It seems as if I’m always in a hurry. Even when I’m not. I’m retired and I no longer throw myself out of bed at five-thirty a.m. to rush downtown to an office where I finagled an hour of writing before beginning my day job. I rushed home to fix supper, exercise, shower, and go to bed so I could do it all again the next day. Now I don’t rush around on the weekends, doing laundry, buying groceries, and cleaning house. Yet, I find myself in a hurry. I weave in and out of traffic to get to the doctor’s office or the post office. I look at my watch every five seconds while waiting in line. I complain at how busy the grocery store is. Dealing with my diseases has made me feel as if I don’t have enough time. There won’t be enough time to accomplish all I want to do. That’s why, when I found myself doing research on Amish buggies this week, I was fascinated by the concept of intentionally choosing to slow down. Choosing a mode of transportation that rarely exceeds five to eight miles an hour.
Some might idealize buggy travel, but before you do, think of the style of buggy that is basically a box turned upside down. No heat in winter and no air conditioning in summer. No windows inside that box. Courting buggies are open two-seaters, which means no protection from the weather (and no privacy!).
Still, I love the idea of meandering along a country road, the sound of the horse’s hooves clip-clopping on the dirt. There’s time to contemplate the countryside, see the flowers blooming, and think. To create. In our enclosed cars, AC and radio blasting, we do neither. We’re anxious to hit those wide-open highways in Texas where the speed limit is seventy-five miles an hour (in some places, eighty-five). We complain about the guy in front of us who’s driving to slow and lambast the guy behind us who’s trying to cut in line.
Folks who drive buggies have to plan their trips carefully. They allow for the time. They consolidate errands. They’re drawn closer as a community because they can’t go far or fast. It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?
I did learn some interesting items about the Amish buggy in my research. Today’s buggy is usually made of fiberglass rather than wood. It can cost anywhere from $4,300 to $7,200, depending on how “fancy” it is. Many groups choose wooden wheels because that also slows down travel. In light of the increased traffic on congested roads near many Amish communities, the new order Amish have adopted a number of safety features. These include side mirrors, turn signals, brake lights, and reflectors. Batteries are used to operate features as needed. The more traditional groups limit their night time travels.
The buggy styles run the gamut depending on the community. In my research trips to Missouri and Bee County, Texas, I saw very similar black box type buggies. The best place for really studying the buggies without being a pest was the Bee County auction, where buggies for sale were parked in rows for viewing. I was amazed to see brake lights attached to what looked like small car batteries. They had side mirrors and reflectors. There were several open style buggies with cushy looking, brightly colored, upholstery on the seats. And a horse drawn hearse!
Imagine you had to rely on a horse and buggy for transportation for a week. How long would it take you to get to the grocery store? Would you go to the movies or would it be too far? What about the doctor’s office or the dentist? The fast food restaurant? Many of us don’t live in the country so there are no open roads and idyllic sights to see. But we can still slow down and enjoy the moment, enjoy each other. We can still take a breath and a walk in the neighborhood.
Sometimes hurry is simply a habit. One that keeps us from enjoying the people around us or a moment of silence in the morning with a cup of coffee and a sunrise. In the end, it comes down to quality, not quantity. I want to use my time well and wisely.
You don’t have to have a horse and buggy to slow down. You simply have to choose to do it.
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