Lunch had just been served and this is what I found myself thinking as I sat across from an acquaintance as they talked about how busy they were. I didn’t exactly invite the conversation. I didn’t say “how busy are you?”. Rather all I asked was “How are you?”. And thus flowed a river of words explaining why they are entitled to act self-important, talk down on others ‘less busy’ and just be a downright arsehole.
There’s been an evolution in conversation of late. Now all conversation between colleagues/acquaintances/friends/families even, may start with a friendly ‘how are you?’ but to the listener, this is immediately interpreted as a challenge to talk at length about how busy they are. Where you may still ask “how are you?” the listener has evolved from:
- First hearing “Hey Dungle Face [yes that’s the name that I came up with and is a possible name for a future child. Don’t go taking my thunder], have you been busy?. To which Dungle replies [yes please note ‘Face’ is a middle name]: “Oh I’ve been so busy”
- Then the listener started hearing: “Hey Dungle Face, what’s happening?” to which Dungle replied, “Oh I’ve been so busy, I’ve been working on Project 1, Project 2, blah blah blah”
- Finally we now arrive at a case where the listener only assumes that their acquaintaince is asking “Busy?” and Dongle responds, “Oh I’ve been so busy, I’ve been working on [enter comatose state for 5 minutes so don’t record what actually is happening]”
Yes the art of conversation between two working people has been officially killed by Dongle’s perennial need to talk about how busy he/she is [also a gender neutral name]. Due to a prolonged use of “oh I’m so busy”, conversation has been reduced to just asking about how busy others are – already knowing the answer and immediately regretting their decision to invite conversation rather than hiding from it behind the vending machine on the train platform [yes my best attempt at hiding from people/unwanted conversation is by finding the nearest, largest object and hiding behind it….needless to say I was horrible at ‘hide and seek’ as a child – somehow I never understood that I couldn’t just open the fridge door and “hide” behind there]. But it’s not the actual conversation that’s at fault, rather society’s increasing obsession with saying how busy you are. But seriously what exactly is it that allows you to say that you’re ‘sooooooo busy’?
When people used to be staffed on a particular project or deal, I remember fretting so much on how NOT busy I was. “Why can’t I be in useless meeting after useless meeting?” or “Why can’t I be the one working to 4am?”. It was some sado-masochistic relationship that you had with work which would even put the ‘Fifty Shades of Greys’ to shame [or be turned on by? I’m not quite sure. But I do get the feeling that having to work late on a spreadsheet modelling the financials of an airline, is not nearly as kinky].
Those who are ‘busy’ at work also seem to gain some sort of self-importance aura – suddenly all of their shit-kicker work that they could’ve finished months ago, but for procrastination, now gets tumbled down on the ‘less busy’ ones. These ‘busy’ ones are untouchable and only attract praise for ‘how busy they are’, all the while looking down on the ‘less busy ones’ smugly. “Oh I wish I had CAPACITY” “Oh you’re having an early mark? (when you leave at 6pm)” the ‘busy one’ keeps saying whilst simultaneously making sure that the whole floor can hear their not-so-subtle jab at you not ‘working’ as long [one of my most hated acts is that of the person who says ‘early mark’. What the fuck does that even mean? I’ll go fucking mark you face with this biro pen if you keep going on about me leaving to go home. The fact is, unless we’re for some random reason, suddenly become surgically conjoined twins, my leaving time has fuck all to do with you]. The ‘busy one’ possibly spends more time making sure that you know that they’re sooooooo busy they don’t even have time to fart, than doing any actual work.
And the epidemic of ‘busyness’ is not limited to the corporate world. Frequently I meet business owners talking about how they’re ‘soooooooooooooo busy’ launching their new app or start-up and ‘working through the night’ to launch. But to be honest, unless they’re Elon Musk and happen to be working on at least three huge, listed companies….they really don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to ‘busyness’.
But surely none of this busyness is really being actually ‘busy’? It feels like it’s just noise masking procrastinators which also serves to put down others. Now I don’t mean to say that building an app, is not as important as working in a bank, or running a family or making a relationship work or working anywhere really. Everyone is allowed to say that they’re busy, no matter what they’re doing. But that’s the thing. EVERYONE IS FUCKING BUSY. So doesn’t that make no one busy. [BOOOOOOOM! *drops mic and enters rainforest to mediate for three weeks contemplating how philosophical I am*]. So saying you’re busy actually means fuck all and stifles real conversation.For all I know you could say you’re busy because you’re performing heart surgery on the Queen’s corgis or stressing about the Christmas shopping for 2043. My issue is more that busyness is being used as a put down to others – I’m more important than you because I’ve got a shitload of tasks I haven’t done.
So if you’re so busy then don’t meet me. I don’t want to be part of your busy schedule. I only want to be part of the relaxed interesting bit of your life. So finish your crap then come and meet me. And if that’s never then that’s cool too because I’m probably too penning angrily worded letters about aioli.