There’s an inspirational mantra I hear thrown around every once in a while that’s designed to motivate people to give every day their best. It goes, “Everyone has the same 24 hours.” The idea is that, in a very literal sense, we each have 24 hours each day to be productive and to live our lives. While this may be true – again, in a very literal sense – this saying disregards a lot of factors that prevent many people from making the most of their 24 hours even with a focused effort.
I’ve always struggled with this saying, but when I was on vacation in Provincetown for Memorial Day weekend, it resonated very clearly to me just how misleading the saying is. In an effort to save money, my husband and I decided to use public transit. We heard that the bus system in Provincetown is very convenient and with it being a relatively small area, having a rental car wasn’t really a huge advantage. We stayed in an efficiency apartment just outside of the main part of Provincetown, again to save money, but it was on a main route with a bus stop right outside. Over the holiday weekend, the buses were plentiful – as frequent as every 30 minutes (and many times it was actually way more often since many lines overlapped each other).
What we didn’t realize was that starting Tuesday, the bus schedule would go back to its off season schedule where the buses started the morning off with service every 60 minutes and one line was completely unavailable. When we missed a bus, we were stuck in our apartment for an hour. This made something as simple as grocery shopping complicated. If we took a bus to the grocery store, we’d have to time it so if we bought anything that needed to be refrigerated or frozen it wouldn’t go bad or thaw out.
This is not a criticism of the Cape Cod Transit Authority or public transit (in fact, I’m a huge supporter of public transit). What it made me realize is how many variables people who rely solely on public transportation have to take into account in order to plan their day. Imagine if somebody was scheduled to work at 8:00am but missed the 7:00am bus. How often do I struggle with being precisely on time every day? I have the luxury of being five minutes late because I have my own car. Somebody relying on hourly bus service could be an hour late simply by being two minutes late to a bus stop.
Availability of reliable transportation is just one example of how people can make the most of their 24 hours. Money, safety, disability, being a caretaker, and many other factors can make those 24 hours so tight for people that they are exhausted all the time and can never get around to spending time on themselves.
Here’s an exercise you can try yourself. Draw a circle and divide it up into 24 slices. Each slice represents an hour of the day. In each slice, write down what you would normally be doing or want to be doing during that time. For example, in the 1:00am slice you’d write ‘sleep’ since you’d probably sleeping. As you fill out the chart, you’re going to quickly realize how little flexibility you have in your day. Some hours, you may start trying to cram in extra activities such as “eat lunch and work” at 12:00pm. Now imagine trying to accomplish that same day without reliable transportation or having to take care of a sick parent.
At Parks and Recreation, accessibility is one of our core values and one that is particularly important to me. To us, accessibility not only means pricing our memberships and programs so they’re affordable but also providing recreational opportunities at various times, offering programs that can be accessed by people with disabilities, and supplying information in Spanish. We’re also partners with PRTC/OmniLink and the Community Center is an OnDemand bus stop.
To emphasize just how important time is, we recently completed our Patron Engagement Survey report for 2018, and three of the top barriers to recreation were lack of time, programs offered when I’m unavailable, and limited hours of operation. The people who chose these answers may have the same literal 24 hours, but their window for recreation didn’t line up completely – or at all – with ours. In other words, none of us had the same 24 hours.
Everyone deserves access to recreation. Staying active, being connected to the community, and having fun are all essential to our health and wellbeing. It is built into our mission that we strive to provide recreational opportunities for all of our citizens. We aren’t where we want to be in terms of ideal accessibility, but we take access very seriously and factor it into all of our decisions.
The next time you hear somebody say, “Well, everybody has the same 24 hours,” be sure to kindly remind them that while time may be constant and predictable, life sure isn’t.
Jason Shriner is the Marketing Manager for the City of Manassas Park, Department of Parks and Recreation. He can be reached at 703-335-8872 or via email at J.Shriner@manassasparkva.gov.