Recently, a book I read talked about how the critters who live in Richard Scarry’s “Busytown” don’t seem at all stressed out.
My grandparents were certainly busy. And yet they enjoyed their nights and weekends, often doing more “busy” things after work hours like hobbies or taking care of things around the house.
When did “busy” come in vogue?
I have a theory that “Busytown” had professions that allowed people to see effort.
Can you build 10 more benches today, Carpenter Crocodile**?
Carpenter Crocodile is working on 1 bench and points his croc-finger to a list of orders.
Carpenter Crocodile knows that she can build 3 benches on a good day.
Carpenter Crocodile starts at 9 and ends at 5, including a nice long lunch savoring a fish sandwich while talking with Painter Orangutan.
No, 10 more benches will not be built today unless Carpenter Crocodile has help.
Work 50 years ago just seemed more…real.
You could watch it being done.
You can see the volume possible and you can see where more “productivity” is unlikely.
There really was a time before “productive” was in our normal social vocabulary.
Think about your own life.
Can you handle 100 more email today?
Sometimes it feels like knowledge work – because it’s invisible – is assumed to be a “thing” that can be handled no matter what…even when it grows, sometimes exponentially!
The email must be processed even when it’s wasteful and purposeless. And you can’t stop at 5 PM simply because it’s work stopping time.
Because – GOOD GRIEF!!! – WHO WILL HANDLE THE EMAIL?!?
It’s actually madness, our modern working world.
It makes no sense.
It makes more sense to me that a crocodile would build park benches, eat sandwiches, and befriend an orangutan who is a fellow business person.
When I read this reference to Richard Scarry’s Busytown, I remembered my deep love for these books as a child.
I remember watching “Busytown Mysteries” and reading the books with my own children.
So…I checked a few of these books from the library to explore them again.
It hit me.
Not only does “Busytown” seem like a place with order, structure, business, and busy-ness…
…it’s a set of books where each detail is exquisite.
My sons – now teenagers – and I pored over those library books, observing the overlapping plotlines.
Noticing the subtle (and not so subtle) social cues of what is “right and properly” community behavior.
Not only did things seem to be in order but you can’t rush a reading of a Richard Scarry book.
It’s an experience to be savored. I, for one, happily fantasize about contentedly and busily building benches in Busytown.
Now, I’m not going here to say we should go backwards.
I think there are many social changes happening that are beautiful.
I do miss when life seemed to fit. Before time. Before we invented email, the internet and “busy.”
Have we lost an essential part of being human, that work is designed to fit in a space and not the other way around?
What are your thoughts on the world of “Busytown”?
** Note that I made up these animals while writing. I figured it was more fun for me than actually doing a cross-section of animals with careers in a made up world. This is my Coach Lisa “Communityville”, maybe?! 😂
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