I don’t often publish extracts from my work, especially if the book hasn’t been published yet, but in the week that Apple launch yet another version of their phone, this seemed appropriate.
Thankfully, the bus didn’t take long to arrive, and he even managed to get a seat, next to an old lady.
“Had a busy day?”
Oh my God, she wants to talk.
“Yes, very,” he lied. It had been a typical Friday: pretend to be working up until lunchtime, take two hours for lunch, then spend the afternoon, in this case, discussing picnics in Richmond Park.
“How about you?” He really didn’t want to engage in conversation, but she reminded him a little of his grandmother. Not much, but a little. Enough not to be rude, anyway.
“Yes, I have. I wanted to make sure I did all my housework today, as I’m on my to my son’s house. He’s off for the weekend with his wife, so I’m going to look after the children. I wanted to get my washing done, and polish the floor, get the bathroom cleaned, all that kind of thing. It’s the washing that takes the time, I’ve got a twin tub. I’ve been wanting to buy an automatic machine for a long time, but this one is still working, so it seems a shame to get rid of it. My son keeps telling me he’ll buy me a new one, but I don’t like to change things until they stop working. It must be because I still remember rationing, and when you were grateful for what you had. Not like now.”
Will needn’t have worried about entering into a conversation. This one was very one-sided.
“My son keeps changing his mobile phone every year, I’ve still got an old one with a dial. I haven’t even got a mobile. He keeps saying I should have one in case of emergencies, but I’ve lived this long without, so I don’t see what the need would be. It’s just another expense.”
As he sat listening to her, he realised she was talking a lot of sense. She’d lived through tough times, and knew what it was like to work hard. In fact, she probably worked harder than most people working now will ever do.
“It’s the modern world, I’m afraid. It doesn’t matter if something still works, there’s another thing over there that will do the same job, but looks a little nicer. People don’t have the same sense of value.”
“Well, my son says he needs to keep up to date with the latest technology, so he has to change his phone and computer whenever he can. He’s always so busy, I guess it must make his life a little easier.”
Being able to check your emails while you’re taking a dump is not making your life easier. Being online constantly is not making your life easier. Having a new washing machine is.
“You remind me of my mother. She used to say the same things about my older sister. She’s always saying how busy she is, but I’m sure it’s mainly due to being in constant contact with her office. It really irritates me when people say ‘we lead such busy lives these days’, when it’s mainly self-imposed. I imagine your life was much busier.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. We just got on with things that had to be done. I’m not sure if we thought we were busy.”
Normally Will longed to get to his destination, so he could escape from all the unwashed people crowding the bus. Today, he wished the journey could have lasted longer.
“Here’s my stop. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I hope your grandchildren behave for you.”
“Thank you, dear. Have a lovely weekend.”
He stepped off the bus, wishing he’d had more time to talk. It wasn’t often he even said ‘thank you’ or ‘excuse me’ to anyone on a bus, let alone have an interesting and meaningful conversation. It did bother him that her son might be taking advantage of her, expecting her to look after his children while he went off and enjoyed himself without them. That seemed to be the modern way, as well as technology and the throw-away society. Both parents work all week, and then decide they need a break from the children they hardly ever see anyway, and rope in the grandparents, who of course will be happy to help, won’t they. They love spending time with their grandchildren. Dad’s been working all week, the last thing he wants to do is feed them, wash them, play with them or have anything to do with them at all.
And of course, people have such busy lives these days.