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Jack Knox: Waiting for the polls, a lesson in patience

We still don’t know the election results and it’s driving us nuts. It has been 12 days. In modern times, that’s an eternity. (Good lord, the Victoria Day Parade doesn’t even last that long.
Ballot box voting election photo generic
Election results are expected sometime between Monday and Wednesday.

Jack Knox mugshot genericWe still don’t know the election results and it’s driving us nuts.

It has been 12 days. In modern times, that’s an eternity. (Good lord, the Victoria Day Parade doesn’t even last that long.) In 2015, Portugal had a government whose entire duration from hopeful inauguration to ignominious fall was wrapped up in 12 days, yet here in B.C. we’re still waiting for the absentee votes to be counted.

We don’t wait 12 days for anything anymore. We don’t even wait 12 seconds, not for information. Instant connectivity is a given, our birthright, just like complaining about B.C. Ferries. Confronted by Apple’s Spinning Wheel of Death, we curse and moan like Donald Trump getting a supper-hour phone call from a Washington Post telemarketer.

We are addicted to instant gratification. Netflix lets us watch on our schedules, not those of the networks. Video recorders ensure we need not endure commercial breaks. Don’t have to wait for the store to open when online shopping. Forget growing seasons — any food you want is available when you want to eat it.

The less we have to wait, the more impatient we become. It’s an affront when texts aren’t answered right away. Most fast food is sold via the drive-through. We would rather be the last car on the ferry than win the 6/49. Dunno what it was that prompted those two drivers to go all road ragey on each other in Saanich this past week, but I’m sure it was totally worth having it on YouTube forever.

We expect the world to be at our fingertips. On second thought, fingertips are too time-consuming: Keyboards are becoming passé. We have graduated from painfully poky cellphone thumb-typing to voice-to-text messages, which is why all your emails read like bad translations of Taiwanese assembly instructions: “Alarm! Not to spindle the hangwhistle.” (Personal favourite: What my wife meant to say was “Please pick up milk,” but what appeared on my phone was “You’ve ruined my life.” We laughed so hard, she couldn’t stop crying. But I digress.)

The speed-it-up imperative extends to other technology. I tried to tap my credit card today, but the store’s point-of-sale machine made me go through the laborious insert-your-card, punch-in-your-PIN routine instead, just like they had to do in the Boer War. Who has that kind of time?

Some Canadians might be surprised that this rampant impatience is infectious even in Victoria, where we tend to hurtle through life slightly more slowly than others in the Great White-Knuckled North. (Once again, it should be pointed out that we have taken longer to build the new Johnson Street Bridge than it took to fight the entire Second World War.) Tourists who find themselves oozing through Pat Bay ferry traffic behind a diesel-belching Salt Spring Westfalia with a “Slow down, this ain’t the mainland” bumper sticker appropriated from Hawaii might not sense the breakneck pace that Islanders find palpable. Yet even here, the hottest toy on the market this year is the fidget spinner, a stress-relieving gizmo for pre-teens. Stress-relieving. Pre-teens. Let that sink in.

Perhaps it’s worth considering — ever so briefly, of course — that a little more waiting might be good for our souls. It didn’t kill people when they had to live a more relaxed rhythm in decades past.

“Please allow six to eight weeks for delivery,” the instructions said, and there was no choice. Most out-of-town communication was by snail mail. Corresponding with the government was like playing table tennis on Valium, a two-week gap between every question and answer. Phones were for local calls only; long-distance rates were so high that it was a choice between making a car payment or ringing granny on her birthday. Your favourite show was viewed every Thursday, not binge-watched on a rainy Saturday until the kids remind you that it’s 9 p.m. and they haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Maybe being made to wait for the final election tally is a good thing, a push-back against our growing sense of entitlement. Better to get the results right than get them fast. We should see them sometime between Monday and Wednesday.

If that’s too hasty for you, take heart: There’s always the judicial recount.

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