3 of the first movement of Malcolm Arnold’s Second Symphony, logged onto the Web via WiFi, and checked the Northwest Airlines Web site, where I learned that my flight to Minneapolis will be departing LaGuardia an hour later than scheduled so that the crew can get some rest.
Once upon a time–last year, say–I would have irked beyond words by this last piece of news, but now I don’t care (much). Instead of strutting and fretting, I’ve simply sent an e-mail to Minnesota Public Radio to alert the people I’m meeting for lunch this afternoon that I’ll be an hour late, and now I’m using the extra time to catch up on my correspondence and tinker with the Commentary essay on Malcolm Arnold that I finished writing six hours and seventeen minutes ago. Should I grow tired of Arnold’s Second, I can always listen to another of the 2,991 “songs” currently residing in the iTunes player installed in my iBook G4, or shut up the iBook and read Roger Scruton’s Gentle Regrets, the paperback tucked into the outside flap of my wonderful new TravelPro Crew4 Rolling Tote, which I purchased last week for the ridiculously modest sum of $99, took with me to Chicago, and now believe to be the finest carry-on bag in the world.
Am I feeling smug? Hardly. What I feel at the moment is abject gratitude for any number of things, some small and others very large indeed. Not only do I have the best of all possible jobs, but I’m living at a time when digital technology has made it infinitely easier for middle-class people like me to cope with the stresses and strains of our Age of Do More, Faster.
Do I wish I lived in a simpler time? Occasionally–but I grew up in a much simpler time, and though I recall with nostalgia my days of slow-moving innocence, I can’t begin to imagine doing without cellphones, laptops, and iPods. I spent the first ten years of my career as a professional writer clicking away at a manual typewriter, and I don’t miss that old black monster in the slightest, any more than I regret the invention of the pills I take twice a day in order to defer for as long as possible the appointment with the Distinguished Thing about which I dreamed the other night.
Were I in a less accepting mood, of course, I could gripe about the fact that I’ve been so busy since coming home from Chicago on Monday that I only managed to sleep for seven hours out of the past forty-eight. Nor do I expect to shoehorn in a nap between now and eight o’clock this evening, when I’ll be showing up at Minneapolis’ Guthrie Theater to see a revival of Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers. I’ve got plenty more than that to do between now and Sunday afternoon, when I fly back to New York for the second time in a week, and at some point along the way I’m sure I’ll be grumbling about my hectic life–but not now.
Yes, I’d rather be fast asleep in my loft, but since I’m not, I’m disposed to seize the day and be glad for it. “Why are you stingy with yourselves?” George Balanchine used to ask his dancers. “Why are you holding back? What are you saving for–for another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now.” All things considered, I like now just fine.