400 Hours Nov 6, 2012

by Rick Rader, MD

"According to a study done by the Gartner Group and reported in the Wall Street Journal, the average American spends 400 hours a year searching through piles for things that they have 'somewhere.' Four hundred hours....that translates into 10 forty-hour work weeks or over an hour every single day of the year."

While I have no doubt that most people would still opt for the $5,000- a-week-for-life offered as a prize by the Publisher's Clearing House over an additional 400 hours a year; I think I might go for the extra "16 days and 16 hours" that 400 hours converts to.

For readers of Exceptional Parent (EP) Magazine, it might evenly divide up between the two choices. Parents of children with special needs "need" both the extra time and the extra money. Being gifted the 400 hours wouldn't even begin to get them back to square one for the time they devote to insuring their children are included, counted and valued. The time they spend in advocating, attending meetings, preparing, researching, networking, hunching their shoulders, sighing and sardonically grinning, far exceeds 400 hours.

The extra loot, however, would allow them to get additional services, equipment, professional consults, extended therapies, specialized environments and promising practices. A toss up for sure. The money could certainly not buy the time, but it could buy people and their time.
The same amount of time, 400 hours, that Americans spend looking for things they have "somewhere" is the same amount of time it takes a team of British craftsmen to build a new Rolls Royce.

The average car takes about 25 hours to manufacture and is built 90 percent by robots. With the Rolls, the ratios are reversed with humans doing more than 90 percent of the work. Each Rolls passes through 60 sets of human hands before it gets anointed with its Flying Lady radiator mascot.

Seth Stevenson, who recently tested a new Rolls Royce, commented on the plush leather. "Consider the leather shop, which turns the hides of 11 bulls into the interior of a Phantom. The natural grain hides are chosen with absurd care – not from farms in South America, where the bulls' skin might be blemished by energetic roaming and run-ins with barbed-wire fences, but from European farms where they enjoy lives of sloth and ease. Only male animals are used because females' mile production can cause unsightly belly stretch marks." Guess a stretch mark on the armrest would be unthinkable. It's ironic that while technology can save us time from the drudgery of producing things by hand, there is a privileged segment that appreciates things produced by "hands."

And speaking of 400 hours, it also turns out that is the amount of time that we save in a lifetime when we converted to the touch tone (push button) phone from the rotary phone. One can only appreciate the fluidity of using a touch tone phone to call the Rolls Royce dealer to find out how far along the blokes in England are in building your new $325,000 car; the one without the stretch marks on the bench seats.

Hand-built pedigree automobiles are not the only things revered by people who appreciate the distinction that "hands on" or "hand built" infer. While Sony and other hi-tech corporations are developing "personal aid robots" that are predicted to fill in for the shrinking human assistance work force, I think that is one area where Exceptional Parent still prefer the human version. Despite efforts in creating "embraceable" features in the next generation of robotic assistants and developments in the science of haptics (touch), most parents want their children touched by people; people who touch by nature not by a printed circuit board. While Keats mused that "Touch has a memory," he was not referring to "random access memory."

Four hundred hours of being touched by another human being is, at best, simply a good start.

The field of "human services," conducted by "humans," is still a draw for parents and families who can handle a stretch mark or two on their dashboards.

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