Fast America, Slow America

manifesto

Commentary

     This print was created in late 1800s by Charles Graham (American, 1852–1911). The name of this print is The New York and Brooklyn Suspension Bridge from the Brooklyn Side. As the name of this print, in the image is the 1595.5 feet-long (486.3m) BrooklynBridge, which is in New York. BrooklynBridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States and it was the longest suspension bridge in the world before 1903. The construction began from 1870 and completed in 1883. it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. The bridge is still in use today after more than 100 years from it opening. Now it has six lanes for motor vehicles and a separate walkway for pedestrians and bicycles.

The first impression America gives me was that everything is under going quickly. As Andy Warhol wrote that “There’s no country in the world that loves ‘right now’ like America does. I guess so many things are happening today that we’re too busy to do anything but look, talk and think about all of it. We don’t have time to remember the past, and we don’t have the energy to imagine the future; we are so busy, we can only think: NOW!”(27). People are walking across the street quickly with a hamburger or other kinds of fast food in their hands, the cars on the roads seem never stop, women do make up with someone having breakfast next to her on the bus. It seems everyone is busy and doing everything as fast as they could. So I began to think whether there is something really slow here. I talked to my father and he told me that the speed of building a railways or bridges is not that fast, at least not as fast as in China, but they can be used much longer than in China. This was the beginning for me to think about the slow pace in the U.S.. When I arrived here, I found that there are some processes are going really slow in the U.S. I myself have been experiencing the combination of fast pace and slow pace of lives and this brings me more thinking about it. One of the obvious examples for the slow pace is the construction of BrooklynBridge. In my manifesto, I want to compare the fast pace and the slow pace of the United States and talk about what this two kinds of life bring this country.

I chose this image for two reasons. First, the long time construction of BrooklynBridge proves that there is slow pace in this country, but not like some people think that everything in the U.S. is very fast. Since it was over 100 years ago and technology has developed through time, 13 years is much longer than it takes to build a bridge today. However, the average time of building a bridge or railway is still longer than in some developing countries, so we can say that the construction is slow here in this country. Second, after the long time construction, what follows is the long time of using. Different from the U.S., in some countries, it takes not a long time to build a bridge, a tunnel or a overpass, but as the cities developed in the next few years, people find the bridge does not fit any more, so they blast it and build a new one and after a few years, again, they might find the new one does not fit any more. This also shows what I want to talk about in the manifesto that what the slow pace brings to this country.

In the manifesto I want to talk about both fast pace and slow pace in the U.S.. I will also use some other examples and my own experience here to show what I think about the fast-paced life and the slow-paced life here and what is my understanding about what these two different kinds of lives bring me and the country.

Work cited:

The New York and Brooklyn Suspension Bridge from the Brooklyn Side. 1800. Print. BrooklynMuseum Libraries, New York. By Charles Graham.

Warhol, Andy. America. New York: Harper & Row, 1985. Print.

Fast America, Slow America

Chat record between my friend in China (F) and I (I) after several weeks I arrived the U.S.

F: You have been American for weeks; is everything going okay?

I: Yes, I am getting familiar with my class at Extension and I feel great living in Davis.

F: What do you do every day?

I: I take class, do homework and chat with people from different countries. Overall it is not that difficult as I expected.

F: You are not busy? It seems like you have plenty of time.

I: Yes, the ESL courses are easy for me; it does take me a lot of time. Why do you asking that? Am I supposed to be busy every minute?

F: Well, you know, every one says the U.S. is a country where everything goes really fast and most people are pretty busy, especially students.

I: Oh, that’s true. I see students in the campus walk pretty fast. Maybe I am not busy because I am not a university student.

F: So do you think America is a “fast country”? Since you have been there for some time, how would you describe your American life.

I: I would like to say that life here is a combination of fast life and slow life and I think a have some good examples to show you how the life is like here.

F: Come on.

