You know those people who stand on street corners and say with pointed enthusiasm, “Can I have a few moments of your time?” or “Hello! You look like you love forests!” and then they ask for your ”details” in order to enable a monthly direct debit set up in your name? The fact that this approach still exists as a way of getting revenue in such a cynical world is fascinating. Once, I was in a carpark and one of these people came towards me saying “Oh! Hi! It’s you!” in a way that made me think I had at one point known her intimately but somehow forgotten. By the time my social muscle memory had finished responding to her over-enthusiastically while frantically searching for a flicker of recognition, I was accidentally committed to giving her “a few moments of my time” and the pressure was on from there.
These people are on corners everywhere because social engineering like this works. Probably, they’re raising good money for good causes and all power to them if the gorillas and forests are benefiting from someone tricking me into thinking I’m their friend. Trouble is, when the person who is coming towards you saying “Hello! I see that you are part of the interconnectedness of the universe and that you share with me a concern for all living things” is also asking you to commit on-the-spot to a monthly direct debit of only $39.99, the ”few moments of your time” become a little weighed down in fine print. As a metaphor that can be a little bit depressing. The journey from “Hi! Let’s have a chat!” to “How good a person are you? Please answer in a dollar amount only“ is swift and unforgiving. It’s the same with phone companies doing surveys. “Can I have a few moments of your time to ask you some questions about our customer service?”
It sounds like such a small thing to give. A few moments of your time. The few moments of your time are being monetised, though, aren’t they. Commodified. Fed back into the machine.
So. Take a few moments of your own time. Obligation free. This is a Public Service Announcement. May we have a moment of your time? You look like you love forests.
Maybe you love the smell of them. Maybe you love standing at the bottom of those huge, ancient gum trees, bark peeled off by the sun, stripped down by the weather. Maybe you like looking up, trying to imagine a building in the city at a similar height. Trying to imagine a city at all, when nature is all around you and the idea of its opposite feels arrogant and fruitless and absurd.
Maybe you love gardening. Digging your hands into the dirt, uprooting weeds or carving out a little corridor of colour in the green. The feeling from squatting down all day in the sun. The smell of damp earth. The cup of tea afterwards, admiring what you’ve done, a bit of leaf in your hair. Maybe you like being able to see the progress you’ve made. A living expression of your creative impulses.
Maybe you love a sky reflected upside down in almost still water. I mean, who doesn’t?
Maybe you love live performances. An electrifying musical performance. A play unfolding before you.
Maybe you love Saturdays. Take a moment of your time and reflect on the excellence of Saturdays.
Possibly you like smart stuff. Stuff that challenges you, or teaches you. Something that changes your mind. A documentary. An insightful article. A great book. A clever friend.
Rooftop gardens and rooms full of books: spend a few moments of your time in these as often as you can. Use the moments well. Feel your pulse slow down.
Sometimes the universe provides something right when you need it. A green light when you’re late, or a perfectly carved, translucent cough drop forgotten in a cupboard right when your throat was just scratchy enough to warrant a midnight stumble to the all-day chemist. Maybe you stand in the quiet kitchen and look at the cough drop and think to yourself: what genius thought of this? Spare a few moments of your time for the bounty of the universe when it smiles upon you.
Take a few moments of your time to enjoy a few moments of your time. Nobody will get paid but it will be thoroughly worth it. This has been a Public Service Announcement.
This article first appeared in The Big Issue. Please support your local vendors.