Time is at a premium in America

Maswood Alam Khan
My friend Mokarram has been living in the United States for the last 30 years and my younger brother Maruf is also living in America for more than three decades. Till today, my friend could not afford to pay a single visit to the Library of Congress, nor could my brother afford time to see any NASA facility. On the other hand, during my short stay for about six months in the United States, I have by now visited the Library of Congress two times and I am planning to visit the same library shortly. And I have already spent one full day inside the Goddard facility of NASA. In America, I have been in total freedom to move anywhere I wished.

Americans love vacationing. But very few Americans can afford the luxury of holidaying by visiting places of interest in their own country. Those who visit the Library of Congress and, for that matter, other places of interest like the museums in Washington, are mostly tourists from other countries. Of course, there are Americans who also visit those places of tourist attractions; but they are mostly elderly Americans who are retired and who have opted to remain unemployed.

My fate would have been no better than that of Mokarram or Maruf or of any other Americans had I also been working.

Many Americans who work five or six days a week spend their weekly holidays doing laundries, shopping essentials and settling things that were long overdue; some, of course, who are wealthy and healthy would find it worthwhile to enjoy their relaxed moments on weekdays and at weekends splurging their time and money on bites in a snack bar, on alcohol in a wine bar or on a sea beach vacationing with their friends or spouses. The friend or the spouse could be a boy or a girl, a man or a lady. But not many working Americans can afford or are really interested to take leave from their works to visit places of interest in order to quench their thirst for history or in quest of some knowledge unless the knowledge to be earned can immediately be applied for a raise in a job that may guarantee a raise in pay and perks.

One elderly American friend of mine once said: “Remaining unemployed after retirement is a luxury in America, provided you have a cash cow that can pay your bills and take care of your health. You enjoy wandering around and relax seeing sights, reading books and listening to music before your eyes and ears get too old”.

The most pleasant experience of retirement in America is that you do not have to wake up to the Alarm Clock as you do not have to rush to workplace in the morning. You don’t have a deadline for an appointment. You are at a liberty to see what you like, to do what you enjoy. Nobody is there anymore to oversee your jobs. You can oversleep in the morning and waste away all the hours of the day reading newspapers and magazines.

After retirement you dreadfully remember those feelings you used to get when you had to sit back down at your desk after lunch and all your blood would rush to your stomach and your eyes would get really heavy. Food coma, they call it. You had to resort to an afternoon cup of coffee to stave off those tired feelings. But not anymore as you are now unemployed! Now you take a nap or a siesta after your lunch. You get at least one full cycle of rapid-eye movement (REM) sleep after lunch so you can get up feeling refreshed and able to handle your important afternoon tasks.

After my retirement in 2009 at Dhaka and also for the last seven months during my sojourn in the United States I had been enjoying too the luxury of not working. But my fate tragically seems to be heading for an end to my relaxed life as I have got a job that is demanding my time seven days a week. I have started feeling too tired to read, too weary to write, too fatigued to see, and too dulled even to derive pleasures from wonders that used to enamor me earlier. Like others I am also being chased by the clock as I have to chase my deadlines.

Time is at a premium in America and most Americans have two jobs, one for fulltime and the other for part-time engagements. The majority of Americans paradoxically spend a major portion of their hard earnings for things they cannot really enjoy fulltime. You buy a house in America with a view to living in the house. You buy a car to enjoy driving. But, you can not spare time to live in your own house for more than what you need only to sleep at night. Your home remains locked most of the daytime. You can not spare much time in driving either other than for commuting to and from your workplace. Your car mostly remains parked in your garage or on a parking lot. In America, you run like clockwork! You and I are all slaves to clock.

Masood Alam Khan writes from Maryland, USA and can be reached at E-mail: maswood@hotmail.com


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