August 19, 2016

Don’t waste the precious time of other people

When we were young, we wanted time to pass swiftly so that we would be old enough to do the things grown-ups do like riding a bicycle and driving a car.  During term time, we would look forward to our summer vacation, and when it arrived, we wanted it to pass quickly because time seemed to stand still as we had so much time to kill and we wanted to be back at school and be with our friends. As we grew older and started working, we began to appreciate the value of time. We felt that we never had enough time to complete our tasks, or to have a bit of leisure.  Later as we got married and had kids, we were pressed for time, as we had to divide our time between work and family obligations.  Often, we think that time has passed without having been able to accomplish anything. Indeed, now at retiring time, we feel that the decades that have passed seem so short and that time had flown, and it is a matter of time when the long awaited end of our journey will arrive.  In the meantime, without much work to do, we have all the time in the world to fret over little things.
A look at the sayings and phrases related to time shows that it is seen from different perspectives, but the majority of them take note of its value. To those who regard it as a scarce commodity, “time is precious”. To those who can count the amount of money they earn by the minute, or even second, “time is money”. To those who have to fit in many things in their day’s schedule, “Time is fleeting”.  To those who see time from a philosophical point of view, “Time and tide wait for no man”. To those who have experienced pain and sorrow and are slowly recovering, “Time is a great healer”.  Those who like to give advice to others, say, “There is a time and a place for everything”. Those who want to chastise people who dilly and dally, point out that, “There is no time like the present” and that “Time is of the essence”. For those with a lot of care and extra time, “Time hangs heavy” and for those who are enjoying life immensely, we enviously remark, “They are having the time of their lives”.
However much experience tells us that time wasted cannot be made up, sometimes, we like to waste a lot of our valuable time over trivial pursuits. In Myanmar, there is a saying “bathing the cat as there is nothing better to do” to describe such activities. To any criticism about wasting our time, while it is all right to retort by saying, “It’s none of your business how I spend my time,” we cannot use any excuse to defend ourselves for wasting other people’s time.  But many people, because of lack of consideration for others, are wasting other people’s time due to their actions, or inactions.
There is no doubt that daily, the majority of us encounter the boorish behaviours of others that rob us of a lot of our valuable time. The most common experience of those who have to leave their homes, either for work or to attend to other business, daily, whether by car, bus, or on foot is the irritating delays caused by the self-centredness of car drivers who park and even double park anywhere they like, even at busy street corners, blocking the traffic. Some of them sit in their expensive cars without giving a thought about the traffic jam they are causing and the trouble they are creating to others. Trishaw men in groups also park their vehicles at intersections not to miss fares, thus making cars slow down so that they will not accidentally knock them down. The problem is compounded by house owners, shop owners, and roadside hawkers who are not only hogging the pavement at busy places but are also slowly invading the road, making pedestrians walk with great caution on the road to avoid being hit by cars, causing them to slow down their walking speed.  Pedestrians themselves obstruct each other as some of them walk hand in hand with their lovers leisurely, as if they are in their own garden or in a park, blocking the path of those who are in a hurry to get to their destination.  People waiting for buses in Myanmar do not have the habit of queuing and when a bus arrives, they all try to get onto the bus at the same time pushing and shoving each other, causing unnecessary delays and anger.  Once they get on to the bus, if it is crowded, they stand near the entrance, again causing unnecessary delays to those getting on and off the bus. In the same way, during traffic jam, bus drivers do not stop at bus stops. They make passengers get down at any place convenient to them thus making passengers walk long distances to get to their destinations. Another cause for delays is the unrepaired pavements some of which are constructed over drains. These may have huge gaping holes so that pedestrians have to walk with great care to avoid falling into the drain.  Similarly, people have to slow down their walking speed as they have to make their way through the rubbish and dog excrement littered all over the pavement and the road.
Time is also wasted at inefficient or non-caring organizations and offices.  People have to wait for a long time to be attended to, either because the staff have not arrived on time, or are not at the office, or too few staff have been assigned, or because they are occupied with something else, including chatting on the phone or with their colleagues, or in these times, surfing the Facebook or playing computer games. Even when he has seen the officials concerned, a person may have to wait for a long time to get something done like obtaining the necessary recommendations. Sometimes, the person may be sent from one desk to another, to complete the business. There are also offices that do not provide all the necessary information about the papers a person need to bring and may ask him/her to return time after time, each time asking for a different paper. There are also big offices with no information desks and clients have to enter one room after another to find the person they need to meet. This is not just true for government offices and organizations.  There are sales girls at shops that sell branded goods who ignore customers who they feel cannot afford to buy the expensive things in the shop and make them wait to be served. There are also restaurants, although they have a lot of staff, are slow at serving customers, either because they are inefficient, or they do not care about their customers.
At some schools and higher education institutions, there are teachers who do not take classes even though they are present, who take classes but spend the time talking about irrelevant things, or who after teaching for a few minutes give some tasks to students and then disappear without returning to give any feedback, thus wasting the valuable time of students, some of whom have to come from distant places.  Due to parents being unsure about whether their children are being taught properly, they send their children to tuition, some of which are run by the subject teachers themselves.  Hence, time is wasted by students on learning the same lessons at tuitions, and having to go from one tuition to another. Similarly, there are doctors at private clinics who arrive long after the appointed time as they make the rounds of their numerous clinics, making their patients, some of whom are seriously ill, wait for them for a long time, sitting on uncomfortable benches in cramped rooms.
If we add to the above our time given to the frivolous TV programmes we watch, the meaningless chatter on the FM radios we listen to and the cheap journals we read, the phone calls we make and receive to trade gossips and to moan and groan, surf the Facebook, looking at the photos of unknown persons enjoying themselves and pressing LIKE, and reading the banal misspelt comments, and play  games on our cell phones, we will find that, daily, we are spending at least two to three of our waking hours on useless and unnecessary things.
The above are just a few of the things that the common people have to face or do, day in and day out, that waste their time.  It is understandable if traffic jams are being caused by the inordinate increase in the number of cars and narrow roads in the city.  But, if they are caused by things like illegal parking, the usurping of pavements and roads by shop keepers, hawkers, and trishaw men, then action needs to be taken against them by the authorities concerned for the good of all. Similarly, at a time when we are trying to be consumer/client oriented and trying to expand one-stop services for the convenience of the public, officials in charge of government offices should check regularly how people who come to their offices are being treated and see that they get better and prompt services and the necessary information.  Owners of stores and restaurants, big and small, should ensure that their staff are giving proper service and attention to their customers and not treating them disdainfully. A large section of our population is attending schools and universities and those in charge of education institutions need to ensure that students’ time is not being wasted due to absentee, or inefficiency of teachers and lack of proper supervision by school heads. In addition, school children should be taught to be considerate to others, have self-discipline, better manners, be helpful to each other and learn to use their time efficiently so that when they grow up they will not waste their own and other people’s time.  We should also be more assertive and speak out when other people infringe on our rights and waste our time. Finally, we need to train ourselves to manage time so that we have adequate time for work, fun, relaxation, sleep and our family.


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