Editor’s Column: You really can’t save time

Niki Turner

We all do it, we’re all guilty of trying to save time. Saving time seems like a good idea, and so we’ve been told by every new time-saving gadget ever invented.

Remember when email was considered a timesaver? It’s become a giant time suck. So we switched to texting. Really no different.

We’ve built interstate systems to save travel time, and they’re clogged with other people trying to save travel time.

Dishwashers were supposed to save time washing dishes. But then we end up washing the dishes before they go in the dishwasher or running the dishwasher twice.

We’ve come up with ways to fast forward television commercials so we can hurry up and what? Watch more TV? Work more?

I was told last week that the faux rocks were placed close to the corner of the courthouse square by the clock and sidewalk to “save time” for the maintenance crews who have to mow and trim the grass around the enclosure. After the first downtown event, we now have rubber mulch strewn hither-tither all over the corner of Sixth and Main. (Any mother could have seen this coming. Children plus mulch equals mess.)

If the mulch is to remain scattered everywhere, then indeed, time spent mowing and trimming has been saved. If the mulch is going to be regularly swept up and returned to the enclosure by maintenance staff, saving time becomes a moot point.

Boards make policies designed to save time in meetings by curtailing public participation and discussion, or hustling items into “one-swipe-of-the-pen-covers-it-all” consent agendas, and then find themselves having to answer questions from cranky constituents and pesky reporters outside the meeting time. No time actually saved.

It’s an illusion, this notion that we can save time. Time is an artificial social construct. You can’t “save” it any more than you can save the smell of ocean air in a jar. And I’m beginning to wonder why we keep running ourselves ragged trying.

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We’re still toying with the “we go to meetings so you don’t have to” as our tagline. This week it became more obvious to me how important that role really is. It’s rare for members of the public to be present at government, school board or special district meetings. When the public does show up en masse, it’s usually because something has gone awry and they are unhappy.

As the press, when we sit in on a meeting, typing or scribbling down our notes, we’re representing you, the public. We’re serving as your conduit for information about the actions taken by our elected and appointed officials, the people who manage our tax dollars, make decisions about our communities, and take positions on issues that hopefully represent us as a body of people. It’s our job to bring that information to you to the best of our ability. It’s not always easy, or comfortable, or pleasant, but it is necessary.

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Tip of the week (thanks for the laugh, Toby, I needed it): WD-40 will take tar off your shoes, for everyone who’s been for a walk in Meeker in the last week. There’s nothing like the smell of fresh asphalt early in the morning.

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