I: Talking about the fast pace of life here, I have to mention the fast food in America, you can see different kinds of fast food restaurant almost every place you can find food to buy. There is a buffet car coming to Extension every noon and we usually bur food from it. We often have hamburgers and fries.

F: But you know, here in China, fast food restaurant is also common to see. Is there any difference?

I: Have you found that fast food restaurants in China are not “fast”? Most of the customers are students and young people. And often what they do in McDonald or KFC is not having fast food for saving time, they stay there for the whole afternoon and do their homework or play card games. Just like what we did every summer vocations.

F: All right, I admit that in China the existence for fast food is not for speeding up our lives. How is it like in the U.S.?

I: There are not many seats in fast food restaurants and some of them do not even have seats. People buy food then take it away for quickly finish the burgers and leave. I once sat on the seat in front of In-N-Out, I saw people walk in and walk out but few people sat down besides me. It took me 10 minutes to finish my hamburger and I think there were more than 30 people had bought what they wanted and left.

F: Wow, that’s really fast. Do you find any other things you think fast? Anything in your daily life?

I: Maybe the drier shows the fast pace of live perfectly. In my apartment there is a washing machine and a drier. I bet you have never used a drier in you life.

F: A drier? I have not even seen one.

I: Absolutely. I think only hotels in China use driers. Well, here we use driers to dry our clothes after washing them. It takes about 90 minutes to wash and dry them. Really fast, isn’t it?

F: Cool!

I: And we have self-checkout in markets, we can checkout by ourselves instead of waiting in the line for a long time only to pay for a little toothbrush.

F: I see, in the U.S., many people are living in really fast lives and there pretty many facilities for them to make their lives faster and faster. But why do you think the life there is a combination of fast pace and slow pace? I only hear you talking about how fast it is.

I: Be patient, my friend. I have even more to tell you about the slow pace in this “fast country”. Do you know there is a bridge called BrooklynBridge in New York? The construction began in 1870 and finished in 1883. It took 13 years to build it, and it is still being used today. What I admire is not the long time construction of it, but the long time using after the slow construction. This kind of slowness is not wasting time, contrarily, it is the slowness that avoids the reconstruction and causes the long time using of the bridge.

F: But that was almost 100 years old! Technic developed through time.

I: Well, nowadays the average time to build a bridge is about 3-5 years and some small bridges can be finished in one year. However, comparing to some developing countries, it is still slow.

F: I see. Fast is not always good, but I still like fast pace. Did you find any slow thing annoy you?

I: Sure! The slow construction makes the bridge durable, but the slow shipping makes me mad!

F: Haha, I love shipping here in China. Do you know there is a new rule that all nationwide packages must be delivered within 2 days? I love this rule.

I: Stop saying that… I bought some clothes online last week and it has been 6 days for me to wait the package! I hate the shipping, it cost me 7 dollars and it is still on its way. Unlike in China, they do not deliver things at weekends or holidays, they think that is their right to take rest on those days.

F: I don’t want to hurt you but I still want to say, I bought a book yesterday and I just got it. Also, the shipping is free.

I: I promise that I will ask how long it will take before I pay next time I but things online.

F: It sounds like you are experiencing an interesting life there. Which kind of life do you prefer? The fast one or the slow one?

I: It is hard to say and I cannot choose. America is a country where both fast pace and slow pace exist. The fast pace makes people full of energy but sometimes tired and cannot deal with all the tasks, while the slow pace brings more stable life, but at the same time it makes people boring and lose patience.  I think what I can and I will do is to integrate into this kind of mixing and try to avoid what I do not like if I cannot accept it.

F: Well, all in all, wish you have a happy life there. I am going to read the book now. Be patient on waiting your package.

I: All right, maybe I can get it before next time I chat with you. Good night.

F: Good night.

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2 Responses to Fast America, Slow America

  1. cdowens says:

    I love the sense of humor in your manifesto — has your package arrived yet?!

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