Project 2040 and milk cartons make me consider my tiny timescale on the planet
Living day to day is one thing, but pegging your age to infrastructural development is quite another
‘The minute I open the fridge door and pick up the milk carton, I am suddenly assaulted by the idea of my own mortality.’
Milk cartons make me stop and think every single time I go to the fridge.
There I am on a Sunday morning, coffee gurgling away, Sunday Miscellany blaring in the background, people getting murdered with assault rifles upstairs (on Xbox One), toast about to pop, maybe a small dog snuffling around at my bare feet picking up crumbs with his wet nose, tail wagging, and a lonely bowl of Corn Flakes waiting patiently on the counter for milk.
Not a care in the world.
But the minute I open the fridge door and pick up the milk carton, I am suddenly assaulted by the idea of my own mortality. You see, the best before date on milk cartons makes me look to the future even though moments earlier I had been quite happy with the right here and now.
On April 5th, the milk carton will say April 13th, and I think, By the time this milk is gone off, such-and-such will have happened. The march of time is as unstoppable as the guaranteed progression of milk from a delicious, refreshing beverage or breakfast accompaniment to a disgusting, stinking, congealed, unhealthy, poisonous mess. Bang, and mirth is gone.
The best before date especially makes me think like this if I have a key life event coming up, such as Christmas or a birthday. I had severe milk-carton moments a couple of weeks before my 40th birthday and in the run-up to something like an exam or an interview. The milk carton screams blind panic at me every morning. So much so, that I have tried eating toast for breakfast.
Milk cartons have so much in common with large infrastructural projects, when you think about it. When I think about it, in any case. My colleague, the learned Cliff Taylor, was recently discussing the MetroLink project over there on the Oped pages. He says he is yet to be convinced that the multi-billion euro plan should go ahead. Logic, logic, cost-benefit etcetera and so on and so forth. See, this is the sensible approach when the Government “rolls out” a plan of this nature that will cost billions to achieve.
Me? I’m in the corner looking worried.
It made me realise that every single time I dance now, I will be 'Dad-dancing'
For me, infrastructural projects are like milk cartons on stilts. When I see the MetroLink plan for Dublin, due to be complete in 2027, factoring in a delay of at least five years, I work out that by the time it is completed it will be 2032 and I will be knocking on the door of 60 years of age. By most calculations I will still be working, and with an end only 10 years away. I have a plan that I will cycle to the new Estuary stop each morning and take the Metro into the city centre from there. That’s the plan, but let’s see.
When the Government set out its vision for Ireland’s development over the next few decades, Ireland 2040, it got me right down in the dumps like nothing before. It wasn’t the overbearing, uber-positive spinnyness of the launch. Or even the fact that much of what was promised may never be delivered. It wasn’t that the promisers may not be around to be held accountable or that the Mighty Drogs was thrown the scrap of a half-baked notion about a Dart extension.
No, it was the realisation that in 2040, 22 years from now, factoring in a standard five-year delay, I will be 70 years of age before these dreamlets will be realised.
It made me consider my own tiny timescale on this planet. Since the 2040 launch I have been reviewing the 43 years heretofore. It made me realise that for example I am unlikely to become a vet for small animals, as per my dream as a small child. It is not impossible, but I am unlikely to be a support act for Neil Young the next time he plays in Slane, as per an actual dream when I played a lot of guitar back when I was a teenager.
It made me realise that every single time I dance now, I will be “Dad-dancing” and while I may well be having a great time, there will be people who will look me up and down, spot my greying locks and stand in judgement. There’s no getting away from it.
From today I am officially calling for all Government announcements to be released through the prism of mindfulness, the here and now. No talking about what’s gone before and what might happen. So we might see a time where press releases are more along the lines of “Today is Wednesday, we are not at war and live in a temperate climate”; or “Water continues to flow from pipes”; or, perhaps “Right now is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be, says Government”.
Also, I’m sticking with toast for breakfast. It’s less stressful this way.