If only we could make the time, we could have spent a little more time on two timely reports from last week that detail the minute theft of private time.
After 20 years of chit-chat on the clubhouse-sandwiching of people's time by competing demands - all-but-compulsory overtime, children, parents, commuting and the exhaustion magnet, television - it looks like we have less time for our intimate relationships than even before.
This lifestyle dementia is all quite beside the time famine's impact on the environment, ravaged by pollution-intensive products that provide us the illusion of time-saving "convenience.'
A StatsCan study by Martin Turcotte covers the era from 1986 to 2005, peak time for all the ballyhoo about the "time crunch" and work-life balance shuffle, often ranked as a top personal, human resources and workplace issue.
Despite the neo-conservative commandeering of North American "culture war" politics under the banner of family values during this period, the amount of time spent with loved ones went down to 206 minutes a day, about 45 minutes less than in 1986, and most of this is due to increases in time spent in paid employment.
To put the matter of losing 45 minutes a day in a way that can be clocked more easily in a work-centred society, it'd be the equivalent of not showing up at work for seven weeks every year, without telling anyone and without worrying that anything important might be left undone.
Hello, Earth to Mars, how could this trend sneak up on us and get no political airtime? If employees stopped coming to work for an extra seven weeks every year, would it be equally ignored? (If only.)
The loss of time given to family (notwithstanding StatsCan's decision to count some time watching the boob tube together as family time, presumably because that's where family snacking, burping, farting, TV dinnering and other U-Boob togetherness takes place) seems to be linked to other disturbing trends for those who still think of humans as social animals.
Time spent with friends went down by half, to 19 minutes a day. Time spent alone went up by 40 minutes a day, though "alone" was probably a misnomer since most of that was likely spent in the company of mechanized friends, which used to be called machines. This is in contrast to time passed truly alone, as in meditating, speed-walking or contemplating our loneliness in an imponderable universe.
Since social skills, like belly muscles, atrophy when unused, we now spend 174 minutes a day in "solitarity" rather than in social solidarity, in sum, a major symptom of time deficit disorder.
But employees spent an extra 30 minutes a day with others while at the boss's place, a big slice of the time lost to loved ones. Maybe that's what work-family balance was really about during a time period when competition for jobs was the major economic competition going on.
Time spent on meals outside work went down 15 minutes a day, and time spent on meals together almost fell off the charts, accounting for about 18 per cent of lost family time across Canada. Shared mealtime is heading toward extinction about as quickly as beluga whales, a trend that's not without consequence for the human family.
Eating alone can easily wander into narcissism, seemingly the only ism with any future in today's anti-ideological world.
When analyzed alongside another study released by UNICEF's Innocenti Research Centre this February, the trends behind eating alone can be linked to a wide range of deficits likely to crop up around the transmission of what economists call human, social and cultural capital.
The fancy word for mealtime togetherness is "commensality," Latin for fellowship of the table, a concept linked to "companionship," which the old Romans concocted in honour of their words for "with" and "bread."
The neglect of mealtime togetherness is crying out for correction by law and policy such as defined lunch periods and a shorter workweek. The business of business isn't busy-ness, but sometimes it takes public policy to control destructive and cutthroat competition.
"You snooze, you lose" and "You eat lunch, you are lunch" are the watchwords for fast operators, but not smart ones who have some inkling of the public interest or at least pay for staff medical benefits.
The stats don't tell a pretty picture of what's happening as a result of ignoring the value of non-work time.
The most work-obsessed countries - the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada - are usually at the bottom half, and frequently dead last, in almost all lists of child and youth health, safety, well-being, inclusion and social connectedness in industrialized nations.
These bottom-feeding ratings demonstrate that bad habits are not caused by lack of wealth in a society, much less a lack of rhetoric, but lack of policy.
Canada is fourth from the last on measures of "family and peer relationships," which refers to eating as a family at least once a week, parents and kids regularly spending time "just talking" and young teens valuing their friends as "kind and helpful."
And we're fifth from the bottom when it comes to risky behaviours by youth, a reference to skipping breakfast, not exercising, being overweight, smoking, getting drunk, trying unprotected sex, fighting and bullying.
On young teens' assessment of their own well-being, the UK, U.S. and Canada stand dead last, second last, and 11th of 20 respectively.
Get ready for some serious overtime when the bill comes due on our time bomb.
Average time spent with family members or spouses by those in the work force in 1986: 250 minutes a day
Average time spent with family members or spouses by those in the work force in 2005: 206 minutes a day
Average number of minutes workers devoted to work in 1986: 506 a day
Average number of minutes workers devoted to work in in 2005: 536 a day
Percentage of workers devoting 10 hours or more a day to work in 1986: 17 per cent
Percentage of workers devoting 10 hours or more a day to work in 2005: 25 per cent
Between 1986 and 2005, the time those employed spent with friends decreased by more than half.