Free Time?

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H&R Block, the tax preparation people, says the average American has less than 4 and 1/2 hours of “free time” in a week.

What’s interesting is 40% of the people surveyed said they have even less free time that that.

H&R Block said their survey revealed that the typical American has more than a dozen items on the “to-do” list each week that don’t get done.

Sixty percent of us put off such things as house-cleaning, banking and bill-paying or filing taxes.

First of all, you’re not really putting off house cleaning until you need a front-end loader and a dump truck to clean the place.

But I think we need to visit Mr. Peabody’s “Way Back Machine” from those old cartoons with his boy Sherman.

I remember reading in the 60’s  a Life magazine article stating computers would free up so much time for us in the future that we’d have shorter work weeks and all sorts of free time.

Did that prediction miss the mark?

I also wonder about this entire “free time” matter.

As a kind growing up in the Eastview neighborhood of Madison Township, “free time” didn’t start for me until I had:

  1. Scrubbed the kitchen floor (bucket of water with Spic ‘n Span, scrub brush and sponge)
  2. Swept out the garage
  3. Cleaned the basement rec room
  4. Straightened/cleaned my bedroom
  5. Yard mowing.

Some of those tasks were only weekly but some were daily.

I remember my buddies waiting in the driveway on their bikes while I finished up the kitchen floor on Friday mornings.

So, did my parents have more “free time” since their “child labor” crew was handling some of those daily tasks?

For the most part, “free time” has not been such a big issue for me because my work was usually pretty enjoyable.

And, since my work was basically indoors and less-than-physical, I like the opposite with my “free time”.

My USAF roommate Chuck Venable told me 50 years ago that it didn’t matter what a person did for a living, it was important “to get a little dirt under your fingernails” from time to time.

I suspect that’s why I like mowing the yard, gardening  and yard work so much.

Truth be known, it’s difficult for me to just “sit”.

I start to fidget.

So I often relax or enjoy my “free time” rather than reading weather forecasts or talking on a microphone.

I must have been a whirling dervish at times  because of something my former neighbor, Mary revealed to me a few years ago.

I had a hammock strung between two huge pine trees in our backyard.

One pleasant summer day, I crawled into that hammock and gazed lazily upwards, ready to dodge the sticky pine cones the squirrels would knock loose from the upper branches.

I suddenly had a feeling I was being watched. I slowly turned my head and saw my neighbor Mary  looking at me.

“Whew!” she said. “I’ve never seen you be still that long. I was afraid there was something wrong.”

I sometimes think this “free time”issue is more of a generational matter with some believing they are entitled to it simply because they’re here.

Is there really anything such as “free time”?

“Free time” normally means doing something other than your normal routine.

I saw another survey that said spending time in nature is one of the best ways to relax.

That’s why we used to tent camp a lot when our daughters were young.

Sitting around a campfire or on a star-kissed beach at night is great “free time” but that didn’t happen if you didn’t set up the tent and camp kitchen or gather firewood.

In a typical day, I think there’s a lot of wasted “free time”.

Stuck in traffic, waiting in checkout lines, sitting in a doctor’s waiting room can be “free time” if you take advantage of it.

When our daughters were small, and the paycheck ran out before the month ended, we’d take the kids to the mall and watch people.

I’d ask them to tell me what that person did for a living or other aspects of their lives.

It passed the time, didn’t cost a penny and it created active imaginations in all of us.

My grandkids still talk about the “badger” that lurks in the woods not far from our home.

Today, we’ll play “word games” or trade puns and jabs.

It keeps us on our toes and always thinking.

So, I don’t think there’s a shortage of “free time” today.

Most times, it’s misspent.

Those evil little cell phones eat up a lot of  “free time” for way too many of us.

Those of us who grew up without them remember we did quite well not having a battery-powered device on our person.

Maybe we were really on to something then.

How much of our phone usage is really that critical?

Could it wait?

Probably.

Maybe we need less “phone time” and more “badger time” to find more “free time” in our lives.

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