Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Race - To The Next Red Light

I was driving along a three lane carriage way midday today.

The traffic was solid, but moving freely and as with many similar roads, there were traffic lights every kilometre or so.

A Tradesman was closing in behind me so I changed lanes to let him pass and he spent the next 6 sets of lights in my vision.

He was in a hurry to be somewhere, and over the next 5 or so kilometres I counted 14 lane changes however at each subsequent red light, he was never more than two car lengths in front of me.

In effect, we were in a race to be the first to stop at the next red light.

It also occurred to me that the level of stress inside his vehicle was very many times more than inside mine, and I suspect there was an equal and opposite level of attention to the act of driving.

It got me wondering if what I was observing is really a metaphor for much of life.

Are we also racing to be the first to discard, or throw away our latest purchase?

The fashion industry is one, but not the only one to encourage the disposal of our latest purchase. Styles change with the season and seemingly within the season. This year’s “in” colour means the little worn accessories of last year become disposable and disposed of.

Look at the queue outside an Apple Store the night before a new phone is released and you will see hundreds of people eager to dispose of their perfectly functional phones – to be the first to dispose of their latest technology purchase. The reality is, for most of us, we use a tiny percentage of the computing functionality of our current phone or computer, but feel the need to discard it.

What motivates us to participate in such “races”?

The driver in this story, given the vehicle he was driving was almost certainly running late for a work related meeting and was wanting to feel as if he was doing everything possible to arrive at his destination as close to time as possible.

It is tempting to compliment him on his diligence however chances  his need to rush is due to failing to plan the day to allow proper time for the travel. From my experience, I would be almost certain today is a repeating pattern of behaviour. Maybe being so rushed helps him feel important and needed. It is possible he judges himself that way and wants to be seen and judged by others accordingly.

It is almost certainly the judgement of others motivating many of our discretionary purchasing decisions. We feel having the latest phone or piece of technology will have us judged by others as being successful or even better, as being “cool”.

I also suspect much of the expenditure in the race to discard our latest purchase is achieved via a credit card.

In Australia, according to ASIC total credit card debt exceeds $32 billion and at the precise time of writing, was growing at the rate of $1000 every 7 seconds. I know this – because I timed it.* (with the stop watch on my phone).

Each credit card holder pays an average of $750.18 interest per annum.

That is a lot of “throw a ways”.

I wonder what difference it would make to our financial, physical and mental wellbeing if we withdraw from the race to be the first to discard our latest purchase.

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